Donald and Venter have Easterns on the back foot
Free State probably shaded the first day of their Supersport Series Super Eight encounter against Easterns at Willowmoore Park, although the home side had made some inroads into their batting order by the close.
Visiting captain Gerard Brophy, who had made the decision to put Easterns in after winning the toss, certainly had cause to feel that his choice had been vindicated after the home side were knocked over for 224, with speedster Allan Donald and off spinner Kosie Venter each grabbing three wickets.
However, the hosts did hit back with two wickets in the 17 overs that remained, with Gerhardus Liebenberg unbeaten on 22 and Wiaan Smit on 17 as Easterns reached 64 for two by the close.
Early swing assisted the Free State bowlers as the pace trio of Donald, Victor Mpitsang and Dewald Pretorius each grabbed a wicket as Easterns were reduced to 37 for three. However, that brought Mike Rindel to the wicket and the veteran left-hander took the game to the visitors with a swashbuckling 69 off just 84 balls, including eight fours and a six.
Rindel added 54 for the fourth wicket with Derek Crookes, but the home side then lost another three quick wickets to be 125 for six, before another left-handed import, Ant Botha, and Albie Morkel combined to add a face-saving 69 for the seventh wicket.
Even after Morkel (25) and Gareth Flusk (0) were run out in quick succession, there was still some resistance from Easterns, with Botha and Andre Nel adding 29 for the ninth wicket. Donald eventually knocked over Nel (10) and then had Botha caught at short leg by Rasheed Lewis for 59 to end the innings.
Morkel and Flusk grabbed the scalps of Andrew Gait (0) and Louis Wilkinson (17) respectively to keep the home side in it at the close.