The resurgent bizhub Highveld Lions team was frustrated more by the weather than any semblance of resistance from the Nashua Titans on a stop-start final day of their Sunfoil Series match at the Bidvest Wanderers Stadium on Sunday.
There was some resistance from Henry Davids and Mangaliso Mosehle, but this looked to be in vain as Chris Morris and Hardus Viljoen ripped through the top order. With just three wickets needed, bad light had the final say.
The start of play was delayed by approximately 45 minutes by bad light, and Imran Tahir needed just ten balls to wrap up the tail. The Nashua Titans resumed on 115 for eight, still 188 in arrears. JP de Villiers heaved wildly at his first delivery of the day to be bowled and, when Ethy Mbhalati played a tame shot to Stephen Cook in Tahir’s next over, the Nashua Titans were dismissed for 120 and faced a first innings deficit of 183.
Stephen Cook had no hesitation in enforcing the follow-on, and the Nashua Titans openers were struggling from the start. Cliffe Deacon was promoted to take the new ball and could easily have dismissed Pieter Malan in his first over, but it was Morris who made the breakthrough by bowling Malan. With edges flying all over the place, and Henry Davids being dropped in successive overs, the Nashua Titans somehow navigated their way to a reasonable position at 66 for one at lunch.
Jacques Rudolph departed for 25 in the first over after lunch, and Davids could have gone in the next as an edge dropped short of Neil McKenzie at slip. Davids went on to make 41, the top score by his side in the match, before being trapped in front by Morris. Heino Kuhn was just looking to play himself in, driving Brett Pelser’s first delivery through the covers, but was tempted to repeat the shot two balls later and edged to second slip. David Wiese went without playing a shot, and when bad light again came to the rescue, the Nashua Titans were staggering at 128 for five, still 55 behind.
An early tea break dragged out until just after 4 pm, and the Nashua Titans had to survive 28 overs. This hardly looked likely. There was no lifting the gloom for the visitors as Roelof van der Merwe was bowled by the first ball he faced after the resumption, and Shaun von Berg could not control his urge to drive to be caught in the slips.
With more than 25 overs left to wrap up the tail, there could be only one winner, but it was not to be. The umpires conferred as Von Berg trudged back to the pavilion, and led the players off. No further play was possible. Viljoen was the pick of the bowlers, with three for 25, while Morris also picked up three despite taking some early punishment.
Zander de Bruyn took the Sunfoil man of the match award for his first innings score of 65 and two top-order wickets when the Nashua Titans had their first turn at bat.
The bizhub Highveld Lions move on to 79 points, 13 behind the Nashua Mobile Cape Cobras, who lead the Chevrolet Warriors by a fraction of a point. The bizhub Highveld Lions will feel that they missed an opportunity to narrow the gap considerably against a Nashua Titans team that seems to be in freefall after a string of heavy defeats.
The bizhub Highveld Lions will have a chance to go top next weekend, however, when they meet the Nashua Titans again at Sahara Willowmoore Park. A win for the bizhub Highveld Lions will put them on top in the only match scheduled for next weekend. All teams will then have played eight of their ten matches. The run in to the title could be a thriller.
Final points: bizhub Highveld Lions 8.06 (bat 4.06, bowl 4); Nashua Titans 4 (bat 0, bowl 4)