Dolphins close gap on Eagles
The pick of the bowling performances came from Zander de Bruyn, the former South Africa batsman and medium-pacer, who took advantage of first-day assistance in Port Elizabeth to take 7 for 67 and dismiss the defending champions, the Titans, for 171. Fifties from HD Ackerman and Johan Botha gave the Warriors a 38-run first innings lead, but the Titans batted superbly in their second innings: centuries from Heino Kuhn, the wicketkeeper and opening batsman and Faf du Plessis put them in a position to declare on 380 for 4. The match petered out into a draw, however, with the Warriors finishing on 159 for 4, De Bruyn completing a top-class match with 52.
Yorkshire's Jacques Rudolph, no more than a part-time leg-spinner these days, took five wickets to force the Cobras to follow on against the Eagles, but two fine centuries by Andrew Puttick and Henry Davids secured a draw for the home side at Newlands. The Cobras won the toss and sent the Eagles into bat, but misread the conditions as the visitors plundered 511 runs. Dean Elga scored 166; Rudolph 94 and Dillon du Preez came in at No.8 to belt five sixes in a blazing 122. Davids (67) and Vernon Philander (83) both had long stays at the crease as the Cobras replied, but they were still forced to follow on 171 runs behind.
Any thoughts the log-leading Eagles had of notching their third win in four matches were dashed however as openers Puttick and Con de Lange (46) stayed together for the first 22 overs and Puttick (152*) and Davids then saved the game with an unbeaten second-wicket stand of 224 in 230 minutes. Davids' 123 not out made him the leading run-scorer in SuperSport Series cricket this season.
The match between the Lions and the Dolphins in Potchefstroom came closest to a result and also attracted the most overseas interest thanks to the appearance of the two England fast bowlers, Steve Harmison and Liam Plunkett, playing against eachother. The Lions, strangely sent in to bat first by the Dolphins, piled up 553 for 8 before closing their account with Werner Coetsee (131) and Neil McKenzie (164) providing the bulk of the runs with a third-wicket stand of 270. Plunkett was the most successful bowler with 3 for 100 from 23 overs. Despite Ahmed Amla's 123, the Dolphins were not able to avert the follow-on, even though Plunkett scored 45 in the lower-order to take them to 387 all out. The Dolphins' second innings did not go well as they crashed to 177 for 9 with four overs remaining. Daryn Smit and Quinton Friend, Nos. 10 and 11, put paid to the Lions' victory hopes however as they added 15 for the last wicket.
The best partnership of the innings - 60 for the sixth wicket between Johnathan Vandiar and Wayne Madsen - was ended by Harmison, who dismissed both batsmen and finished with match figures of 4 for 93 in 27 overs. It was a grossly uninspired performance from him, however, and at times it appeared as though he and his wicketkeeper were the only two in the game.
Player of the Week Henry Davids
Twenty-seven-year-old Henry Davids has long been listed as one of the most flamboyant batsmen in South African limited-overs cricket, but this summer he has featured like never before in four-day matches and is currently second in the averages and the leading run-scorer in the SuperSport Series.
Previously, he had averaged just 29 in 44 first-class matches due to a frustrating tendency to play all the numerous strokes at his disposal regardless of circumstances.
But March 2, 2007 may yet prove to be an important date in Davids' career.
The confidence he gained that day in destroying a Diamond Eagles attack featuring international bowlers Johan van der Wath, Nicky Boje and Thandi Tshabalala, as well as Kent's highly-rated Kolpak player Ryan McLaren, with 93 not out off 52 balls in a Pro20 match is clearly still with him. A far more considered approach at the crease has brought Davids 432 SuperSport Series runs in eight innings, with two centuries and three half-centuries.
Last week he went the distance in adding 108 not out to his first innings of 67 and helping to save the game for the Cape Cobras after they had followed on against the Eagles in Cape Town. "The most important change is mental, I don't play as many shots as I used to," he said. "I feel I've grown up a lot since last season, I think I'm more responsible."
SAA Provincial Three-Day Challenge
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