The Sunfoil Dolphins travelled to Potchefstroom knowing that a win would hand them a much needed life-line going into the Momentum One Day Cup play-offs however the men from KwaZulu-Natal went down to the Highveld Lions by eight runs in pulsating game of fifty over cricket on Friday evening.
Having won the toss and elected to bowl first the side from Durban would have hoped to have put the hosts under some early pressure however it was honours even before the Dolphins struck in the tenth over when Andile Phehlukwayo castled recent test debutant Stephen Cook for 15 with the score on 34.
Rassie van der Dussen (45) and veteran run-machine Alviro Pietersen combined to put on 53 before the former was trapped in front by the forever threatening Craig Alexander.
From then on Petersen (107) dominated proceedings with another impressive century that included seven boundaries and three lusty sixes. Petersen managed to accumulate rapidly whilst his partners, especially the diminutive Temba Bavuma (42), kept rotating the strike around him.
The pair of Petersen and Bavuma put on brisk 116 runs for the third wicket from just under 19 overs which put the Dolphins in the back seat from the majority of the middle period of the game.
Despite this damaging partnership the Dolphins managed to reign in the free flowing Lions batsmen and picked up crucial wickets towards the death which prevented the score from ballooning out to something beyond their reach.
All-rounder Ryan McLaren proved his worth in the twilight of the Lions innings when he bagged two scalps in the space of three balls however some lusty blows from Proteas left arm spinner Aaron Phangiso saw the hosts get to a competitive 276/7.
As has become characteristic of the Dolphins their run chase got off to a slow start with the loss of wickets proving to be a thorn in their side as they lost their captain Morné van Wyk (13) and fellow opener Vaughn van Jaarsveld (14) in quick succession.
Cody Chetty was then bowled by impressive seamer Sean Jamison for 11 which left the Dolphins reeling at 56/3 after 17 overs.
Ryan McLaren, who has been given a role up the order, relished in the challenge and compiled a quality half century and was ably supported by another left hander in the form of Kyle Nipper who also clocked in with 50.
The pair rebuilt the innings for the Dolphins and added an impressive 117 for the fourth wicket before Nipper was eventually caught behind for a diligent 55 off 67 balls.
The wicket of Nipper still left the visitors from the East Coast with a lot of work to do considering the run rate was climbing steadily however McLaren didn’t last long and was castled by another young quick, Matt McGillivray for 62 from 89 balls.
With runs under his belt in their previous outing Khaya Zondo (24) rotated the strike well with Calvin Savage (27) but when those two perished it seemed that the game was out of reach for the Dolphins.
However, the pair of Andile Phehlukwayo (10) and Keshav Maharaj (21) never let the home side rest easy as they attempted to claw their way to the total but the nail was already firmly in the coffin which meant the Dolphins ended just short of their target with 268/7 in their 50 overs.
The loss in Potchefstroom means that the two home games in the coming week at Sahara Stadium Kingsmead are crucial in determining whether they will qualify for the Momentum One Day Cup play-off.
The clash with the in-form Warriors on Wednesday at Sahara Stadium Kingsmead will be seen as paramount in their efforts to end in the top three and qualify for the play-offs.
Play starts at 14:00.