Cobras and Titans in tight title race
Cape Cobras remain at the top of the table, despite a draw with Knights in Cape Town. With one round of fixtures left in the competition, they are the favourites to take the title but are being hotly pursued by the Titans, who are just 0.68 points behind them.
Cobras were forced to work hard after the Knights opted to bat at Newlands. Reeza Hendricks and Rilee Rossouw combined for a second wicket stand of 178. Hendricks occupied the crease for five hours and twenty minutes while Rossouw put in a marathon eight hours, 23 minutes as the pair batted out most of the first day.
It took a skilful effort from Vernon Philander to induce a Knights collapse. He took seven wickets in the innings, including removing Ryan McLaren early on the second morning. Knights lost their last five wickets for 89 and only Johann van der Wath got past 4 in the bottom seven. They were bowled out for 345.
The Cobras were in early trouble at 74 for 3 after Malusi Siboto removed both their openers. It presented the opportunity for two national players to spend time in the middle. JP Duminy and Mark Boucher, who are both part of South Africa's Test squad that will travel to New Zealand, scored centuries. They also shared in a fourth wicket stand of 176 to take the Cobras to within 100 runs of the Knights total.
Dane Vilas scored a quickfire 44 but Ryan McLaren made some dents in the lower-middle order and matters were in the balance with the Cobras on 348 for 7. Johann Louw defied the Knights with 108 off 147 balls and took the match beyond them as the Cobras declared on 529, a lead of 184.
With an eye to only batting once, the Cobras looked to slice through the Knights a second time, but Hendricks would not let them. His 82 came in a second stint of over five hours at the crease and he held together a line-up that would otherwise have been blown away. Philander claimed two wickets, to take his match tally to nine and recalled international Justin Ontong pitched in with three. Time ran out with the Knights on 176 for 7, still eight runs behind.
The draw leaves the Cobras only a hair's breadth above the Titans, effectively turning the last week of fixtures into a decider. The Titans did not get any game time because their match against the Warriors in East London was washed out without a ball being bowled.
The Lions will have to settle for a mid-table spot while the Dolphins will look to fight their way off the bottom in the final round. The two teams played out a draw in Durban.
Things didn't start well for the Lions as they stumbled to 60 for 3 but Neil McKenzie and Temba Bavuma soon took control. The pair scored a century a piece and put on 228 runs for the fourth wicket. Chris Morris' 62 in the lower order and Kyle Abbot's 5 for 76 saw the Lions bowled out for 418.
The Dolphins were defiant in reply. Imran Khan scored 62 and Divan van Wyk 86 as they put on an opening stand of 161. A treble strike from Morris and a wicket from Deacon saw the Dolphins slip slightly but Hashim Amla's 93 steadied them. Cody Chetty also scored 93 and the Dolphins declared on 477 for 6.
McKenzie scored a second century in the Lions' second innings while Imran Tahir plugged away to take 4 for 88. The Lions declared on 268 for 6, with just a session left in the day and made one inroad into the Dolphins batting in that time.