Knights and Lions seal big wins
Some parts of South Africa skipped straight over spring into summer with temperatures soaring to 30 degrees in the first few weeks of September. The same did not apply to surfaces for the opening round of the first-class competition, which was played on spicy pitches which allowed fast bowlers to dominate the early exchanges.
In Bloemfontein, the Knights survived being sliced down to 32 for 8 in their first innings to beat the Warriors by 128 runs, thanks to a strong all-round showing from 21-year old Corne Dry, and a century from wicket-keeper batsman Rudi Second.
Andrew Birch, Wayne Parnell and Basheer Walters took advantage of ample movement on offer in the usually placid Chevrolet Park pitch to cripple the Knights. Only one of their top eight managed to get into double figures and five were dismissed without scoring before Dry and Quinton Friend staged a recovery. They put on 98 runs for the ninth-wicket and both scored half-centuries in quick time, but the Knights were still dismissed for a below par score of 140.
They would have felt substantially better about their total when they had the Warriors 88 for 9 before the first day was over. Dry helped himself to a five-for while for Warriors, only Colin Ingram managed a respectable score of 24. Overnight, the Warriors trailed by four runs and they added only one before being dismissed early on the second day.
Conditions improved for batting as the match went on and the Knights coped better in their second essay. Rilee Rossouw scored 44, but the innings was built around Second, who became the competition's first centurion. The Knights' tail wagged again with Friend partnering Second to put on 75 for the ninth-wicket.
The Warriors lost Parnell to a shoulder injury, but their offspinner Simon Harmer was among the wickets. They were set a tough target of 331 but with plenty of time left in the game, would have wanted to give themselves a chance to get close. At 36 for 3, that seemed out of the question. Dry took two of the first three wickets and it was then up to Werner Coetsee to finish off. Only JJ Smuts resisted with 62, and the Warriors lost inside three days.
In Johannesburg , the Titans dragged the Jukskei derby into a fourth day but were outplayed by a strong Lions pack. Quicks Hardus Viljoen and Chris Morris shared 15 wickets between them to ensure the Titans were unable to get over 200 in either innings. Viljoen seven-for in the second innings, included 6 for 25 in 50 balls on the fourth morning and saw him share the Man-of-the-Match award with Quinton de Kock who produced half-centuries in both innings.
The Wanderers did not prove too dangerous early on. The Lions had a solid start through half-centuries from Stephen Cook, Temba Bavuma and de Kock, despite Marchant de Lange's three wickets. Although none of their batsmen got into three figures, they all contributed to a total of 401 of which Under-19 World Cup winner Kagiso Rabada scored 48.
Lions seized the advantage midway through the second day when Lonwabo Tsotsobe, Viljoen and Morris dismissed the Titans top-order. At 47 for 4, the Titans did not have the start they wanted from Test opener Dean Elgar, and had to rely on Farhaan Behardien to marshal the middle order. Behardien had support from Mangaliso Mosehle and Roelof van der Merwe, but Morris' four-for gave the Lions a 204-run first innings lead.
The Titans threatened a mini comeback when they kept the Lions 37 for 4, but de Kock and Thami Tsolekile recovered well and scored briskly to allow the Lions to declare on 155 for 5 on the third day. The Titans were 50 for 4 overnight, again without substantial contributions from their top order and it was only a matter of time before Lions secured the win on the final day.
Viljoen ensured it did not take too long. He took all six wickets, leaving Behardien stranded on 71. Mosehle was the only other batsmen among the runs and managed 42 but the Titans have to work to do ahead of their meeting with the Warriors next week. The other match sees the two victors from this weekend, the Lions and Knights, face off in Potchefstroom.
Firdose Moonda is ESPNcricinfo's South Africa correspondent