The Knights became the first team to record a win in this year’s first-class competition when they beat the Warriors by 179 runs in Bloemfontein. The match was Allan Donald’s first in charge of his home franchise and first as a head coach in South Africa.
Whether the win would have been as resounding had the Warriors had a fully-fit squad to pick from is a matter of debate after six players were forced to withdraw ahead of this round of matches. As a result, the Warriors were without a significant number of their first-choice bowlers and it showed. Batting first, the Knights piled on 430 for 6, with all of their top five in the runs. In response, the Warriors managed only 158. The Knights’ 272-run lead gave them the luxury of being able to declare their second innings on just 93 for 8, setting the Warriors 366 to win. Given their first-innings effort, that was always going to be a bridge too far and they fell short by a distance.
In Cape Town, the Titans came back from a first-innings deficit of 114 runs to beat the Cape Cobras by two wickets. They chased down 316 in the fourth innings of the game despite being bundled out for 150 in their first innings. The Cobras set the tone by declaring on 264 for 9 on day one, and took a big advantage into the second innings, where they scored 201. They would not have been too unhappy with setting the Titans a target over 300, but with several international batsmen and time on their side, the Titans won after lunch on the final day.
Not long after that, the Dolphins joined the victory parade. They defied a rain-affected first-day to topple defending champions the Lions, who started proceedings with 258 in the first innings. If the Lions were wondering that was a middling total, the Dolphins replied with 458 for 3 declared, taking exactly the lead they would need – which was worth 200 runs – to push for an innings win. They didn’t get that, but needed just 11 runs to seal victory in a chase that lasted only 16 balls.
On the national radar
Perhaps the best news for the new national selector Victor Mpitsang was that top-order batsmen performed well. Dean Elgar’s hundred made up more than two-thirds of the Titans’ first-innings total, while Theunis de Bruyn’s 127 took the Titans to victory.
De Bruyn was dropped for last summer’s Tests but could force his way back in with form this season. Aiden Markram and Pieter Malan, two others competing for the openers’ role, could only manage scores of 2 and 48, and 51 and 1, respectively. Worryingly, Rassie van der Dussen’s returns were just 1 and 10 and Temba Bavuma, who was also captaining his franchise, made 43 and 25. Keegan Petersen, who trained with the South African squad last summer, made a strong case with his 173 for the Dolphins against the Lions.
None of South Africa’s frontline Test bowlers were in action at home with all of them occupied at the IPL, but spinner Keshav Maharaj showed his ability to close out games. He opened the bowling for the Dolphins in the Lions’ second innings and took 6 for 101 to bowl his team to a win. George Linde, who made his Test debut in India last year, took nine wickets for the Cobras to become the early leader on the wicket charts, followed by Tabraiz Shamsi and Maharaj with seven wickets each, making the top three bowlers after round one all spinners.
International allrounders Andile Phehlukwayo and Dwaine Pretorius were in action, with Pretorius carrying a heavier bowling load. He bowled first change for the Lions – after Beuran Hendricks and Sisanda Magala – and delivered 21 overs, which brought him 1 for 44. Phehlukwayo only bowled in the Lions’ first innings and sent down 13 overs, with a return of 1 for 49.
The Knights’ Jacques Snyman became the first batsman to score a century in this first-class competition before lunch since Rilee Rossouw did it back in 2010 to register his first century at the franchise level. His opening partner Matthew Kleinveldt scored 73, as Raynard van Tonder got 85 at No. 3.
Also at the top of the order, Sarel Erwee’s 199 set the Dolphins up for their big win. Reeza Hendricks made 76 for the Lions and although the Warriors did not have much success with the bat, Matthew Breetzke’s 77 at the top of the order also sent a message to the selectors. In the middle order, Kyle Verreynne’s second-innings 85 for the Cobras stood out in an otherwise lean scorecard.
Lizaad Williams, who moved upcountry from the Cape this season, is the leading seam bowler after the first round with six wickets. He took 4 for 51 in the Cobras’ first innings and 2 for 23 in the second to finish with an average of 12.33.
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