Ashwell Prince would have thought he had done enough to emerge as the top batsman of the week when he scored 154 in the Warriors' massive 532 in their match against the Lions in East London. Johan Botha chipped in as well, with a solid 97, his third significant score of the season, but both South African internationals were outdone by Stephen Cook.
Cook broke the South African first-class batting record by scoring a superb 390, occupying the crease for almost 14 hours before being trapped leg before by Botha. Lonwabo Tsotosbe showed encouraging form with 3 for 95, accounting for Neil McKenzie, Alviro Petersen and Jonathan Vandiar. Thami Tsolekile announced his return to first-class cricket with a confident 141. Even as the runs piled up, the match petered out to a draw.
Matters were more measured in Centurion though, even as the match between Titans and Dolphins ended in a stalemate. The bowlers came to the fore with Johann Louw taking 6 for 50, as the Titans were bowled out for 315 in their first innings. New South African cap Heino Kuhn scored a half-century while Albie Morkel managed a hundred. The Dolphins were reeling at 30 for 3 during the reply when Loots Bosman retired, but he returned to score 45. Dale Steyn took 4 for 30 as the Dolphins ended 27 runs short.
Louw ended with a match haul of 10 wickets as Faf du Plessis scored 73 in the Titans' second innings. They set the Dolphins a target of 291 and even though Bosman scored 53, the Dolphins ran out of time and finished on 209 for 4.
CSA Provincial Three-Day Challenge
Roelof van der Merwe was the star performer for Northerns against Kwa-Zulu Natal (KZN) in Kingsmead. He top scored with 56 and took just one wicket but his team steamrolled the opposition by an innings and 54 runs. KZN were bowled out for 144 and Northerns' reply of 271 was enough for a massive victory. Mandla Mashimbyi took 4 for 34 and Sean Nowak picked up three wickets as KZN were bowled out for 73 in the second essay.
Doug Watson was in top form for KwaZulu-Natal Inland against Griqualand West in Pietermaritzburg. The veteran batsman scored an unbeaten 103 as Inland declared on 300 for 4. Reeza Hendricks scored a hundred for Griqualand who declared on 223 for 7. Mario Olivier's century helped Inland finish on 212 for 2 and secure the draw.
That was just one of four drawn clashes in the week, with the matches between Eastern Province (EP) and North West, Free State and Boland, and Namibia and Easterns failing to yield results.
EP, carrying a slender 24-run lead, set North West a target of 242 in Port Elizabeth. However, North West ended on 108 for 4 with spinner Werner Coetsee ending with nine wickets in the match.
Shadley van Schalkwyk scored 86 as Free State took a 18-run lead against Boland in Bloemfontein. Free State had a solid second innings as well, with Divan van Wyk reaching a half-century. Boland could only manage 177 for 2 chasing 290.
In Windhoek, Gerhardus Viljoen's 5 for 54 bowled out Namibia for 219. Easterns may have fancied their chances after Kobus Pienaar scored 154 and they declared on 430 for 8. But Namibia responded with class, as Raymond van Schoor smashed 141 to take the hosts to 418 for 5.
Shane Burger was the hero during Gauteng's innings-and-18-run demolition of Border in Johannesburg. He scored an unbeaten 101 to take Gauteng to 352 for 7 in the first innings. He then claimed 5 for 13 as Border were bowled out for 124. Asked to follow on, Border collapsed for 210 with Burger taking 4 for 34. The victory took Gauteng to the top of the table.
CSA Provincial One-Day Challenge
In the provincial one-day challenge, rain played spoilsport with two results being decided via the D/L method and no-results in the other two. One of those was between KZN and Northern in Durban. Natal managed just 127 after being put in, and Northerns reached 11 without loss when play was stopped. A similar result followed in the match between KZN-Inland and Griqualand West in Pietermaritzburg. Inland scored 165 for 9 first up, with Charl Pietersen picking up 4 for 24. Griqualand weren't even able to start their innings as the heavens opened up.
Half centuries from Jimmy Kgamadi and Cliffie Deacon lifted North West to 206 for 8 in their match against EP in Port Elizabeth. Vusimusi Mazibuko bagged 6 for 25 as EP limped to 129 for 9 in 26 overs, when rain stopped play and handed North West a revised target of 67. There was a thriller in Bloemfontein where Dean Elgar's half century took Free State to 208. Omphile Ramela, Uwe Birkenstock and Lenert van Wyk all scored half-centuries as Boland's chase looked to be on track but their tail fell apart and they ended on 202 for 8, losing by just six runs.
Craig Williams scored 114 as Namibia managed an impressive 242 for 6 against Easterns in Windhoek. The men from Benoni crashed to 166 all out, giving Nambia victory by 76 runs. Gauteng scored 323, the highest total of the round, in Johannesburg as Richard Cameron blasted 114 and Vaughn van Jaarsveld notched up 95. Border were in danger of being bowled out for under 150 at 130 for 7 when the match was called off. Gauteng earned a 100-run victory via the D/L method.
Batsman of the week:
Stephen Cook's claim to the South African record earns him the title this week. His 390 broke Daryl Cullinan's unbeaten 337 for Transvaal against Northern Transvaal in the 1993-94 season. It also eclipsed the highest score by a South African in first-class cricket, which was Barry Richards' 356 for South Australia against Western Australia in 1970-71. Cook is also the leading run-scorer in the competition so far.
Bowler of the week:
Even though the Dolphins didn't win, Johann Louw's 10-wicket haul was enough to make him the bowler of the week. While he dismantled the Titans' top order and the tail in the first innings, he proved too fearsome for the middle order the second time around. He is now on the top of the bowling charts with 18 wickets, six ahead of his nearest rival.
Shane Burger gets a special mention for orchestrating Gauteng's win over Border with a brilliant all-round performance. He claimed nine wickets and scored a century in a superb display to hand Gauteng the massive victory. Burger is now 14th on the batting rankings and second on the bowling rankings in the CSA Provincial Three-Day Challenge.
Firdose Moonda is a freelance writer based in Johannesburg