It’s all happening in Pool B where victories for the Dolphins and the Lions in this round means just 3.52 points separate the three sides. Each of the teams has won two matches and the standings in the group have been completely overturned from when the Knights led the pool at the end of the second round.
The Dolphins are now on top after a five-wicket win over the Knights, who lost their second successive fixture away from home. On a spicy Durban deck, Daryn Dupavillon took 7 for 38 as the Knights were shot out for 116 to start the match on the back foot. The Dolphins were 52 for 4 in response but 73 from Grant Roelofsen, who shared in a 63-run stand with Khaya Zondo, helped them build a 137-run first innings lead.
The Knights fared better in their second innings, led by Matthew Kleinveldt‘s 77 and a 101-run second-wicket partnership between him and Raynard van Tonder. But Dupavillon still stalked them and took 4 for 66. The Knights were bowled out for 213 leaving the Dolphins with a victory target of 77. They lost half their line-up on the way there but won with a day to spare.
After a win at home last week, the Lions traveled to Port Elizabeth where they established control early and quickly over the Warriors. Half-centuries from Ryan Rickelton and Wiaan Mulder and a century from Wesley Marshall saw them total 389 at a rate of almost four runs an over. While the Warriors bowlers had a tough time, Basheer Walters claimed 5 for 61.
In reply, only the Warriors opener Eddie Moore managed a score more than 20 runs as the Lions dismissed the hosts for 118 and needed only four bowlers to do it. Sisanda Magala led the pack with 3 for 37.
With a 271-run first innings lead and two-and-a-half days to play, the Lions had the luxury of time to bat the Warriors out of the match. Rickleton and Marshall were in the runs again and Mulder brought up his fifth first-class hundred as the Lions declared on 241 for 5, setting the Warriors 513 to win. Improbable as it may sound, the Warriors very nearly got there thanks to Rudi Second‘s 171 and fifties from Yaseen Vallie and Lesiba Ngoepe. The Lions needed all their frontline bowlers and then some, and used seven in total, to bowl the Warriors out for 436 and win by 76 runs. Magala finished the match with six wickets.
The Warriors’ third defeat leaves them at the bottom of Pool A, 1.2 points behind the Cobras, who remain winless. They drew against the table-topping Titans, in Centurion.
The Cobras would have fancied their chances of getting their first victory after piling on 411 in their first innings. Pieter Malan scored 125, while Aviwe Mgijima‘s 86 firmed up the middle order as Thando Ntini took 3 for 66. The Titans would not be shown up on home turf and responded with 440. Aiden Markram and Neil Brand scored hundreds and put on 178 for the second wicket. Luckily for the Cobras, Calvin Savage‘s 5 for 77 ensured the Titans didn’t get much more.
The Cobras’ second innings started nine overs before the end of the third day, leaving them with very little time to set the Titans a target. They batted until tea on the fourth day before the teams shook hands on the draw.
On the national radar
Markram’s third hundred in three innings has taken him to the top of the run-charts and must have secured him a Test recall. Markram averages 78.16 from seven innings so far and though Malan scored 182 over his two innings in this round and sits in sixth place, its difficult to see how Markram won’t be first-choice. He may even have done enough to enter the captaincy conversation, which would leave Malan and second-placed Sarel Erwee to wonder if they might displace Dean Elgar. After starting the season with scores of 101, 58, and 66, Elgar has just 35 runs from his last four innings. Given his experience, Elgar is unlikely to go anywhere this summer, but South Africa will want consistency from him which should keep other openers interested.
The same may not be said for the way the selectors feel about Theunis de Bruyn. His century in the first week put him back in the national conversation but three ducks and 48 runs from his next five innings will likely see him serving more time in franchise cricket for now. The same will apply to Zubayr Hamza, who has not managed a single half-century in the competition so far. He was out for 26 this time.
From a bowling perspective, Dupavillon may have forced his way into red-ball contention with his 11 for 104 while Magala (6 for 115 in this match) has entered the top 10 wicket-takers’ list and could also be considered. Gerald Coetzee (4 for 51) and Thando Ntini (5 for 92) are also progressing well.
Mulder’s form is also noteworthy, especially as the national team continue to look for allrounders. Mulder is batting at No.5 but has not bowled much in the competition so far as he continues to work his way back from injury. He took 1 for 47 in 13 overs in the Warriors second innings.
Dupavillon aside, the Dolphins owe some of their victory to Senuran Muthusamy, who took 5 for 60 in the match against the Knights, and continues to open the batting for the franchise. Muthusamy is third on the wicket-taker’s list with 16 at an average of 14.31 and is the leading spinner in the competition. Knights’ quick Migael Pretorius and Warriors’ left-armer Marco Jansen jointly occupy the top spot with 17 wickets each and may be pushing for places in the South African A side soon.
Big runs from Brand and Second are also worth a mention. In Brand’s case, the runs add depth to a Titans team that will lose players to international duty while Second provides the experience so many franchises lack and will doubtless be invaluable to the Warriors’ youngsters.
Recent Match Report – Yorkshire vs Leics North Group 2021
Yorkshire given scare in defence of massive 240 in aggregate record for Blast
Yorkshire 240 for 4 (Bairstow 82, Lyth 51, Brook 48*) beat Leicestershire 222 for 8 (Inglis 82, Willey 3-44) by 18 runs
Leicestershire, 146 for 3 in the 13th over with opener Inglis unbeaten, later slipped to a fourth straight North Group defeat. But Inglis ensured they fought to the death at 222 for 8.
This was Yorkshire’s second win in three North Group games, and 462 runs combined equals the Blast record.
The triumph was built on a 113 opening partnership in 10.1 overs between Bairstow and Lyth, with further half-century stands for the third and fifth wickets.
On a glorious Leeds evening, there were 29 sixes hit.
Each of the Foxes six-man attack was taken to task after home captain Willey had won his side’s 10th toss in 11 in all cricket in 2021.
Afghanistan seamer Naveen-ul-Haq claimed two wickets, getting Willey and Bairstow caught in the deep in the 17th over. That left Yorkshire at 189 for four.
Fellow quick Gavin Griffiths had a night to forget, conceding 60 in three overs, as Bairstow set the tone, giving the Foxes fielders little chance with his power.
Leicestershire’s chase was always going to be a mountainous task. But that suited the dashing style of 26-year-old opener Inglis, who emigrated to Perth just before turning 15.
Having lost Scott Steel to Willey in the first over, Inglis and Arron Lilley took their side to 50 for 1 after only 3.4 overs to threaten a miracle.
Thompson had Ackermann caught in the deep and then brilliantly caught former under 11s team-mate Inglis one-handed at deep cover off Matthew Fisher.
That left 95 needed off 7.3 overs with six wickets left.
Ben Mike’s 31 helped the target to 31 off two overs and 23 off the last – with three wickets in hand. But Willey comfortably defended that and finished with 3 for 44.
Recent Match Report – Essex vs Sussex South Group 2021
Skipper slams 75 from 44 to help make short work of small chase
Sussex 130 for 3 (Wright 75) beat Essex 128 for 8 (Garton 3-31) by seven wickets
The Blast’s all-time leading run-scorer missed the opening two rounds after splitting the webbing in his hand while practising fielding on the eve of the competition. But he made up for lost time by bringing up his fifty in 33 deliveries as Sussex chased down Essex’s below-par 128 for eight with 36 balls to spare.
Wright looked at home right from the start, with boundaries from his second and third deliveries – two of eight fours.
Opening partner Phil Salt earned a life when he bludgeoned a full toss to mid-on, only to earn a reprieve for the umpire to judge the ball to have been above waist-height, much to Simon Harmer’s chagrin. Salt was run out for 13, after putting on 54 with Wright before Travis Head added 60 together with the skipper.
Wright continued to his 26th Blast half-century, going past 8000 T20 career runs, with a pair of straight sixes and another over cow corner. He departed with six still needed but Delray Rawlins clattered the winning runs over long-off soon after.
Wright’s day had started perfectly as he won the toss and stuck the hosts in – although Will Buttleman struck successive sixes in the fourth over. On a used hybrid pitch, scoring proved difficult for Essex with only Buttleman, Michael Pepper and Jimmy Neesham’s strike rates topping 100, for those who reached double figures.
The strain on scoring was exemplified by the last over of the Powerplay, which saw just one run, as Paul Walter struggled to lay a bat on Chris Jordan – the run rate throughout the innings hovering just below seven an over.
To add to the Eagles’ woes, wickets were a regular occurrence. Tom Westley and Buttleman fell in the Powerplay – the former picking out deep midwicket off George Garton and the latter slapping a Tymal Mills slower ball to cover.
Walter was stumped, Ryan ten Doeschate clubbed old pal Ravi Bopara to long off, Pepper – having scored 38 off 25 balls – drilled to extra cover, Harmer miscued to midwicket, Jack Plom skied to mid-off and Neesham was comprehensively bowled.
Garton ended up with 3 for 31, with Mills, Jordan and Bopara all going at under a run-a-ball.
Recent Match Report – Hampshire vs Middlesex South Group 2021
Imposing Hampshire target overhauled with two balls to spare in outground thriller
Middlesex 217 for 7 (Cracknell 77, Simpson 62) beat Hampshire 215 for 6 (Short 48, McManus 47, Weatherley 41) by three wickets with two balls to spare
Middlesex pulled off their second highest T20 chase – by three wickets with two balls to spare – in a memorable match at Radlett which saw the next generation take charge of a county going through a difficult transition, and leave another ailing T20 side, Hampshire, fearing that they don’t seem to be in much of a transition at all.
Radlett is about as far away from the ECB’s vision of T20 cricket as it is possible to be. The dream is maximum revenue from large stadia, a football-style atmosphere and a sense of theatre that delights a TV audience. Start an overly loud, alcohol-fuelled chant at Radlett and you may be blackballed from the golf club or become the subject of gossip in the Ladies Circle.
Hampshire’s first 200-plus total for three years was eminently chaseable in perfect batting conditions. But patently not by Middlesex, most of their supporters would have suggested. At 30 for 3, with Morgan trudging off, having reached at a very wide one to hole out at deep backward point, a philosophical kind of pessimism had taken hold.
Radlett is an idyllic county ground: a good batting surface, a ground lined by trees and hedges, and a convivial crowd adopting a Country Show attitude to any minor privations in the marquees and the portable toilets. They were allowed not far short of 1,000 spectators which is roughly the same as some of the smaller county grounds, which have stands and things. All to do with pinch points apparently.
They were on the verge of a colossal Powerplay with 68 garnered from the first five overs and Vince and D’Arcy Short in a blissful world where they could do much as they pleased. With Middlesex lacking five pace bowlers because of injury or (in the case of Tom Helm) recovery from Covid-19, a colossal score looked on the cards.
Then came Cullen. Three off the first over; Vince’s head-high hook falling to deep backward square in his next. In his final over, he twice troubled Hampshire’s ex-Middlesex man, James Fuller, twice for pace, the first of them gloved to third man.
Cullen, a former England U19, has played for Middlesex since the U10s, and both player and club are beginning to reap the reward of years of endeavour. Pacey, with a strong action, he can reputedly swing the ball in four-day cricket, but here, he adapted intelligently and hit the pitch. The assessment of Middlesex’s director of cricket, Angus Fraser, that he “bowls like a grown man” could not have been more apparent.
Green’s night did not begin well. He averages below seven runs an over in a career spanning more than 70 matches, making him beloved of T20 aficionados, and he was also on the back of a five-for against Kent, with four wickets taken in the final over. He was Middlesex’s most expensive bowler, leaking 55 from four overs as his method of pushing it fast and wide across the right-hander brought no dividends.
Middlesex missed chances in the field, and a succession of shots escaped clawing fingers. The most damaging, in more than one sense, was Sowter’s drop of Dawson, running in from deep backward square, his right ankle sprained in the process. But not damaged enough for him to play a part in Middlesex’s uplifting victory.
David Hopps writes on county cricket for ESPNcricinfo @davidkhopps
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