Tahir, McKenzie put Lions on brink
Neil McKenzie struck an unbeaten century and Imran Tahir claimed three wickets as the bizhub Highveld Lions closed in on victory at the end of day three of their Sunfoil Series clash against the Sunfoil Dolphins at Sahara Stadium Kingsmead in Durban on Saturday.
Former Proteas batsman McKenzie, who surpassed 17 000 runs during his innings, made 125 from 204 deliveries as the visitors declared on 322 for four.
That set a victory target of 416 for the hosts and by the close they had slumped to 118 for five, with discarded Proteas spinner Tahir chief destroyer after taking three for 35 – the bowler also taking his match tally to eight for 77.
Ethan O’Reilly (2-21) was also amongst the wickets with little resistance coming from the Dolphins, whose top-scorer was Jonathan Vandiar (42).
But the day had undoubtedly belonged to McKenzie.
The 37-year-old, unbeaten on 15 and the Lions on 151 for three at the start, batted cautiously through the opening 75 minutes when 52 were added, including the 200 being raised in the 60th over.
McKenzie, the most successful batsman in franchise era cricket, then reached his 50 in 113 balls with a straight boundary off Craig Alexander, before punching the same bowler through extra cover for two to get to his 17 000-run milestone when he reached 66.
Along with Zander de Bruyn (49), he continued to thwart the Dolphins bowlers with the pair putting on 100 in 179 deliveries, just as the 250 was raised.
And there was no breakthrough forthcoming as the home team, without spearhead Kyle Abbott, battled to create even a hint of a wicket.
The fast bowler missed the first half of the innings due to illness and had to wait out the same amount of time he was absent for, before being allowed to resume bowling duties.
It was 277 for three at lunch and straight after the break McKenzie went to three figures with a cut shot off Mthokozisi Shezi wide of third man for four – the veteran’s 47th first-class century coming in just 117 deliveries – followed by the 300 coming up in the 85th over.
The Dolphins finally had a breakthrough with the new ball when Calvin Savage (1-66) trapped De Bruyn leg before wicket to end a massive stand of 163.
Not long after, the visitors opted to declare leaving the Dolphins a monumental task for an unlikely victory.
They began the chase decently enough and were ticking along nicely towards tea on 37 for none.
But Van Wyk needlessly chased after a wide delivery from seamer O’Reilly and was taken by De Bruyn at third slip for 15.
Resuming after the break on 49 for one, the home team went past 50 in the 14th over, but their task of saving the game became even more difficult when they lost a second wicket.
It was former captain Imraan Khan out after her missed a full delivery from O’Reilly and was sent on his way lbw for 26.
McKenzie then dropped new man Vaughn van Jaarsveld off Tahir at short cover before he had even scored, but the legspinner had his man, who was attempting a needless sweep, lbw for two soon after.
The 100 came up in the 40th over as the Dolphins looked to drop anchor until the close, but another strike from Tahir left them four down before the close – the set Vandiar pushed at a probing delivery and edged to De Bruyn at first slip.
Nightwatchman Shezi (nought) then edged what turned out to be the final ball of the day from Tahir to De Bruyn at slip with Khayelihle Zondo (18 not out) still standing and with a massive 298 runs still needed for victory.
Report Day 1
Report Day 2
SUNFOIL DOLPHINS: Imraan Khan, Divan van Wyk, Jonathan Vandiar, Vaughn
van Jaarsveld, Cody Chetty, Khaya Zondo, Daryn Smit (capt & wkt), Kyle
Abbott, Mthokozisi Shezi, Craig Alexander, Calvin Savage.
BIZHUB HIGHVELD LIONS: Stephen Cook (capt), Quinton de Kock (wk), Neil
McKenzie, Temba Bavuma, Gulam Bodi, Zander de Bruyn, Brett Pelser,
Dieter Klein, Imran Tahir, Ethan O’Reilly, Pumelela Matshikwe.