Knights have won South Africa's first-class competition with an innings and 121-run victory over Lions in Johannesburg. The trophy is the franchise's first since the 2010-11 40-over competition and third in the first-class format since the franchise era began in the 2004-05 summer.
Knights wrapped up victory before lunch on the third day to bring an early end to what was a thrilling final round. All six teams were in with a chance of claiming the cup in a hotly contested competition that has seen Knights become the first side to win four matches.
Although Knights' bowling was the hallmark of their success this season - spearhead Duanne Olivier finished with 52 wickets at 18.13, the leading wicket-taker - it was their batting that triumphed on the final weekend. After choosing to bat at the Wanderers, Knights posted an imposing 443 and Lions could not match that score over two innings.
The runs came from the top five with Luthando Mnyanda and Diego Rosier sharing a first-wicket stand of 112 before Beuran Hendricks broke through. Rosier followed him three overs later but another big stand - of 94 between Theunis de Bruyn and Pite van Biljon - followed. De Bruyn, Knights' captain, scored 72 and sits near the top of the runs charts - making a strong case to continue travelling with the South African Test team as their reserve player - while van Biljon went on to score 119. Rudi Second's 45 further frustrated Lions as Knights closed out the first day on 408 for 7. They only added 35 runs on the second morning and Hendricks finished with five but the damage had been done.
Poor first-innings totals had been a concern for Lions throughout the season and they could not get poorer than this. They were shot out for 87 to underline the quality of Knights' attack. Opening bowlers Olivier and Marchant de Lange - an off-season acquisition from Titans - combined pace and bounce to take five between them before change-bowlers Shadley van Schalkwyk, who sits in the top 10 on the wicket-takers' charts, and Mbulelo Budaza took the second five. Reeza Hendricks' 35 was the top score with Rassie van der Dussen the only other batsman to get into double figures.
Sensing success, Knights asked Lions to follow on and although their second innings was better it was not still not good enough. Test opener Stephen Cook and Hendricks put on 101 for the first wicket and Hendricks topped up to make 112 but the rest fell away. Lions lost their last eight wickets for 66 and Olivier did most of the damage. His 4 for 59 scythed through the middle order, where only Mangaliso Mosehle made a score over 20. Depending on the outcome of the Titans-Warriors match, Lions could finish last.
They will take some positives from a campaign in which they lost several players to national duty, in that Dominic Hendricks was among the top-ten scorers and Wiaan Mulder, the schoolboy allrounder, sat just outside the top ten on the wicket charts. But Knights' glory was much greater. Olivier and de Lange lie first and second on the bowlers' list. Bloemfontein could not be prouder.
Titans ensured a second-place finish in the Sunfoil Series as Heino Kuhn's unbeaten 165 helped them chase down a target of 315 against Warriors with four wickets to spare. The star performance, however, came from allrounder Shaun von Berg, who took a match haul of 10 for 203, including a six-for in the second innings, and struck a crucial century at no. 8 to lift Titans from 83 for 7 to a first-innings score of 227 and a lead of 40.
Von Berg took 4 for 59 in the first innings with his legspin to help restrict Warriors to 187, complemented by the pace-bowling pair of Malusi Siboto and Rowan Richards who took five wickets between them. Siboto and Richards' support for von Berg extended into Titans' first innings as well, as they shared crucial partnerships of 55 and 70 for the eighth and ninth wickets respectively to haul the total past 200.
Warriors did better in their second innings, thanks largely to Colin Ackermann's 150 at No. 3 and a 60 from Simon Harmer who shared in a 137-run partnership for the seventh wicket, which helped take Warriors' lead past 300. Von Berg had returns of 6 for 144, including the wickets of Ackermann and opener Gihahn Cloete, who scored 49.
Kuhn and Dean Elgar had already whittled away 49 runs off the target on the third evening and stretched their partnership to 113 on the fourth day before Elgar was dismissed for 58. Kuhn then added 69 for the second wicket with Aiden Markram and once the latter was dismissed took charge of the chase, eventually sealing the win with von Berg at the other end.
Stiaan van Zyl struck a century in each innings as Cape Cobras drew with Dolphins to take third place in the league. Van Zyl's 108 in the first innings, and a century from opener Andrew Puttick (116 off 240 balls) helped Cape Cobras pile on 381 in the first innings. Van Zyl struck 13 fours in his knock and shared a 160-run partnership for the second wicket with Puttick before a cameo from Aviwe Mgijima (52 off 41 balls) lifted the score past 350.
Daryn Smit's 150 not out pulled Dolphins out from 88 for 5 to 329 for 8 dec. The side were 5 for 2 in the third over before stabilizing through Divan van Wyk and Khaya Zondo. Both fell off successive deliveries to Jason Smith, triggering another slump that Smit helped steady. Calvin Savage added 115 for the sixth wicket with Smit, before the batsman shepherded the lower order before the declaration. Smit's 150 came off 264 deliveries with 16 fours.
Cape Cobras then added 291 in their second innings, steered once again by van Zyl and Puttick, with the latter scoring 55. Van Zyl remained unbeaten on 101 off 263 deliveries.