Eddie Leie took his opportunity to put in a match-winning performance as he grabbed four wickets on the final day to help the bizhub Highveld Lions to a 178-run victory over the Sunfoil Dolphins that sealed the Sunfoil Series title.
Leie has spent the past few weeks in the shadow of the Lions’ highly successful pace attack, but emerged on Sunday to run through the Dolphins’ middle and lower order and finish with figures of 4 for 99.
With the Dolphins needing to win the game to close the gap on the Lions in the standings, there was a frenetic end to the game as they attempted to chase 471 in 69 overs.
Not surprisingly they fell well short as they were bowled out for 292, but their run rate of nearly five per over for much of the innings attested to the fact that they gave it everything.
When nine wickets had fallen they adjusted their ambitions to drawing the game, and they very nearly held out as No. 11 Daryn Dupavillon was trapped lbw in the final over of the day after surviving nearly 15 overs.
The Lions now lead the table by close to 30 points, and can look forward to being crowned champions for the first time since the 1999/2000 season when they host the Warriors at Bidvest Wanderers next week.
With the title race their obvious priority, the Lions elected to continue batting on the final morning, extending their second innings total from 246 for three to 355 for six thanks to Temba Bavuma’s brisk 60 not out.
That decision was made in the knowledge that the Dolphins would have to chase whatever was set and so wickets were likely to fall, which is essentially what happened.
While all of the Dolphins top six easily reached double figures and scored at a healthy clip, wickets tumbled regularly.
Kagiso Rabada (2 for 59) did the initial damage, but all of the bowlers chipped in with Chris Morris bowling Daniel Sincuba for 50 and Leie taking care of top-scorer Khaya Zondo (72).
Leie was denied a five-wicket haul when Morne van Wyk (50 not out) was dropped off his bowling, and for a while it looked as though that might cost the Lions the win.
But Morris (2 for 46) wrapped things up in dramatic fashion when he dismissed Dupavillon with the first ball of the final over.