Elgar and Dippenaar star in Eagles' win
After declaring on 485 for 8 in their first innings and taking a 173-run lead in their second innings, the Lions would have given themselves a decent shot at victory in Kimberley. But, as has so often been their fortune, it was not to be. The Eagles bowlers worked well in tandem to reduce the Lions to 165 for 9 in their second innings and then magnificent hundreds from Dean Elgar and Boeta Dippenaar guided the hosts to an eight-wicket win.
There were encouraging signs for the Lions though, with Neil McKenzie and Alviro Petersen scoring centuries in their first innings. Cliff Deacon was the pick of their bowlers, taking 6 for 75 in the Eagles first innings to help the Lions to that significant lead. Dippenaar, the Eagles captain, said that he noticed a "huge improvement" in the Lions side and that he thought they were "moving forward dramatically and dominated 90% of the match".
Dippenaar described the match as "one of those extraordinary games of cricket where the team who was chasing for most of it ended up on the winning side." He added that he thought the Eagles would have a tough time chasing the 338 they needed to win on the final day but once he and Elgar were well settled, they decided to go for the win.
The Titans began the defence of their title in fine style, making the Cobras look like amateurs in Benoni. The defending champions didn't start with too much authority, being bowled out for 222 and relied on Gulam Bodi to hold the innings together with a gritty 98. Alastair Gray's legbreak was most troublesome to them and he ended the match with six wickets, taking his season total to nine.
The bowlers wasted no time in showing just how strong the Titans attack was. Ethy Mbhalati ripped through the Cobras line up, taking 5 for 56. The Titans second innings batting appeared stronger, with three of the top six batsmen reaching half centuries but none able to push on. That didn't matter though as a dismal Cobras' second innings helped the Titans register a comfortable win.
The match brought some positive news for the national selectors in the bowling department. Monde Zondeki took six wickets and Morne Morkel claimed five.
Batsman of the week
Dean Elgar takes this one again. He scored a duck in the first innings but came back superbly in the second. He lost his opening partner, Reeza Hendricks, with the score on 10 and the Lions were sniffing for more wickets and a victory. That didn't shake the youngster, who batted for over five hours and came agonisingly close to a double ton. Dippenaar said Elgar, who is now in his third season, had overcome the "challenges of a second season where opposition teams are more prepared about how to bowl against you and media expectation may weigh you down." It looks as though Elgar once again has bowlers puzzled as none of the Lions bowlers could dismiss him in the second innings. He now tops the batting rankings, with 301 runs from just two matches.
Bowler of the week
This was a hotly contested award this week with many of the players on the fringes of the national side putting their hands up for selection. The title goes to Paul Harris who showed why he is the No. 1 Test spinner in the country with a splendid 6 for 54 in 20 overs that dismantled the Cobras in their second innings. He finished with nine wickets at a sterling economy rate of 2.38, to surge to the top of the bowling rankings after just one game.
Firdose Moonda is a freelance writer based in Johannesburg