South Africa's four-day domestic title, the SuperSport Series, is back in Bloemfontein after the Eagles drew their final match against the Cape Cobras, to top the table with a whopping 117.52 points.
Dean Elgar, the Eagles' 20-year-old former Under-19 captain, finished unbeaten on 54, following his fine 122 in the first innings as the match drifted to a draw. Rory Kleinveldt picked up five wickets, removing the top-order, as the Eagles struggled in reply to the Cobras' first innings of 395. But Elgar, showing a solid technique, along with Ryan McLaren - who finished on 121 not out - defied the Cobras bowlers as the Eagles were bowled out for 353. Elgar and McLaren's efforts limited the Cobras' first innings lead to a manageable 42 before Henry Davids, Cobras' leading run-scorer, scored his third century of the season to extend their lead in the second innings. However, the Cobras only declared after lunch on the final day as hopes of an exciting conclusion cooled. Stiaan Van Zyl added an unbeaten half-century to his epic first-innings score of 152.
In Pietermaritzburg, the Dolphins were heading for a comprehensive defeat against the Warriors before brothers Ahmed (150*) and Hashim Amla (99) rescued them with a 219-run stand for the third wicket in their follow-on innings. The Dolphins, who trailed by 173 runs in the first innings, finished on 372 for 4 but a flat Oval pitch and sweltering heat made it immensely hard work for all the fast bowlers.
Robin Peterson was the one bowler to prosper, finishing with eight wickets in the match. Arno Jacobs scored 218 not out in the Warriors' first innings of 500 for 4. HD Ackerman added 112 in the pair's 246-run fourth-wicket partnership as the Dolphins bowlers were made to toil. The Dolphins made a steely reply as openers Imraan Khan (69) and Doug Watson (78) put on 127, but the rest of their innings crumpled like tin as Peterson picked up 5 for 124. Dave Miller, the 18-year-old making his first-class debut, did provide a late fightback with a highly promising 63 not out.
A wet outfield marred the match between the Lions and Titans in Potchefstroom, delaying play until the afternoon. The Titans built a solid first innings of 365 around half-centuries by Heino Kuhn, Rushdi Jappie, Farhaan Behardien and Brendon Reddy. The Lions were grateful for a top-class 90 from Stephen Cook, son of the former Somerset and South Africa star Jimmy, as they replied with 266.
The Titans, leading by 99, rattled off 322 for 5 in their second innings thanks to an inspired an unbeaten 176 by Kuhn which meant they only occupied the crease for 79 overs, leaving them 91 overs in which to bowl out the Lions.
But Cook, who has struggled with his form in the past couple of years, lifted the Lions to 283 for 3 with a fluent 108 not out. Neither the Titans nor the Lions, first and second respectively last season, had the wings to get off the bottom of the table, however.
Player of the Week - Stiaan van Zyl
In amassing 210 runs without being dismissed by the Eagles, Cape Cobras batsman Stiaan van Zyl finished in the top five of the SuperSport batting averages for the season. The Cobras finished last and winless in last season's competition and have been combing the winelands and peninsulas for answers to their batting woes.
van Zyl, coming into the side with Ashwell Prince and JP Duminy on international duty, immediately impressed with his determination to battle it out at the crease. And, for a 20-year-old, he showed unusual daring in being willing to leave the ball. Cobras coach Shukri Conrad should take plenty of credit for the left-hander's progress.
"From the first time I saw him bat for Boland, I really liked him," Conrad said. "Being able to let the fifty-fifty [deliveries] go was his biggest asset and he can bat for long periods. Some guys you feel strongly about and you want to back them even if they go through a barren patch. But Stiaan has fully justified the selectors' choice and he is a quiet, unassuming lad."