Behardien's unbeaten run and Shamsi's impressive resurgence
Last week's Ram Slam matches saw a hat-trick from Robbie Frylinck, a few washed out matches, Dale Steyn among the wickets but no outstanding performance from any domestic players
A hat-trick from Robbie Frylinck headlined last week's Ram Slam action, even though his efforts came in vain as Warriors beat Dolphins by one run in a cliffhanger at St George's Park. Frylinck's three in three came in the penultimate over of Warriors' innings, after Christiaan Jonker's 59 off 36 balls set Warriors up. They were pegged back throughout their innings and then by the triple-strike to finish on 153 for 8, a score Dolphins should have chased down. Morne van Wyk scored 57 off 44 balls but had scant top-order support and Dolphins were 35 for 4 in the seventh over. Sibonelo Makhanya's 33 off 24 balls put them back on track before it was down to Frylinck and Keshav Maharaj to finish. They needed 17 off the final over and nine off the last three balls but Andrew Birch held his nerve to give Warriors their second win of the tournament and still languish at the bottom of the table.
Earlier in the week, Cape Cobras continued their mid-campaign climb with a 10-run win over Warriors on Wednesday, and did it by defending what seemed a below-par total at Boland Park. Cobras posted 159 for 4 with the hard work done by openers Hashim Amla (52 off 36 balls) and Temba Bavuma (42 off 43) built on by George Linde's unbeaten 52 off 30 balls. Warriors were 17 for 2 in the fourth over in reply before Colin Ingram and Colin Ackermann shared a third-wicket stand of 75. Warriors folded soon after the partnership was broken. Dane Paterson was impressive at the death while Rory Kleinveldt provided miserly support with figures of 1 for 16 in four overs.
On the same day, Titans were unable to extend their lead when their match against Lions was washed out at the Wanderers. They made up for that on Friday, when they beat Warriors in a shortened 13-over affair in Benoni, the only match possible on the day as rain washed out clashes between Knights and Lions in Bloemfontein and Dolphins and Cobras in Durban.
Dean Elgar made a case as a limited-overs batsman with 44 from 23 balls but AB de Villiers' 48 off 19 stole the show as Titans posted 172 for 3 in their 13 overs at a rate of 13.23. All of Warriors' bowlers, barring Solo Nqweni conceded at more than 13 runs per over. JJ Smuts returned to form in response with 53 from 30 balls but the next highest individual score was 13 for Warriors as Lungi Ngidi (2 for 8), Tabraiz Shamsi (3 for 22) and Malusi Siboto (2 for 18) ensured Titans' defense held firm to win by 56 runs.
Titans extended their lead on Sunday with a five-wicket victory over Knights. Farhaan Behardien led their chase of 134 with an unbeaten 56 off 39 balls, much needed after Titans were reduced to 26 for 3 inside the Powerplay and 92 for 5 in the 16th over. Dale Steyn, who returned after a three-match break, took 2 for 20 at the top of Knights' innings while Shamsi's 2 for 21 kept them quiet in the middle. David Miller's 43 off 34 balls was the top-score in an underwhelming total of 133 for 7.
Dane Paterson was dropped for the Cobras matches against Lions and Knights last week after failing to take a wicket in the opening three matches and the snub proved a reality check. He returned refreshed and took 3 for 25, including wickets at the top and tail of the innings.
Chris Morris made a return to action after more than four months on the sidelines with a lower-back injury he suffered ahead of the fourth Test against England in August. He took 1 for 26 against Warriors in the shortened 13-over affair but then went for nine runs an over against Knights, conceding 36 in his four overs. He was at the crease with 17 off 10 balls as Titans won the game and the progress he has made towards full fitness is encouraging.
It's worth noting the form of the oft under-appreciated middle-order man Behardien, who has not been dismissed once in the five times he has batted for Titans (and not once in his last ten matches, including internationals) and should now be taken seriously as a finisher. All the recent matches in which Behardien has not been dismissed have been won by his team and his strike rate of just under 180 in the tournament so far is nothing to be scoffed at. As Ottis Gibson compiles his World Cup squad, Behardien should be part of it.
Also encouraging is the resurgence of Shamsi, who is now top of the wicket-takers' list. His five wickets in two matches have taken his tournament total to 10 and an economy rate of 6.52 is not too shabby either.
One of the concerns the tournament has raised is the lack of big performances from domestic players as the campaign has gone on. Apart from Sarel Erwee in the first week, no player who is uncapped at international level has gone on to a showing of substance. The gap between domestic and international cricket is always said to be sizable and as the competition goes on, we may be able to see exactly how large it is.
Beyond the Boundary
Vernon Philander had to pull out of Cobras' match against Warriors with an injury, but not the regular kind. His lower back and hamstring were perfectly fine but it was his hand with the problem. Philander had been bitten by his own dogs, as he tried to separate them during a scuffle. He required stitches and is expected to spend a week out of action.
Firdose Moonda is ESPNcricinfo's South Africa correspondent