Cape Cobras' stunning second-half-of-the-season surge continued as they beat log-leaders Knights in Paarl to lie in second-place with one round to play. Cobras were last on the points table at the halfway stage, with little over half the points of their nearest rival, but have reeled off three wins in a row under new coach Ashwell Prince and new captain Dane Piedt, and are now serious title-contenders.
On a juicy surface, Cobras chose to bat against the competition's best attack and struggled to cope. Duanne Olivier (4 for 43) and Shadley van Schalkwyk (4 for 40) sliced through them to dismiss the hosts for 154 in 52.2 overs. Justin Ontong's 38 was the top score with only four other batsmen getting into the 20s.
Knights' joy was shortlived, though. They finished the first day on 137 for 6 with wickets shared among four of Cobras' frontlines including franchise debutant Kyle Simmonds. Things did not get easier for Knights on the second morning - they lost their last four wickets for 16 runs and were bundled out for 153, giving Cobras a one-run lead.
Play was briefly interrupted by smoke from a nearby bush fire which allowed Cobras to compose themselves after they slipped to 22 for 2 in their second innings and they went on post the highest total of the match. Kolpak signings Stiaan van Zyl and Dane Vilas made 106 and 62 respectively and contributions in the 40s from Ontong and Jason Smith pushed their total over 300.
Olivier was among the wickets again and finished the match with seven to extend his lead at the top of the bowling charts but Knights were given a tough target of 332 to win. With more than a day to play, time was on their side but Piedt had other ideas. He took 6 for 87, while Simmonds chipped in with the other four, to dismiss Knights for 180 on the third afternoon and dent their hopes of claiming the first-class cup.
Firdose Moonda is ESPNcricinfo's South Africa correspondent