Captain Cook leads from the front in Lions’ win

2015-03-23 00:00

LIONS captain Stephen Cook led from the front as his side won the four-day series trophy with a 178-run triumph against the Dolphins, their nearest challengers, at Kingsmead yesterday. This was the first time since the 1999/2000 season they had secured the spoils in the long version of the game, New Zealander Ken Rutherford the captain then.

Set 471 to win after the Lions declared their second innings at 355-6, the best the Dolphins could do was gain some pride with a draw, the hope of the win they needed to remain in contention going into their final clash of the season against the Cobras in Pietermaritzburg this week having long disappeared.

From the first day, when skipper Morné van Wyk won the toss in overcast conditions on a wicket that had a touch of green and looked to offer assistance to the quick bowlers, the home side were on the back foot. Leading wicket-taker, spinner Keshav Maharaj, was left out the team such was the confidence in what the pitch could offer.

Sadly, it never transpired as the bowlers failed to make it count. As the day wore on and the sun came out, the Lions batsmen settled without any cause for alarm and it was a question of how big they would bat and what the Dolphins would be chasing.

Temba Bavuma’s 153 got them to 395 and the Dolphins, needing one of their own batsmen to push through to three figures and beyond, never met the challenge, all out for 280, saved somewhat by a sixth wicket partnership of 116 between Morné van Wyk (68) and Daryn Smit (60*). That the Dolphins avoided the follow-on (245) early on day three, was the only cause to celebrate but conceding 115 runs was way too much.

Second time around, the Lions showed their pedigree and why they had performed in the four-day stuff this season. Cook set the tone with 143 at the top of the order, his fifth century of the campaign, putting on 177 with Rassie van der Dussen (78) for the first wicket and batting the Dolphins out the game.

Starting yesterday’s play on 246-2, the Lions added 109 while losing four wickets, Bavuma again prominent with an undefeated 60. Backing themselves to take another 10 Dolphins wickets, they sent down six overs before lunch, the Dolphins 33-0 with Imraan Khan and Divan van Wyk looking comfortable.

By tea, they had reached 174-3, Khaya Zondo finding some form on 59 and Daniel Sincuba on 49. They added 96 for the fourth wicket, Sincuba out for 50 in the first over after tea, signalling the beginning of the end for the Dolphins. Zondo’s 72 and Morné van Wyk’s 50* — his fourth consecutive half-century — delayed the inevitable but with the top six Dolphins batsmen all getting starts, more would have been expected.

Matthew Pillans (27) was entertaining and last man in, Daryn Dupavillon (7) stuck around for 32 balls as the clock ticked on and the overs wound down. With the first ball of the last over of the day, he succumbed to Chris Morris, giving the Lions victory and 18,48 points to the Dolphins’ 5,6.

Legbreak bowler Eddie Leie proved a point with 4-99 from 22 overs, while Kagiso Rabada and Morris took two apiece.

“I think we got it wrong from the start and the Lions, with the quality of players in their side, needed no second invitation,” said Morné van Wyk.

“We were always behind and the big innings we needed from our batsmen never happened, meaning we were always trying to catch up. They deserve the trophy and I am proud we pushed them in the last few weeks considering the heavy schedule we have taken on.”

Scores in Brief

Lions 395 & 355-6 (Cook 143, Van der Dussen 78, Bavuma 60*; Pillans 2-54)

Dolphins 280 & 292 (Zondo 72, Sincuba 50, M van Wyk 50*; Leie 4-99)

Lions won by 178 runs and are four-day series champs.

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