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Smuts, Birch secure last-over thriller for Warriors

File photo - JJ Smuts followed up his 173* from the previous match with a 132 AFP

Andrew Birch conceded only four runs to clinch a final-over finish for Warriors against Knights at St. George's Park, where JJ Smuts scored his second consecutive century in the tournament.

Needing 11 off the last over while chasing 285, with Aubrey Swanepoel on strike on 73, Birch denied Knights any run off his first delivery. Three singles off the next three balls brought the equation down to eight off two. Seeing a fullish fourth delivery from Birch, No. 9 Merchant de Lange holed out to long-on, effectively securing the win for Warriors, as Swanepoel only managed to squeeze a single off the last ball, with Knights ending on 278 or 8.

Birch, who finished with 3 for 45, had earlier accounted for opener Rudi Second in the second over of the Knights innings, and bowled David Miller for 18 in the tenth, reducing the opposition to 48 for 4. Captain Pite van Biljon then resuscitated the innings with a 104-ball 84 and two consecutive 80-run partnerships with Luthando Mnyanda (43) and Swanepoel (76) for the fifth and sixth wickets respectively, to guide his side past 200 in 39 overs.

Earlier, having elected to bat, Warriors captain Smuts bludgeoned eight fours and five sixes on his way to a 144-ball 132, his sixth List A hundred, and strung a third-wicket stand of 151 with Colin Ackermann, who scored 86 off 96 balls, to take his side to 214 for 2 in 43 overs. Smuts, the second-highest run-scorer in the tournament with a tally of 453 in seven innings, added 52 off only 28 balls with Lesiba Ngoepe (12) for the fourth wicket, before both fell off consecutive deliveries in the 48th over to left-arm fast bowler Mbulelo Budaza, who returned 4 for 69, the best figures for Knights on the day. Three quick wickets in the last two overs meant Warriors could squeeze in only another 18 runs, finishing on 284 for 8.

Centuries from Titans openers Aiden Markram and Henry Davids handed Lions a 169-run thrashing as records tumbled in Johannesburg. Titans had amassed 415 for 3, their highest one-day score, on the back of Markram's 183, the highest in South African one-day matches, supported by Davids' 128 before Lions were bowled out for 246 for the visitors' bonus-point win. Titans are now placed third behind Dolhpins and Warriors while Lions are second from bottom with five losses from eight games.

Titans cashed in on their decision to bat as Markram and Davids hammered 222 for the opening stand, studded with 21 fours and seven sixes. They brought up the century stand in the 20th over before hitting the pedal to push the run rate. While Davids brought up his hundred off 94 balls, Markram took 99 balls for his third List A century. Once Davids fell for 128 off 108 in the 34th over, Markram and Heino Kuhn (34 off 23 balls) charged them past 300 by smashing 21 runs in the 41st over off Carmi le Roux. Markram raced past 150 in the next over and soon surpassed Reeza Hendricks' record of 181 for the highest one-day score in South Africa domestic matches. Titans were 387 for 3 when Markram was caught for 183 off 138 balls, that featured 18 fours and five sixes, and Farhaan Behardien's half-century that was scored at a strike rate of 200 - 62 off 31 - took Titans over the 400 mark for the second time this season.

Beuran Hendricks (10-071-1) and Nono Pongolo (3-0-23-0) were the only two Lions bowlers to concede at less than eight runs per over.

In reply, Lions could not recover when they lost the openers in the first seven balls, leaving them on 4 for 2. Wicketkeeper-batsman Mangaliso Mosehle scored a rapid fifty - 74 off 44 balls - but he fell at the team score of 112 in the 16th over, becoming Tabraiz Shamsi's second victim. Markram chipped in with a wicket too before Shamsi took three more to finish with 5 for 74, his maiden List A five-for. Even though the hosts score at close to eight per over through the chase, they were dismissed in 33.5 overs.