The competition had its first winner and loser, as it breaks for almost three months with the Titans in the lead. They beat the Lions by nine wickets on a spicy Johannesburg surface that allowed the Centurion-based franchise to break away from the chasing pack, albeit by less than 11 points.
The victory was marked by the return of 21-year-old pacer Lungi Ngidi, who took 6 for 37 in the first innings to leave the Lions reeling at 49 for 5 at one stage and limp to 180 all out. If not for Omphile Ramela's 63 and Bjorn Fortuin's 80, the Lions would have had even less to work with. In response, the Titans started strongly thanks to returning captain Aiden Markram, who has matured in leaps and bounds following his international success. Markram scored 85 but had little support in the face of a strong attack. Hardus Viljoen, Wiaan Mulder and Aya Myoli took eight wickets between them but Shaun von Berg's 63 gave the Titans a 33-run lead.
With Ngidi on fire and Malusi Siboto's deceptive medium-pace, the Titans pushed home the advantage and bundled the Lions out for 165 and needed only 133 to win. Markram took them home with an unbeaten 81.
In Kimberley, the Knights did enough to lie second in a rain-affected encounter with only one completed innings. Knights bowled Warriors out for 362 and Ryan McLaren rolled back the years to take 5 for 60. Colin Ackermann's 187 was one of only two scores of substance for Warriors, with Lesiba Ngoepe notching up 52. Knights faced 100 overs in reply and after centuries from Grant Mokoena and Keegan Petersen, and were 391 for 5 when the match was drawn.
The clash between the Cobras and Dolphins in Oudtshoorn promised plenty when Cobras took a 102-run first innings lead but petered out into a draw. Dane Vilas' 161 held the Dolphins together against the returning Vernon Philander, who took 4 for 25 before an allround batting performance from Cobras stood them in good stead to push for victory. Zubayr Hamza top-scored with 88 while Philander brought up the rear with 80. Cobras were on the hunt when they took an early wicket but the Dolphins' experienced players held out. Centuries from Morne van Wyk and Vaughn van Jaarsveld blunted the Cobras, who lie fourth, with Dolphins in fifth.
On the national radar
With the national bowling reserves depleted, Ngidi's performance would have been the most pleasing for the selectors, not only for his pace but also his ability to take wickets at the beginning and middle of an innings. Also for Titans, Markram's twin 80s were described as being worth at least a century on a tricky Wanderers pitch. Dean Elgar, his senior partner at international level, scored 34 and 25.
The Lions had little to be pleased with but Mulder's 2 for 26 continued an consistent run for him in the competition.
At the other end of the bowling spectrum in experience terms, Philander made a comeback after being out of action since July and showed promising signs ahead of eight Tests later in the summer. He took 4 for 25 in the Dolphins' first innings, and 1 for 19 in their second, conceded at less than two runs an over and scored 80.
Keshav Maharaj was not in action for the Dolphins but one of his rivals, Dane Piedt, played in that match, captaining the Cobras. While Piedt was expensive in the Dolphins' first innings he took 2 for 76 in the second.
While the headlines belonged to Ngidi, Siboto's contribution to the Titans' win should not go amiss, especially as it took him to the top of tournament's wicket-takers list. Siboto has taken 17 wickets in five matches at an average of 21.35.
Leading the run-charts is Rudi Second, who was dismissed for 40 this week but just 27 runs behind him is van Jaarsveld, who is having a fantastic run. He has scored five fifties and a hundred in the competition so far and averages 60.00.
In keeping with the high century count this season, which is now up to 40, some of the other top performers were also batsmen with Ackermann's 187 and Vilas' 161 worth a special mention.