Cape Cobras moved to the top of the table after the second round of the 4-Day Franchise Series, beating Lions by an innings and 71 runs at the Wanderers in Johannesburg for their second win in two games. Their victory was set up by hundreds from Janneman Malan and David Bedingham in Cobras' first innings, and sealed with a day to spare by a seven-wicket haul from captain Dane Piedt. Malan and Bedingham's hundreds, their first for Cobras in four-day matches with both men having moved to the franchise this season, were accompanied by three fifties in a dominant batting display as Cobras reached 529 to take a lead of 425. Stephen Cook managed a rearguard century in response, but Lions collapsed from 341 for 4 in the 96th over to 354 all out in a matter of seven overs to hand Cobras 25.7 points.
In Kimberley, a finely-balanced game between Knights and Dolphins was turned by inspired spells from seamers Duanne Olivier and Ottniel Baartman that shot Dolphins out for 135 on the third day. Dolphins had started their second innings with a narrow two-run lead after the two teams had reached 268 and 266 in the first dig, but from 48 for 2 overnight, they lost eight wickets for 87 as Baartman scythed through the top order with 3 for 30 and Olivier mopped up the tail to finish with 4 for 35. Knights slipped to a nervy 60 for 4 in their chase of 138, but Luthando Mnyanda's 62 and an unbeaten 40 from Ryan McLaren sealed Knights' first win of the season.
The highveld rain that washed out the final T20I of Zimbabwe's tour also ruined the match between Warriors and Titans in Centurion. The game ended in a draw after bad light curtailed the second day and rain washed out much of the third, when only eight deliveries were bowled. Warriors had passed 300 in their first innings despite Chris Morris' eye-catching 6 for 66, with opener Edward Moore carrying his bat with an unbeaten 116. Anrich Nortje and Simon Harmer then shared eight wickets to bowl Titans out for 267 on the final day after the weather had had its say, but the captains shook hands before tea when it became apparent no result would be possible.
On the national radar
Both Aiden Markram and Dean Elgar fell cheaply in Titans' rain-affected innings, Elgar falling fourth ball to Harmer's offspin. With Farhaan Behardien also falling for a duck, Titans' innings was stitched together by Test hopeful Theunis de Bruyn, who passed 4000 first-class runs in the course of his 103. Morris' first innings wickets won't have escaped the attention of the national coach Ottis Gibson, who said: "We know when he's fit what he can do and he's doing it now. And that's good for him and it's good for us. His name will certainly be in the picture. We just thought let's give him some time to do exactly what he's doing now in franchise cricket, and that gives us an opportunity to get a fit Chris Morris who can produce performances like he is doing now."
Also on the selection radar, Reeza Hendricks managed scores of 41 and 13 batting at No. 4 for Lions against Cape Cobras.
With a century in each game so far, Cook has moved to the top of the competition's run charts with 297 at 74.25. Not far behind him is Warriors' left-handed opener Moore. He scored his first century of the season - and eighth overall in first-class cricket - that denied a marauding Morris in Centurion. Moore added a rapid 73 in the second innings, and seems to be in good form after his 41 in the season opener against Lions.
For the bowlers, Morris' wickets must surely be sending a message. He tops the wickets charts with 12 victims at 16.33, but it must also be noted that he ran out of steam somewhat as the game meandered towards a draw, leaking 57 runs in eight overs as Moore and Yaseen Vallie went on the attack.
Olivier's match figures of 8 for 85 against Dolphins put him just behind Morris, with 11 wickets from two games, while left-arm spinner Senuran Muthusamy's eight-wicket haul in the same game capped a fine all-round performance from him after he had collected a first innings 62.
Liam Brickhill is a freelance journalist based in Cape Town