Titans top table after 21-run win
Many will argue with this, but Johannesburg can be one of the most picturesque cities in the world. It was around 3pm on Sunday afternoon that the match between the Lions and the Dolphins at the Wanderers was interrupted for the umpteenth time, but this delay was a little different. Rain turned into hail, hammering the Bullring's outfield and behind the players change-rooms golden sunshine teased the wet weather. Everything about the city was captured in that collision of the elements: thunderous, dangerous, booming, stormy, but ultimately beautiful.
Against that backdrop, it was only fitting that the Lions won their first SuperSport Series match of the season, beating the Dolphins by four wickets. The Lions would have wanted to bat only once after they amassed 462 in their first innings. Vaughn van Jaarsveld (126), who had been threatening to score a century from the first match, finally did. He shared in a 217-run fourth wicket stand with Neil McKenzie (164). The pair have now jumped to third and sixth respectively on the overall batting standings.
Imran Tahir (5 for 131) removed McKenzie and then tore into the tail. He took four wickets for 25 runs on the second morning, to turn his expensive figures into respectable ones. But no sooner had that restored some pride for the Dolphins, did their batting basically undo it all. They were bowled out for 201, with only Devon Conway (47) making it past 40. The Lions bowlers, who still lack a genuine, wicket-taking seamer, did an unexpectedly sterling job. There were three wickets apiece for Pumi Matshikwe (3 for 52), Zander de Bruyn (3 for 43) and debutant Dale Deeb (3 for 23).
Alviro Petersen enforced the follow-on, with the Dolphins trailing by 261 runs. Divan van Wyk (77) and Imraan Khan (82) put on 163 for the opening partnership, as the Dolphins made clear their intent not to slump to an innings defeat. England's Ravi Bopara contributed just 33 to the second innings effort but Conway (86) helped his side build a lead. De Bruyn (4 for 68) and Deeb (4 for 89) were among the wickets again as the Dolphins were bowled out for 406, setting the Lions a target of 146.
Despite rain interruptions and two wickets apiece for Tahir (2 for 59), who opened the bowling, Kyle Abbott (2 for 42) and Quinton Friend (2 for 44), the Lions got there. De Bruyn (12*) and Jonathan Vandiar (5*) were at the crease at the end. The win moves the Lions to second on the table, 11.62 points behind the Titans.
The Titans stormed to the top of the table after beating the Knights by 21 runs in Kimberley. The visitors chose to bat first on what is traditionally a flat track but things didn't go well for them at first. Three early wickets saw them reeling on 79 for 3 in the 25th over. Farhaan Behardien (142) and Henry Davids (81) formed a rearguard and helped the line-up survive a Ryan McLaren (4 for 72) onslaught and the Titans were bowled out for 337.
They carried that fight into the field, Mario Olivier (2 for 51) removing both openers with the score on just 11. Ethy Mbhalati (5 for 35) did the bulk of the damage to the Knights thereafter and only Morne van Wyk's unbeaten 44 helped save face. They were bowled out for an embarrassing 113, a deficit of 224 runs.
The Titans second innings was also dotted with wickets. The opening pair of Pieter Malan (7) and Jacques Rudolph (28) failed for the second time in the match. Behardien (57) and Blake Snijman (53) were the mainstays in helping them build the lead. Another player on the fringes of the South African side in the Knights XI, Dillon du Preez, was the highest second innings wicket-taker, grabbing 4 for 32. The Titans declared on 187 for 7, setting the Knights a massive 412 to win.
The Free Staters were more fluent with the bat the second time around, with all of their batsman bar No. 11 reaching double figures. Van Wyk's 67, Rilee Roussouw's 65 and Boeta Dippenaar's 53 were the three half-centuries in the chase. Mbhalati claimed his second five-for of the match (5 for 125), including the last wicket of Victor Mpitsang (0) as the Titans won the thrilling encounter by 21 runs.
In East London, the weather ultimately ruined proceedings in the match between the Warriors and the Cobras. There were only five completed sessions of play in the match, with the last two days washed out completely. The Cobras were opted to bat and were on an imposing 400 for 3 when no more play was possible.
Andrew Puttick scored an impressive 193 in almost nine hours at the crease. Alistair Gray kept him company for most of the match, scoring scored 126. Stiaan van Zyl chipped in with 73,and the match was drawn.
Batsman of the week: For his marathon stay at the crease, his second hundred in the competition and surging to the top of the batting rankings with 440 runs at an average of 62.85, Andrew Puttick gets this week's award.
Bowler of the week: It's a shared one this week. Ethy Mbhalati bowled the Titans to victory with ten wickets in their match against the Knights. It was also the veteran bowlers third and fourth five-wicket haul in the competition so far. He is second on the bowling charts, with 25 scalps. Mbhalati shares the award with Dale Deeb. The 20-year old Lions' bowler had an impressive debut, claiming seven wickets.
Firdose Moonda is a freelance writer based in Johannesburg