The Nashua Mobile Cape Cobras mounted a valiant effort to chase down 322 to win their Sunfoil Series match against the Chevrolet Warriors at St George’s Park in Port Elizabeth on Sunday, but ultimately fell just 16 runs short in a thrilling encounter.
The Titans began the third day on 27 without loss, trailing the Lions by 458 runs, but they were not daunted by the task at hand, Kuhn leading the way with a magnificent 182 not out.
With the Titans still 111 behind the Lions’ first-innings score though, there is not much chance of a result as the top-of-the-log match goes into the final day on Sunday. Both teams were mostly just counting bonus points on Saturday, with the Titans edging that battle 6.82 to 6.44.
The morning session belonged to the Lions, with the accurate visiting bowlers managing to claim the wickets of Jacques Rudolph (39) and Henry Davids (1) as the Titans went into the lunch break on 118 for two.
After seeing off the tight, probing efforts of seamers Pumelela Matshikwe, Sean Jamison, Vusi Mazibuko and Dwaine Pretorius, the introduction of spin proved the undoing of Rudolph.
The left-hander tried to sweep Dale Deeb in his second over of the day, missed and was trapped lbw.
The wicket of Davids followed in the next over as the Titans captain missed a drive at Matshikwe, who nipped the ball back into the right-hander to win an lbw verdict.
Kuhn and Cobus Pienaar then steadied the innings, however, with Kuhn going to his half-century, off 132 deliveries, the ball before lunch.
The pair continued to hold the initiative until shortly before tea, when Pienaar tried to drive a delivery from Mazibuko that just veered across the left-hander, edging a low catch, which Thami Tsolekile, one of the safest wicketkeepers in the game, comfortably held.
Pienaar, playing his first game in this season’s Sunfoil Series, looked in fine form and in little trouble as he scored 66 in 160 minutes, batting in the key number four position.
Kuhn, meanwhile, had gone to his second century of the campaign in the previous over, having been at the crease for just under five hours and faced 229 balls, stroking nine fours and hooking Jamison for six.
Roelof van der Merwe came in to replace Pienaar at 227 for three and he and Kuhn were in firm control in the final session, adding 146 in 156 minutes, safely negotiating the second new ball.
Van der Merwe, the leading run-scorer in this season’s Sunfoil Series, fell in the penultimate over before the close, trying to sweep the left-arm spin of Deeb, bowling over the wicket into the rough. The ball came off the glove and was taken by Tsolekile, Van der Merwe falling for 66.
Kuhn, with the immaculate technique, shot selection and concentration of the archetypal successful opening batsman, made it through to the end of the day, having been at the crease for just under eight hours, facing 357 deliveries, from which he collected 17 fours and a six.
The Lions bowlers toiled manfully on the flat pitch, Deeb finishing the day with two for 75 in 24 overs, with the other wickets going to Mazibuko and Matshikwe. The spell of eight overs Mazibuko bowled before tea with an old, soft ball was particularly impressive, the wicket of Pienaar being his only reward, however.
*If a crowd does deign to show up at St George’s Park in Port Elizabeth on Sunday, they are in for a thrilling final day as the Chevrolet Warriors finished the third day on 254 for six, leading the Nashua Cape Cobras by 258 runs with four wickets remaining.
The Cobras had dominated proceedings on Saturday until the final hour, when Andrew Birch lashed a 42-ball half-century to boost a flagging Warriors innings.
The defending champions had reduced the Warriors to 176 for six – a lead of 180 – when Birch joined the captain, Colin Ingram, at the crease.
Birch counter-attacked superbly, hammering 10 fours and a six in his 50 not out, while Ingram reached stumps on 44 not out to set up the prospect of a testing run-chase for the Cobras on the final day.
The Cobras had started the third day on 137 for seven, but the efforts of Aviwe Mgijima (26) and the last pair of Lizaad Williams (19*) and Dane Paterson (17) lifted them to 199 all out, just four runs behind the Warriors’ first innings of 203.
Birch and Basheer Walters each took three wickets.
Former South Africa all-rounder Justin Kemp struck twice in the Warriors second innings, but Michael Price scored 62 to steady the innings.
Once he fell to Mgijima though, the Cobras would have been expecting to mop up the rest of the innings quickly, before Birch weighed in with a momentum-shifting innings.
*The Sunfoil Dolphins were firmly on top in their Sunfoil Series match against the Chevrolet Knights in Kimberley, with the home side staggering to stumps on the third day on 11 for three.
The Dolphins set the Knights a target of 369 for victory after their top-order set up a declaration on 171 for three after 35 overs, Divan van Wyk scoring 65, Imraan Khan 36 and Daniel Sincuba 43 not out.
Daryn Dupavillon then once again impressed with the ball, taking two for 10 in four overs to have the Knights reeling at the close.
Dupavillon had taken three wickets as the Knights first innings ended on 255 all out, a deficit of 197, with fellow seamers Mathew Pillans (15-4-51-3) and Graham Hume (17-1-55-2) working well in harmony with him.
Spinner Keshav Maharaj also performed a valuable role with two for 51 in 28 overs.
The Knights had resumed on 128 for four, but only Pite van Biljon (35), Michael Erlank (55 not out) and Werner Coetsee (29) were able to handle the Dolphins attack, and the home side sang a similarly sad tune in their brief second innings.