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Ryan Rickelton's unbeaten 102 helps Lions avoid defeat, hold on to top spot

Titans beat Knights by an innings and 153 runs and North West lost to Boland by an innings and 20 runs in Division One fixtures

Firdose Moonda
Firdose Moonda
Ryan Rickelton saved the day for Lions  •  Cricket South Africa

Ryan Rickelton saved the day for Lions  •  Cricket South Africa

Some of South Africa's Test-squad members had the opportunity to fine-tune their skills in the most recent round of four-day matches. Duanne Olivier, Lutho Sipamla, Wiaan Mulder, Ryan Rickelton, Kyle Verreynne, Glenton Stuurman, Sarel Erwee and Simon Harmer all featured, while the other nine players, all regulars, were given the week off. South Africa will depart for a two-Test series in New Zealand, which was preceded by a ten-day quarantine, on Wednesday.
The fixture with the largest number of internationals took place in Cape Town, where the table-topping Lions held on to their lead, and for a draw against Western Province. Olivier went wicketless in the first innings and Sipamla took 1 for 47, but Malusi Siboto's 4 for 31 helped dismiss Western Province for 315. Rickelton held the Lions together after they had stumbled at 27 for 2, with 90, but the Lions conceded a deficit of 28 after being bowled out for 287. Left-arm spinner Kyle Simmonds took 6 for 109.
Western Province went on to set the Lions a challenging target of 366 thanks largely to Jonathan Bird's 152*. At one stage, their bowlers looked set to secure the Cape Town-based team their first win of the season, and Simmonds finished the match with ten wickets, but Rickelton's unbeaten 102 kept Western Province at bay.
With Aiden Markram given the week off, Rickelton, who is second on the overall run-scorers' chart, may think he has done enough to at least make the national selectors reconsider their Test opening pair, but he faces competition from Erwee, who scored 93 for the Dolphins in their draw with the Warriors where Stuurman took 5 for 97. The Warriors are second on the log, less than half a point (0.48) behind the Lions, with one round of fixtures to be played in the first week of March.
Then, the Warriors take on the Knights, who lost by an innings and 153 runs to the Titans.
Heinrich Klaasen's 84 and Sibonelo Makhanya's 111 as well as four half-centuries in the Titans' line-up saw them post 515 for 9 declared in Bloemfontein. The Knights were shot out for 197, with Harmer claiming 4 for 70, and then asked to follow-on, where they were bowled for 165. Harmer took eight wickets in the match and is now the leading bowler in the competition, with 35 wickets, seven ahead of Olivier.
The final Division One clash was played between the two newcomers to the top tier, Boland and North West, and Boland won their first match of the competition to move to fifth place. Stiaan van Zyl's 127 was sandwiched between the Malan brothers' half-centuries and helped Boland declare on 485 for 7.
North West were no match and were dismissed for 170 with left-arm spinner Siyabonga Mahima taking 6 for 54. They followed on and were bowled out for 295 in the second dig while Mahima finished with nine wickets. Pieter Malan and Janneman Malan have identical figures for the competition, having each scored 382 runs, with one century and two fifties. They average 76.40 but neither is in the Test squad.
Division Two results
  • Northern Cape lead the pack after an innings-and-271-run victory over Boland, who were dismissed for 86 and 168 respectively. Hundreds from Ernest Kemm and Aubrey Swanepoel allowed Northern Cape to declare on 525 for 5.
  • South Western Districts are in the top half of the table after beating Limpopo by eight wickets. The match was finely poised when Limpopo scored 227 and South Western Districts responded with 245, to lead by 18 runs. But Limpopo fell away and were dismissed for 69 in their second innings, leaving South Western Districts 52 to win.
  • Easterns dominated Mpumalanga and won by ten wickets in White River. Mpumalanga posted 224 before Grant Thomson's 145 helped Easterns to 393. They bowled Mpumalanga out for 198 and needed just 30 for victory.
  • Firdose Moonda is ESPNcricinfo's South Africa correspondent