The bizhub Highveld Lions ended day three of their Sunfoil Series clash against the Sunfoil Dolphins at Sahara Stadium Kingsmead on Saturday with victory in sight. They require five more wickets to win with the Sunfoil Dolphins still 298 runs away from the unlikeliest of wins.
The Sunfoil Dolphins, set 416 to win, were 118 for five at stumps, with Imran Tahir's three wickets and constant menace proving too much for the home side's batsmen. The leg-spinner, who collected five scalps in the first innings, helped himself to three more in the second dig, and will be the key man on the final day.
The bizhub Highveld Lions had started the day on 155 for three, already a healthy lead of 248 runs. Neil McKenzie and Zander de Bruyn made sure that they batted the Sunfoil Dolphins out of the contest, as they went through the entire first session without losing a wicket. The Sunfoil Dolphins were hampered by the non-availability of Kyle Abbott with the ball, as he had spent most of the second day off the field, and was only allowed to bowl after lunch.
McKenzie reached lunch on 99 not out, while De Bruyn had worked his way to 38. McKenzie who passed 17 000 first-class runs during his excellent knock, then reached his 47th first-class hundred straight after lunch, before making his way to 125 not out.
De Bruyn was dismissed for 49, trapped on the crease by the Sunfoil Dolphins' youngster, Calvin Savage. The Lions declared soon after on 322 for four, leaving the Sunfoil Dolphins a massive total of 416 to win.
The home side started well enough, with Imraan Khan (26) and Divan van Wyk (15) adding 37 before the latter carved Ethan O'Reilly towards gully, where De Bruyn held the first of two excellent catches.
Jonathan Vandiar started his knock with a series of powerful drives off Tahir, but he saw Khan play across the line and miss another O'Reilly delivery, to be dismissed leg-before soon after tea.
Tahir got his first wicket when he ended a miserable match with the bat for Vaughn van Jaarsveld, who added a paltry two to his first innings' nought. The burly leftie was trapped leg-before as he tried to sweep Tahir, leaving the Sunfoil Dolphins wilting at 70 for three.
Vandiar (42), whose rate of scoring had slowed as Tahir gave him a real working over, was eventually nabbed by the relentless leg-spinner, who swapped ends and immediately found joy. Vandiar's stay at the crease was ended by a fine googly, which spat and caught the shoulder of the bat, to be taken by De Bruyn at slip, leaving the Dolphins 107 for four.
Zondo and nightwatchman Mthokozisi Shezi hung around until the last over of the day, before Tahir produced another "wrong'un", which found Shezi's edge and was quite brilliantly caught, inches off the ground, by a sprawling De Bruyn at slip.
The Sunfoil Dolphins will start the final day a mammoth 298 runs away from victory, but their real battle will be trying to survive against a rampant Tahir on a wicket that is providing bounce and turn.
Sunfoil Dolphins: Imraan Khan, Divan van Wyk, Jonathan Vandiar, Vaughn van Jaarsveld, Khaya Zondo, Cody Chetty, Daryn Smit (wk/c), Kyle Abbott, Calvin Savage, Craig Alexander, Mthokozisi Shezi.
bizhub Highveld Lions: Temba Bavuma, Stephen Cook (c), Gulam Bodi, Quinton de Kock, Neil McKenzie, Zander de Bruyn, Pumelela Matshikwe, Dieter Klein, Ethan O'Reilly, Brett Pelser, Imran Tahir.