Liam Brickhill is a freelance journalist based in Cape Town
The Cape Cobras maintained their position at the top of the log even as they were held to their first draw of the season by a strong batting effort from Knights, headlined by Keegan Petersen's twin tons. Petersen's effort in the first innings had helped the hosts recover from a horror start when they slumped to 3 for 3 inside the first 17 deliveries after winning the toss and batting at the Mangaung Oval.
Cobras were in similar strife thanks to early strikes from seamers Shadley van Schalkwyk and Thandolwethu Mnyaka. They were, however, steadied by David Bedingham's second franchise century before captain Dane Piedt and Mthiwekhaya Nabe came together to add a remarkable 132 for the ninth wicket - a competition record, breaking the previous best of 129 set six years ago by Simon Harmer and Ayabulela Gqamane of the Warriors. Piedt registered his maiden first-class ton and Nabe played an equally important role in making his highest first-class score with 68 - a splendid effort considering his previous best score was only 12. Their stand gave Cobras the advantage, but Petersen was at it again in the second dig, adding 213 with Knights captain Pite van Biljon on his way to 165 not out before the captains shook hands.
At Kingsmead, Dolphins slipped to their fourth loss in seven games this season despite a final-day century by Sibonelo Makhanya. His 128 was not enough to make up for Dolphins' paltry first-innings total, when they were dismissed for 149 to concede a 274-run lead to Lions, who pressed home their advantage.
Lions' openers Stephen Cook and Reeza Hendricks had shown how it should be done with a 166-run partnership in their first innings, and another big stand of 112 followed for the next wicket between Cook and Kagiso Rapulana, Cook registering his 47th first-class ton. Lions' bowlers then went to work, and Dolphins were six down before they had made up the arrears. Makhanya dug in, but Lions' target was only 46, and Cook's wicket - caught and bowled to Sarel Erwee's part-time offspin - was the only one to fall getting there.
Warriors stormed to a 216-run win over Titans in East London - their second victory of the competition, with the points earned placing them just ahead of the pack in third place. Warriors reached 408 in their first innings, riding on Edward Moore's career-best 151 and fifties from Yaseen Vallie and Lesiba Ngoepe. Heinrich Klaasen and Henry Davids both passed fifty for Titans, but it took a 76-run last-wicket stand between Corbin Bosch and Alfred Mothoa to reduce the deficit to just 42. Moore followed his first innings ton with a rapid fifty in the second, and though Colin Ackermann fell short of his own ton, Warriors captain JJ Smuts furthered his team's advantage with an unbeaten 75 before declaring at 310 for 5. Set an improbable 353, Titans collapsed to 136 all out with seamer Basheeru-Deen Walters doing the bulk of the damage with 5 for 35 - his seventh first-class five-for.
On the national radar
With the South African Test team busy against Pakistan, the resumption of the domestic season in the new year allowed another look at those on the fringes, and with bat dominating ball in this round of the four-day competition, no less than eight first-class hundreds were scored - though none of those were from batsmen currently in the frame for a Test cap. Aside from the many tons, Reeza Hendricks and Rassie van der Dussen both passed fifty in Lions' nine-wicket win, while Klaasen top-scored with 73 in Titans' first innings against Warriors. Allrounder Wiaan Mulder returned from the Achilles tendon injury that has kept him out of action since Zimbabwe's visit in October last year, picking up four cheap wickets in Lions' win - though his only effort with the bat brought a nine-ball duck.
Keegan Petersen was named Player of the Match for his back-to-back hundreds in the draw against Cobras in Bloemfontein, and his scores of 161 and 165 not-out have pushed him to the top of the four-day run charts with 765 runs at 63.75. Not far behind him is Warriors' Edward Moore, while Knights captain Pite van Biljon became the third player to pass 700 runs in the competition with his third ton of the season.