Knights begin with six-wicket win
Ryan McLaren put in a solid all-round performance as the Knights beat the Titans by six wickets in Centurion. The victory puts the Knights on top of log after the first-round.
The Titans were off to a speedy start on the first morning, with Jacques Rudolph's 80 off 81 balls ensuring the scored over 100 runs in the first session. While Rudolph was racing ahead at one end Johann van der Wath and McLaren were piercing through at the other. The pair took five wickets between them before lunch and van der Wath continued the charge after to bowl the Titans out for 227.
Fourteen wickets fell on a fairly placid pitch at SuperSport Park with youngster Machant de Lange and CJ de Villiers reducing the Knights to 43 for 4. Ryan Bailey engineered the recovery with a patient 86 and formed two key partnerships, a fifth-wicket stand of 60 with Morne van Wyk and a sixth-wicket effort of 65 runs with McLaren. Bailey spent four and half hours steering the Knights to safety but it was McLaren's almost six-hour stint at the crease that helped them build a lead.
The Titans bowlers were all economical but struggled to penetrate and legspinner Shaun von Berg's 3 for 100 was their best return. McLaren managed the tail well and his last-wicket stand of 50 with Quinton Friend was key to the Knights advantage. They were bowled out for 400 , a lead of 173.
McLaren struck the first blow in the Titans reply, removing Tumelo Bodibe for 12, with the Titans still 136 runs behind. Rudolph continued to stake his claim for a national place with a fluent 54 and was assisted by Henry Davids' defiant 95. The Titans suffered a middle and lower order collapse and lost their last seven wickets for 79 tuns. Dean Elgar was the unlikely danger man, with his left-arm spin claiming four scalps for 25.
The Knights had a modest target of 98 runs to chase to win and stumbled slightly. De Lange's impressive performance continued as the 20-year-old plucked three wickets on the third evening to force the match into a fourth day. The Knights returned to polish off 25 runs on the fourth morning and managed to score them before the weather intervened.
At the Wanderers, the Lions openers Stephen Cook and Alviro Petersen made a circumspect start against the Dolphins on a green top, managing just 56 runs in the first session, with Cook departing for a laboured 12 off 73 balls. Imran Tahir had him caught at short leg with his second delivery. Petersen made a significant statement about his ability to continue as Test opener, reaching 156 on the first day. His innings started with a few streaky boundaries but smoothed out into a stylish knock.
There were few meaningful contributions from the rest of the batting line-up and ex-Lions allrounder Robbie Frylinck bowled with a combination of discipline and pace to take 6 for 52. Even though their last five wickets fell for 57 runs, the Lions first innings total of 359 was a competitive one.
If Petersen's innings was powerful, Hashim Amla's was heavenly as he batted with the usual serene calm to score his third double hundred. The beauty of his innings was that he offered no chances to the Lions toiling bowlers. He struck the ball with finesse, showing sublime early-season form. Vaughn van Jaasrveld, another Dolphin who was playing against his old team, complemented Amla well and raced to a century.
The Lions lacked firepower, save for a spell from Craig Alexander late on the third day, where he managed to extract bounce with an old ball. Two pacy 48s, from David Miller and Frylinck, saw the Dolphins declare on 567, a lead of 208. With time running out and rain hanging in the air, there was not going to be enough time for a result and the Lions whittled down their deficit, with another half-century from Petersen, and built a lead of 52 to end the match in a draw.