After a brief interlude by the MTN40, the longer version of the game, the SuperSport Series, returned and brought with it two draws from three matches. The only result came from Port Elizabeth, where the Titans beat the Warriors by 10 wickets to stay at the top of the table.
Pieter Malan scored a century for the Titans and there were half centuries from Pierre Joubert and Morne Morkel as the visitors were bowled out for 403. Lonwabo Tsotsobe, who was not in the national Twenty20 side, took 3 for 113. Jon-Jon Smuts also took three wickets and Makhaya Ntini chipped in with one. The Titans bowlers made light work of the Warriors with Paul Harris taking 5 for 49 and Morne Morkel 4 for 63. The only resistance the Warriors offered was Michael Smith's 62 upfront as they were bowled out for 214 and made to follow on.
In their second innings, the Warriors slumped to 21 for 4 and were only saved from an innings defeat by Davy Jacobs' captain knock of 80. Morkel took his match tally to seven with 3 for 32 in the second innings. The Titans needed just 41 runs in their second innings to win, and they did so comfortably. Despite the loss, the Warriors lie second in the table.
Matters were far less cut and dry in Cape Town. The Cobras were left languishing at the bottom of the table after the Lions finally managed to do more than just meow like kittens. There were runs all round for their batsmen in their 416-run first-innings total. Vaughn van Jaarsveld scored 123 while Stephen Cook, Jonathan Vandiar and Thami Tsolekile all notched up half-centuries. Five wickets for 32 from Andre Nel helped bowl out the Cobras for 332, a deficit of 84.
Alviro Petersen scored 122 in the Lions' second innings as the visitors set the Cobras a target of 279 to win. Monty Panesar ripped through the Cobras middle order, leaving them slithering dangerously close to defeat on 92 for 7. Rory Kleinveldt scored 20 off 61 balls and Ryan Canning 20 off 86 balls as the pair hung in for the draw.
In Pietermaritzburg, the Dolphins may have been eyeing a result when they bowled the Eagles out for 178. Wicketkeeper-and-legspinner, Daryn Smit did the bulk of the damage with 4 for 50, including the wickets of Morne van Wyk and Johan van der Wath. In reply, Ahmed Amla, scored 134 before being dismissed by CJ de Villiers. The Dolphins took a 197-run lead after scoring 375. Dean Elgar scored a century as the Eagles reached 203 for 3 at the close of the match.
Provincial three-day challenge
This round of the competition had one no result as the match between Boland and Kwa-Zulu Natal Inland in Paarl was called off without a ball being bowled. Further up the coast, in East London, Wendell Bossenger celebrated his announcement as one of the Mutual and Federal Cricketers of the Year by scoring 168 in Griqualand West's 407. Charl Pietersen chipped in with 91. Border began well in their reply, with Shaun de Kock and Bryn Thomas putting on a first-wicket stand of 139. Granville de Wee then stepped up and his 5 for 15 in 11 overs tore through the hosts.
Border were bowled out for 182 and forced to follow on. Pietersen starred with the ball in Griquas second stint, taking 5 for 51. The hosts were bowled out for 270, setting Griquas a target of 46 to win. Although they lost the wicket of Aloysius Seleka with no score on board, Griquas won comfortably by nine wickets.
In Port Elizabeth, Eastern Province (EP) and South Western Districts (SWD) played out a draw. Gerhard Strydom and William Hanton both scored centuries in SWD's total of 324 for 7 declared. Warren Bell was the centurion in EP's innings as they responded with 325 for 7 declared, just one run ahead. Then, the game got away from the hosts. Rudi Hillerman's 140 and half-centuries from Burton de Wett, Strydom and Hanton led SWD to 447 for 9. The only notable wicket-taker was Corbyn Dolley who took 5 for 151.
Moving inland, Easterns recorded a massive-innings-and-96-run win over North West at Port Elizabeth. Five wickets from Imran Tahir had North West bowled out for 177 with the highest score being 38 by Jimmy Kgamadi. Easterns only batted once and despite none of their batsmen getting to three figures, they put on 373. Vusumusi Mazibuko took 6 for 108 and Jaco Booysen top scored with 99. Then, it was Tahir who did the damage again. He took his match tally to 10 wickets with another five-wicket haul in the second innings. It was a miserly 5 for 10 as North West crumbled to 100 all out.
In Windhoek, Gauteng must have felt right at home at the Wanderers cricket ground, which has the same name as their home ground in Johannesburg. Aaron Phangiso and Tabriaz Shamsi took eight wickets between them to bowl Namibia out for 252. Shane Burger scored 94 and Dane Vilas and Robert Frylink both chipped in with half centuries to take Gauteng to 332 for 9 declared. Louis Klazinga limited the damage to the home side with 6 for 70. The Gauteng bowlers were made to toil in Namibia's second innings with ten bowlers in action. Gerrit Rudolph led the resistance with 118 and Namibia closed on 397 for 7. Gauteng now lie second on the table, 6.36 points behind EP.
Provincial one-day challenge
There was a thriller in Paarl, where Boland beat KZN-Inland by 10 runs. Godfrey Stevens scored 77 as wickets dropped like flies around him and Boland were bowled out for 183. Narvaar Harridave was the pick of the bowlers with 4 for 22. In reply, the Inland team found themselves on 35 for 2 but recovered to 168 for 7. They lost three wickets on that score before adding five runs. Then, Hillroy Paulse took the last wicket to end with figures of 3 for 17 and win the match for Boland.
Griquas relied on middle order contributions of 79 from Seleka and 62 from Bradley Lemmetjies to reach 248 against Border in East London. In reply, Border had only one batsman of intent - Thomas. He scored 80 while none of the other batsmen got past 27. Pietersen and Anthony Mabuya claimed three wickets a piece and the hosts were bowled out for 203, handing Griquas victory by 45 runs.
In Port Elizabeth, Reece Williams took three early wickets as SWD crashed to 7 for 4 in the fourth over of their match against EP. Hillermann and Hantam both scored half-centuries to rescue their ailing team. They ended on 159 for 8, a total that EP may have felt comfortable chasing.
SWD's bowlers got in on the act and the home side was reduced to 29 for 3. The middle order was called on to perform another survival act and although none of the batsman reached half-centuries, EP looked set for victory on 155 for 6 in the 34th over. Just over runs were needed to win off the last over, and SWD managed to confine EP to only four producing the first tie of the competition.
Easterns couldn't complete the double over North West this weekend as they lost by six wickets in the one day game at Benoni. Tumelo Bodibe scored 88 in Eastern's total of 232 and all the North West bowlers were pulverised. But the total didn't scare the North West batsman. Andrea Agathagelou and Jimmy Kgamadi shared a stand of 186 to lead their side to victory. Kgamadi ended on 99 not out.
Gauteng lost early wickets against Namibia in Windhoek and found themselves sin trouble at 25 for 3. Dane Vilas scored 120 and Temba Bavuma 79 as they reached a respectable 277 for 8. Klazinga and Louis van der Westhuizen took four wickets apiece for Namibia. In reply, the hosts fared no better. Namibia were 26 for 3 before slumping to 90 for 8 and being bowled out for 119. Richard das Neves was the chief destroyer with four for 28.
Batsman of the week
Dean Elgar is becoming a regular for this award. He's ranked second on the SuperSport Series list, 125 runs behind record-breaking Stephen Cook. Elgar has the highest average of the competition so far, an astounding 139.00. He has also scored the most hundreds in the competition thus far, with three centuries to his name.
Bowler of the week
He was once thought of as the leading spin bowler in the country, but while he was waiting to qualify to play for South Africa, his Titans team-mate Roelof van der Merwe leapt into the spotlight. Imran Tahir is now the leading wicket-taker in the three-day challenge. He has 18 wickets form just two matches at an average of 11.61. Ten of those wickets came in the match against the North West. His five-for in the second innings was instrumental in Easterns' innings win.
Firdose Moonda is a freelance writer based in Johannesburg