Harris shines in Titans victory
It was a spinner's paradise in Pietermaritzburg where the Titans beat the Dolphins by seven wickets.
The Dolphins were skittled out for 243 in their first innings. Morne Morkel first hurt them by removing Imraan Khan for 18 before CJ de Villiers deepened the wound when Hashim Amla was trapped lbw. However it was Paul Harris, who is no longer nationally contracted, who had the biggest impact. He manhandled the Dolphins middle order to take 5 for 37 in the innings. Wicketkeeper Daryn Smit put up a fight, with his unbeaten 77, and a 79-run seventh wicket stand with Kyle Abbott, but it was not enough to stop the Titans bowling them out on the first day.
In the Titans reply, Tumelo Bodibe and Henry Davids went cheaply on a pitch that was difficult for batting. But the Titans did not suffer any more slumps as national team hopeful, Jacques Rudolph, was among the runs again. He top scored with 118 and shared a century stand with Farhaan Behardien to set the Titans up to take the lead. Heino Kuhn's gritty 90 will be of interest to the national selectors as he took the Titans to 117-run advantage.
Harris opened the bowling in the second innings but did not make an impact immediately. The Dolphins ground out a 66-run first wicket partnership before Khan was out lbw to Martin van Jaarsveld's offspin. Harris removed Hashim Amla and van Wyk to open the door for legspinner Shaun von Berg to create havoc. His 5 for 76 crippled the Dolphins middle order and their score of 288 in the second innings set Titans a modest target of 172 to chase.
Left-arm spinner Keshav Maharaj caused trouble, plucking three Titans wickets, half-centuries from Berhardien and van Jaarsveld saw the Titans to victory after lunch on the fourth day.
On a traditionally flat pitch in Kimberley, the Lions and Knights drew a high-scoring encounter. Runs were slow but steady as the Lions declared their first innings on 455 for 9. Stephen Cook batted throughout the first day and scored 131, which he could not add to on the second morning. Ryan McLaren celebrated his international recall with three wickets and Dillon du Preez, who replaced Johann van der Wath, also claimed three as the Lions middle order battled.
Their second century came from an unlikely place. No. 9 batsman, Dale Deeb, better known for left-arm spin, did a Jason Gillespie and scored 101 to give the Lions a meaty first innings total. Late on the second day, the advantage had swung firmly to the Lions as Pumelela Matshikwe took four wickets to have the Knights on the back foot at 95 for 5.
Obus Pienaar, who played for South Africa Under-19s, scored a century and put on 155 with McLaren, who made 55 to steer the Knights to safety. Du Preez's 83 took the Knights to within 100 runs of the Lions total, when Morne van Wyk declared on 378 for 8, 77 runs behind.
His decision quickly looked like the right one, with the Lions stumbling to 72 for 4, with Quinton Friend doing the early damage. Alviro Petersen who is competing with Jacques Rudolph for a Test spot, dropped to No. 4 in the order, but scored a duck to end with disappointing stats of just 35 runs in the match. Neil McKenzie and Temba Bavuma both scored centuries to make sure the Lions could build a competitive total. They declared on 266 for 4, at lunch on the last day, setting the Knights a target of 344 and leaving themselves two sessions to bowl them out.
Reeza Hendricks and Dean Elgar started safely with a first wicket stand of 62 but Cliffe Deacon's triple strike after breaking through the opening partnership gave the Lions a sniff. He took here wickets in three overs to send Elgar, Boeta Dippenaar and Ryan Bailey packing. Deacon finished with five wickets in the innings, but the Lions did not have enough time to bowl the Knights out and had to settle for the draw with the Knights at 189 for 6.