Bavuma, Pretorius star as Lions claim title
A Temba Bavuma century was followed up by a five-wicket haul from seamer Dwaine Pretorius as Lions took an unassailable lead at the top of the Sunfoil Series table. Although Dolphins, placed second, tail battled valiantly to pull off a draw, the final wicket fell in the final over of the final day and they were beaten by 188 runs in Durban.
Victory gave Lions their first title since the franchise system was introduced - Gauteng last won the first-class competition in 1999-2000. They will be presented with the trophy during the final round of games next week, when they play Warriors in Johannesburg.
Lions were in early strife after they were put in but 5 for 1 and 36 for 2 became a distant memory when Bavuma and Thami Tsolekile joined together for the fifth wicket. The 146-run partnership shut the door on Dolphins. Bavuma capitalised on his recent form - his 153 off 217 balls was his third fifty-plus score on the trot and included 21 fours - as Tsolekile played second-fiddle, although his 127-ball 61 included two sixes. Chris Morris' all-round ability at No. 8 came in handy as he marshaled the tail after both batsmen were dismissed; his 57 gave Lions a massive 395 runs on the board.
Pretorius thrust Lions' advantage home with his second-first class five-for, finishing with figures of 20-8-64-5. He removed two of the three batsmen to score fifties - Daniel Sincuba for 56 and Morne van Wyk for 68 - and two other top-six batsmen for single-figures. Dolphins were 101 for 5 when the other half-centurion Daryn Smit (60) resisted in a 116-run stand with van Wyk, but they were bowled out for 280 and conceded a decisive 115-run lead.
Stephen Cook, the Lions captain, then treated himself to 143 off 263 balls in the second innings and became the top-scorer of the tournament. His opening partner Rassie van der Dussen contributed 78 to a mammoth opening stand of 177; they now feature in two of the top-five partnerships this season. Bavuma updated his match tally with 60 more runs and Dolphins were left chasing an improbable target of 471 in 69 overs.
Again they could only muster three half-centuries, van Wyk (50*) and Sincuba (50) were joined by Khaya Zondo (72) this time. Dolphins were nine down with 15 overs remaining but Daryn Dupavillon was resolute; then, with six balls left in the day, Eddie Leie, having already picked up three wickets, toppled the partnership and Dolphins' hopes.
After choosing to bowl, Titans conceded 484 over two days and 143.5 overs. Cobras were set back by Stiaan van Zyl retiring hurt in the fifth over. But Ramela joined Andrew Puttick and put on 154 for the first wicket, Cobras' best partnership of the game. David Wiese broke through the defences of Puttick for 74 in the 51st over but Ramela would pile on the misery, batting for over 10 hours for his 202 which included 27 fours and two sixes.
Van Zyl also returned to make 73 off 97 balls, but Cobras could only manage 62 runs for their final five wickets as Rowan Richards picked up 5 for 114.
Titans had 10 overs to negotiate to stumps on the second day, but Kyllin Vardhan was caught behind off Beuran Hendricks. Resuming on 21 for 1, Elgar put on 173 for the second wicket with Henry Davids, who was eventually dismissed by left-arm spinner Robin Peterson for 52 off 140. Cobras' bowlers had no further success on the third day as Elgar raced to his 23rd first class ton - off 132 balls - and took Titans to stumps at 282 for 2 with Theunis de Bruyn (60) at stumps on the third day.
Elgar retired hurt after over seven hours at the crease, his 208 came off 277 balls and included 26 fours and two sixes. Eight overs later the rain came.
In East London, an unbeaten second-innings hundred from Pite van Biljon helped Knights to their third win of the season, which allowed them to leapfrog Warriors in the table. Despite having taken a 78-run lead, Knights were in danger of squandering their advantage at 45 for 4 but van Biljon's innings allowed them to eventually declare on 253 for 7, setting Warriors a target of 332.
The home side made a decent start on the final day, reaching 128 for 1, but Colin Ackermann was the only batsman to progress past 50 as the Knights attack worked their way through the order. Corne Dry picked up three wickets and Dillon du Preez two - to follow 3 for 13 from 16.3 overs in the first innings - and when Ackermann became the eighth wicket to fall, Warriors' hopes were extinguished.
After choosing to bat, Knights only managed to post 223, with Rudi Second's 64 the top score. Andrew Birch and Basheeru-Deen Walters shared seven wickets between them. Warriors then crawled to 145 all out in 71.3 overs and although Birch's five-wicket haul gave them a glimpse, van Biljon built partnerships of 76 and 109 with Second and Werner Coetsee to take the game away.