Knights take first-class title with innings win

South Africa's rising international star Duanne Olivier finished the Sunfoil Series with 52 wickets at 18.13 Gallo Images

Knights have won South Africa's first-class competition with an innings and 121-run victory over Lions in Johannesburg. The trophy is the franchise's first since the 2010-11 40-over competition and third in the first-class format since the franchise era began in the 2004-05 summer.

Knights wrapped up victory before lunch on the third day to bring an early end to what was a thrilling final round. All six teams were in with a chance of claiming the cup in a hotly contested competition that has seen Knights become the first side to win four matches. Their nearest rivals, Titans, are on the backfoot in Benoni while in Durban, Cobras and Dolphins are involved in a mid-table tussle.

Although Knights' bowling was the hallmark of their success this season - spearhead Duanne Olivier finished with 52 wickets at 18.13, the leading wicket-taker - it was their batting that triumphed on the final weekend. After choosing to bat at the Wanderers, Knights posted an imposing 443 and Lions could not match that score over two innings.

The runs came from the top five with Luthando Mnyanda and Diego Rosier sharing a first-wicket stand of 112 before Beuran Hendricks broke through. Rosier followed him three overs later but another big stand - of 94 between Theunis de Bruyn and Pite van Biljon - followed. De Bruyn, Knights' captain, scored 72 and sits near the top of the runs charts - making a strong case to continue travelling with the South African Test team as their reserve player - while van Biljon went on to score 119. Rudi Second's 45 further frustrated Lions as Knights closed out the first day on 408 for 7. They only added 35 runs on the second morning and Hendricks finished with five but the damage had been done.

Poor first-innings totals had been a concern for Lions throughout the season and they could not get poorer than this. They were shot out for 87 to underline the quality of Knights' attack. Opening bowlers Olivier and Marchant de Lange - an off-season acquisition from Titans - combined pace and bounce to take five between them before change-bowlers Shadley van Schalkwyk, who sits in the top 10 on the wicket-takers' charts, and Mbulelo Budaza took the second five. Reeza Hendricks' 35 was the top score with Rassie van der Dussen the only other batsman to get into double figures.

Sensing success, Knights asked Lions to follow on and although their second innings was better it was not still not good enough. Test opener Stephen Cook and Hendricks put on 101 for the first wicket and Hendricks topped up to make 112 but the rest fell away. Lions lost their last eight wickets for 66 and Olivier did most of the damage. His 4 for 59 scythed through the middle order, where only Mangaliso Mosehle made a score over 20. Depending on the outcome of the Titans-Warriors match, Lions could finish last.

They will take some positives from a campaign in which they lost several players to national duty, in that Dominic Hendricks was among the top-ten scorers and Wiaan Mulder, the schoolboy allrounder, sat just outside the top ten on the wicket charts. But Knights' glory was much greater. Olivier and de Lange lie first and second on the bowlers' list. Bloemfontein could not be prouder.