A summary of the results from the latest round of South Africa's Four-Day first-class tournament
The Titans celebrated coach Mandla Mashimbyi's 40th birthday with a resounding win over the Warriors in Port Elizabeth. They have created significant daylight between themselves and the other teams in the group, which includes the Warriors.
The Warriors were still missing players from last week's Covid19 incident, which saw six of their squad forced to sit out. South Africa's franchise players are tested every two weeks which means that even if any of the six have recovered, they could not rejoin the Warriors for this round. Again, their depth was challenged as they were bowled out for 231 by the Titans, with Lizaad Williams' 4 for 64 leading the way. Half-centuries from Dean Elgar, Heinrich Klaasen and Sibonelo Makhanya gave the Titans a 62-run lead but their performance in the field in the second innings pressed home their advantage. The Warriors were shot out for 124, thanks largely to Tabraiz Shamsi's 8 for 32, leaving the Titans with 63 runs to win, which they polished off before lunch on the final day.
In Bloemfontein, the Knights pulled away at the top of Pool A beating the Dolphins by 227 runs. The Knights were in control throughout this fixture throughout, posting 424 in their first innings built and dismissing the Dolphins for 162. The seam bowlers Alfred Mothoa (4 for 35) and Migael Pretorius (3 for 50) did the bulk of the damage. Rather than enforce the follow-on, the Knights batted again and declared on 208 for four, to set the Dolphins and improbable 471 to win. The Dolphins batted past lunch on the final day but it was in vain as the Knights' bowlers plugged away to reach the inevitable conclusion. Pretorius picked up four for 52 to finish with seven wickets in the match and is the competition's leading seamer so far.
And at the Wanderers, the Cobras clung on for a draw after starring down the barrel of a second successive defeat this season. The Lions', led by Beuran Hendricks' ripped through the Cobras on a wet first day with a seven-for and skittled them out for 107. The hosts them built on their advantage with a total of 324, and had enough of a lead to push for an innings win. Half-centuries with Tony de Zorzi and Kyle Verreynne allowed the Cobras to bat deep into the final day and build a lead, which the Lions did not get the opportunity to chase. George Linde hit a fifty late on the day too. Hendricks also completed a ten-for for the match in the course of the second innings.
On the National Radar
Beuran Hendricks' career-best 7 for 29 in the first innings against the Cobras at his home ground, the Wanderers (where South Africa will play one of their two Tests against Sri Lanka this summer) will not have gone unnoticed. Although Kagiso Rabada, Anrich Nortje and Lungi Ngidi are likely to be the first choice quicks, South Africa may go all-pace and Hendricks has put his hand up to be in the attack.
In Port Elizabeth, Shamsi showed why South Africa may not want to consider unleashing their firepower alone. He claimed a Titans' record, beating Dale Steyn's 8 for 41 in the 2007/8 season, to bowl the Titans to victory and leads the wicket-takers' list after two rounds.
Pieter Malan's twin failings (9 and 1) and Markram's inability to get going with 17 may mean the selectors have to look elsewhere for a partner to Elgar, who is now the frontrunner to be named Test captain. Sarel Erwee, who sits atop the run charts, has made a strong case for consideration. Temba Bavuma (32) and Rassie van der Dussen (22) have also struggled to set the stage alight, but Kyle Verrerynne (51 and 72) and Heinrich Klaasen (68) are showing signs of strong form setting up an interesting tussle for middle-order spots.
Raynard van Tonder topped up on his 85 last week with a daddy hundred in this round to bat the Dolphins out of Bloemfontein from day one. Van Tonder scored 119 on the first day and turned into 166 by midway through the second and shared in partnerships all the way through the Knights' innings. Though he is usually referred to as one for South Africa's future, for someone with such a penchant for run-scoring, that future may start this summer. Dominic Hendricks was the other centurion from this round, with 130 opening the batting for the Lions.
Firdose Moonda is ESPNcricinfo's South Africa correspondent