DURBAN – The Cape Cobras have come to Pietermaritzburg, looking to leave the unlikeliest of venues in South Africa with the biggest prize in domestic cricket on Thursday.
The men from the Cape are one more performance away from the Four-Day Franchise Series title, but the Dolphins showed them that it will not be a walk in Alexandra Park.
Dane Piedt won the toss and elected to bowl in overcast conditions at the Pietermaritzburg Oval, but even the presence of Proteas star Vernon Philander wasn’t enough to stop the Dolphins from making a solid start on day one yesterday.
The return to action of Vaughn van Jaarsveld from a frightful blow to the face against the Highveld Lions was already a source of relief, but the left-hander then went and showed the Dolphins what they had been missing. He blazed his way to a 21st first-class century, with the trademark drives and backfoot play in perfect working order.
The Dolphins, as a team, rattled along, seemingly oblivious to what is at stake over the next few days. Van Jaarsveld and Michael Erlank (50) put up 111 for the first wicket, as they repelled the Cobras storm.
The breakthrough eventually came from a subtle source this season, as George Linde stole a march on his more illustrious teammates by bowling Erlank, who played around one. All the while, Van Jaarsveld was into his stride, driving crisply, and standing on his toes to punch through point.
The promising Marques Ackerman then came and looked on his way to another notable contribution. Ackerman is always busy at the crease,and he doesn’t mind taking on the bowling. However, he perished on 23, as he was also bowled by the inspired Linde.
From 161/1, the Dolphins then tumbled to 226/5 over the course of an hour. Ackerman was followed by Khaya Zondo, who also sped along to 25 from 28 balls, before Dane Paterson trapped him leg-before. Sibonelo Makhanya didn’t last long, as Linde caught him on the crease, leg-before without scoring. Then the centurion himself was gone, chipping Linde to a grateful Aviwe Mgijima for a classy 120, from 153 balls.
Given the time off, and the nature of his injury, it really was something for Van Jaarsveld to hit the ground running. What is more, he seldom makes ugly hundreds, so his 120 was excellent viewing while it lasted.
The Dolphins also lost the wicket of Grant Roelofsen, as Cobras skipper Piedt finally got into the wicket-taking act.
The home team were in danger of handing over control of the match to the visitors, after such a promising start. The Cobras spinners were finding joy on a pitch that had spent much of last week covered, and the Dolphins were guilty of trying to play too much cricket at once.
Some composure was then shown between Senuran Muthusamy (27 not out) and Keshav Maharaj (20 not out), who saw their side to the close of play at 293/6. That close came a lot early than expected, as 15 overs were lost to bad light.
The Cobras already knew that they would have to fight the Dolphins as well as the elements, and both adversaries showed what they could do on the opening day.
@vaughnvj brings up his century !! 💯🏏 What a knock ! Back into the team with some great form ! @Hollywoodbets Dolphins 193-2 (51 overs) #DOLvCOB #DolphinsCricket 🐬 #4DaySeries pic.twitter.com/2ITcYVU2nE
— Dolphins Cricket (@DolphinsCricket) January 28, 2019
With one eye on the Lions, the Cobras will have to keep on taking wickets, so that they may look to bat deep on a wicket that is a touch on the slow side.
Meanwhile, a wet outfield prevented any play from being possible on the opening day of the four-day encounter between the Titans and the Knights at Willowmoore Park in Benoni yesterday.
The match is the last of the first-class season for both sides, with neither having a chance of winning the title.
But the two teams, who between them have won the last two four-day titles, are bidding to end the 2018-19 season well.
There was no toss either on the East Rand as umpires Abdoellah Steenkamp and Johan Cloete waited on the go-ahead from the ground staff, which never came. Lunch and tea were taken early, before the officials eventually decided to abandon play for the day.