Cape Cobras extended their lead at the top of the table with an eight-wicket win over Titans, their third successive victory in the four-day Franchise Series. Titans' decision to bat first backfired spectacularly on the first day, fast bowler Tladi Bokako tearing through the top order with 4 for 57 to bowl them out for 122. An off-season signing from Warriors, Bokako added three more wickets in the second innings as Cobras were set a target of 204 to win, Titans having staged a recovery of sorts thanks to Theunis de Bruyn's 147 and Jonathan Vandiar's 98. Brothers Pieter and Janneman Malan set up the chase with an opening stand of 132, and a rapid unbeaten 39 from Zubayr Hamza sealed the result with a day to spare.
Batting collapses also contributed to results in the other two games, most dramatically at The Wanderers, where Knights lost seven wickets for the addition of just three runs to be rolled for just 89 in their second innings to give Lions victory by an innings and 22 runs. Left-arm quick Beuran Hendricks was the main catalyst for Knights' collapse. Hendricks took 5 for 45 in the first innings, and in the second returned to devastating effect. The Knights lost both openers cheaply but had recovered to 86 for 3 in the 19th over before Hendricks and seamer Craig Alexander brought the rest of the line-up down in a heap.
It was spin that did the bulk of the damage at Kingsmead in Durban, with Jon-Jon Smuts propelling Warriors to their first win of the season. Halfway through the game, Dolphins were in charge, having taken a substantial first-innings lead thanks to a career-best 6 for 38 from Eathan Bosch and Vaughn van Jaarsveld's boundary-laden 138. Senuran Muthusamy then snared 6 for 98 to leave Dolphins needing 217 for their first win of the competition. They reached 89 for 2 but then lost their way horribly, losing 8 for 32 as Smuts collected 4 for 17 and a virtually unplayable Sisanda Magala took 3 for 7 in five overs.
On the national radar
Temba Bavuma top-scored in Lions only innings against Knights with 94, and seems to have settled comfortably into his role as captain of the side. Rassie van der Dussen made a start but couldn't cash in, in the same game, and in general it wasn't a good week for many of South Africa's batting hopefuls. Dean Elgar made just 1 and 6, extending his run of single-figure scores, while Khaya Zondo collected scores of 10 and 14 in Dolphins' defeat. Robbie Frylinck and Keshav Maharaj struggled to make an impact in the same game. There were positive signs, however, from Gihahn Cloete, the Warriors opener who was blooded against Zimbabwe. His pair of fifties were vital in setting up Warriors' eventual win.
Another player who might feature in South Africa's Test engagements this summer is Theunis de Bruyn, and he will have done his cause no harm with scores of 61 and 147 against Cape Cobras. That hundred is his second of the season, and de Bruyn has rocketed to the top of the run charts as a result, with 405 at an average of 81.
Hendricks' match haul of 9 for 69 has sent him to the top of the wicket-taking table, with 18 scalps at just 15.94. Hendricks showed just how devastating he can be in the second innings, and took three wickets in the course of one over during Knights' horrendous collapse.
Liam Brickhill is a freelance journalist based in Cape Town