The bizhub Highveld Lions closed in on a Sunfoil Series win against the Nashua Titans as they raced to 74 without loss at stumps on Friday at Sahara Willowmoore Park in Benoni thanks to their belligerent openers and a magnificent performance by Hardus Viljoen.
The openers, Stephen Cook, with 34, and Dominic Hendricks, with 36, propelled the bizhub Highveld Lions to 74 without loss in their second innings after 14 overs, and only another 107 runs are needed for a win.
The bizhub Highveld Lions have collected 6.04 points and will replace the Nashua Mobile Cape Cobras at the top of the Sunfoil Series log if they secure a victory on Saturday.
They had 79.18 points before the start of the clash against the Nashua Titans after seven matches, while the log-leaders, the Nashua Mobile Cape Cobras, boasted 92.18 points after eight matches.
The Nashua Titans have earned 5.9 points but will need a bowling miracle if they want to add ten additional points.
Set a victory target of 181 after Viljoen produced his best first-class performance of the season with 6-24 in 11.3 overs, Cook and Hendricks went on the rampage after tea in the bizhub Highveld Lions second innings. They were off to a flyer, racing to 50 off only 53 balls as Ethy Mbhalati and CJ de Villiers suffered.
In all, eighteen wickets fell on a day on which the fast bowlers dominated a two-paced pitch of inconsistent bounce.
The bizhub Highveld Lions started on 149 for two in their first innings on Friday, but imploded to 202 all out. Mbhalati (4-48 in fifteen overs), Rowan Richards (3-31) and De Villiers (2-44) accounted for eight wickets in sixteen overs, while only 53 runs were added.
The Nashua Titans must have started their second innings with a measure of self-belief. That belief soon dissipated as Viljoen and Chris Morris tormented them with excellent bowling on a tricky surface.
Viljoen struck three times in fourteen deliveries after the tea break as the Nashua Titans, resuming on 150 for six, slumped to 162 for nine. The burly 23-year-old express rounded off his stellar performance by bowling Ethy Mbhalati for nineteen. Viljoen finished with figures of 6-24 in 11.3 overs.
Nashua Titans: Henry Davids (capt), Jacques Rudolph, Mangaliso Mosehle, Heino Kuhn, Francois le Clus, David Wiese, Roelof van der Merwe, Shaun von Berg, Ethy Mbhalati, CJ de Villiers, Rowan Richards.
bizhub Highveld Lions: Stephen Cook (capt), Dominic Hendricks, Temba Bavuma, Neil McKenzie, Zander de Bruyn, Thami Tsolekile, Brett Pelser, Cliffe Deacon, Chris Morris, Hardus Viljoen, Eddie Leie.