Trends catch on quickly in South Africa and their latest victim has been first-class cricket. This weekend, like last, yielded only one winner from three matches. This time, it was the turn of the Dolphins, who have been threatening to come out victorious for the past two weeks and finally the cork popped.
They beat the Titans by nine wickets, largely thanks to a 12-wicket match haul by Imran Tahir. The Titans elected to bat in cloudy conditions and although they started steadily the Tahir torpedo couldn't be stopped. He took seven for 112 in the first innings, including the wickets of the three highest run scorers, Jacques Rudolph (53), Gulam Bodi (49) and Farhaan Behardien (31). The Titans were bowled out for a modest 242.
The Dolphins found themselves sinking fast in their reply. Ethy Mbhalati (5 for 38) and CJ de Villiers (2 for 61) snuffed out four early wickets to leave the Dolphins 25 for four. One of the fallen four was Kevin Pietersen, who was out for a second ball duck. Half-centuries from Ahmed Amla (77), Loots Bosman (62) and Jon Kent (50), took the Dolphins to 284, earning them a lead of 42.
The poor showing with the bat in the first innings became an abysmal one in the second, as the Titans were bowled out for 114. Berhardien and Cobus Pienaar top-scored with 25 runs apiece. Tahir was again the chief destroyer, taking five for 47. That left the Dolphins needing 73 runs to win.
They stumbled just once in their chase, when Khan was out for 10. Van Wyk (38*) and Brad Moses (22*) guided the Durban side to their first victory of the season.
In Port Elizabeth, the first two days of play between the Warriors and the Lions were washed out, resulting in an innings forfeiture and two sporting declarations to try and produce a winner. On day three, the Warriors were sent in to bat by the visitors, who enjoyed early successes.
Paul Harris (4 for 112) took three early wickets to leave the Warriors in danger of collapse. At 86 for four, they looked unlikely to get past 200, but Ashwell Prince was on hand again. His patient, unbeaten 134 helped the Warriors to 278 for eight, at which point they declared their first innings closed.
The Lions forfeited their first innings and the Warriors were made to bat for the second time. The Lions bowlers removed Prince (4) and Michael Smith (6) cheaply and with time running out, the hosts declared on 61 for two. That allowed the match to be beautifully poised for an exciting finish with the Lions set a target of 339 to win.
Alviro Petersen (2) departed early but solid contributions from Steven Cook (79), Jonathan Vandiar (47) and Zander de Bruyn (55*) took them close to victory. The curtain fell with the Lions on 296 for seven, 43 runs short of victory.
The Cobras and Knights drew in Cape Town, a result which puts the Cobras at the top of the table. The home side batted first and a century from Justin Ontong (102) helped them to 330. Dillon du Preez's 5 for 53 was the best bowling effort for the Knights.
The Free State side's batting has been strong thus far, but crumbled against Vernon Philander (6 for 61) as they were bowled out for 234, a deficit of 96 runs. The Knights had crashed to 59 for five, before 76 from Boeta Dippenaar and 63 from Ryan McLaren rescued them.
The Cobras second innings was characterised by healthy contributions from the top five. Stiaan van Zyl, however, was the only one to reach a half-century. Thandi Tshabalala (5 for 92) kept puncturing the Cobras line up, until they declared on 255 for seven, a lead of 351.
Although time was always going to present a challenge, the Knights chased fairly well to start with. Dean Elgar (84) led the line-up and had he pushed on, the visitors may have got closer to winning. At 187 for four, that looked a possibility. Claude Henderson (3 for 84) and Vernon Philander (1 for 39) took three wickets for 23 runs to leave the Knights on 210 for seven and give the Cobras a strong sniff at victory. That was where the drama ended as the match was drawn with the Knights on 243 for seven.
Batsman of the week: He scored his third hundred in as many games for the Warriors and, again, hauled them out of a tricky situation. Ashwell Prince leads the run charts with 415 runs at an average of 83.00 and earns this week's batting award.
Bowler of the week: Imran Tahir took 12 for 159 for the Dolphins, to take his season tally to 23 wickets from three matches. The Pakistan-born legspinner tops the bowling rankings, with eight more scalps than his nearest rival's Mbhalati and Philander. He becomes eligible to play for South Africa in December which may mean the selectors will consider him for the squad to face India.