Albie Morkel leads Titans to tense win
Albie Morkel's all-round performance helped Titans leapfrog Cape Cobras to the top of the table with a tense two-wicket win in Paarl.
On a usually benign pitch, Cobras chose to bat but were in early trouble. Morkel removed Andrew Puttick and Stiaan van Zyl in the first over and Cobras struggled to recover from there. Zero for 2 became 71 for 5 as the line up succumbed to the left-arm seam of Rowan Richards. Richard Levi's 64 helped hold the innings together and Robin Peterson batted well with the tail to end on an undefeated 58, and take Cobras to 199. Richards finished with 5 for 49, while Morkel took 3 for 42.
Titans' top-five batsmen responded better. The captain Martin van Jaarsveld's 71 took his team to the brink of overtaking Cobras and they should have gone on to score many more. However, their last five wickets fell for just 19 runs as Peterson celebrated his Test call-up by ripping through the lower order. He finished with 5 for 60 and Titans were bowled out for 207, only eight runs ahead.
Cobras batted poorly once again in the second innings and were bundled out for 165. van Zyl's 67 was the top score on a card that had eight batsmen out in single figures. Peterson's 30 at No. 8 gave Cobras something to bowl at as they attempted to defend 158. Henry Davids was the wrecker this time, taking 5 for 22.
Johann Louw sent early shockwaves through the Titans line-up when he removed both their openers, including Jacques Rudolph who moved back to the top of the order, in consecutive overs. In the 26th over, the Titans were 68 for 6 and victory seemed too far away to think about. Tumelo Bodibe and Morkel combined for a seventh-wicket stand of 53. Morkel's unbeaten 54 ended up being a match-winning knock as he defied the Cobras attack and took Titans ahead by the slenderest of margins - 1.4 points.
Weather intervened in the mid-table tussle between Knights and Lions at the Wanderers. Lions will be more thankful for the rain as they were facing defeat on the final afternoon.
After choosing to bat Knights, at 192 for 7 on the first day, were in danger of posting only a little over 200. Former Lions allrounder Werner Coetsee resisted his old team with a patient 78. Lower-order partnerships of 68 for the eighth wicket and 78 for the ninth also frustrated Lions, who eventually bowled the Knights out for 338.
Johann van der Wath claimed three wickets to leave Lions stumbling on 52 for 4 in their first innings. But a pair of old hands rode to their rescue. Neil McKenzie, who scored 73, and Zander de Bruyn, who ended on 92, shared a 162-run partnership for the fifth-wicket to ensure Lions came within 58 runs of their opposition total. With no tail wag, Lions were bowled out for 280.
Knights attempted to up the scoring-rate as they looked to bat Lions out of the match in their second innings. Reeza Hendricks' 75, Boeta Dippenaar's 41 and Ryan McLaren's 49-ball 41 allowed them to declare on 264 for 8, setting the Lions 323 to win.
Quinton Friend's double-strike in the first eight overs left Lions on 18 for 2 in reply. Medium-pacer Malusi Siboto also inflicted twin punctures on Lions, and Friend claimed one more to leave them at 83 for 5, when no further play was possible.
In Durban, Lance Klusener earned his first win as a franchise coach as Dolphins beat Warriors by 227 runs.
Vaughn van Jaarsveld's 106 and Imran Khan's 92 were the major contributors to the Dolphins' first-innings total of 321. Simon Harmer claimed 6 for 94 in that innings while Wayne Parnell went wicketless. Imran Tahir's 5 for 67 helped bowl out Warriors for 211 in reply, 110 runs behind.
David Miller finally found form in Dolphins' second innings, making an undefeated 71. Parnell could say the same, having taken 3 for 43. Dolphins declared on 275 for 8 and set Warriors 386 to win.
Warriors were bowled out for 158, their only significant partnership being 85 between Arno Jacobs and Craig Thyssen for the sixth wicket. Left-armer Mthokozisi Shezi took 5 for 26, Kyle Abbot claimed 3 for 20 and Tahir took his match haul to seven with 2 for 91. Dolphins, however, remain at the bottom of the table.