Johannesburg - Kyle Abbott produced a classy display of match-winning fast bowling as he led the Dolphins to a thrilling 15-run victory over the Cape Cobras in their four-day domestic franchise series game at Newlands on Saturday.
The Cobras were chasing a tricky target of 183 to win and stretch their lead at the top of the series log, but Abbott's magnificent eight for 45 in 18 overs saw them bowled out for 167, keeping the Warriors and Highveld Lions still very much in contention for four-day honours.
Abbott had Andrew Puttick caught behind for four in his opening five-over spell and he returned six overs later to have Justin Ontong caught off a mistimed pull for 25.
He then struck twice in his eighth over to dramatically undermine the Cobras' run-chase and reduce them to 82 for five.
Stiaan van Zyl is one of the most elegant strokeplayers in the country and the left-hander cruised to 40 off 37 balls, but he then also mistimed a pull shot and looped a catch to mid-on.
Abbott then went full and trapped Dane Vilas lbw for a two-ball duck.
Justin Kemp revived the Cobras' hopes with 29 off 31 balls, but he was not able to finish the job as he shouldered arms to Abbott after lunch and was bowled as the competition's leading wicket-taker jagged a delivery back into the right-hander.
The Cobras were not giving up without a fight, however, and Johann Louw (16) and Dane Piedt (20) continued to chip away at the target.
But Calvin Savage trapped Louw leg-before before Abbott returned after a short rest and was too good for Piedt, catching him in front of his stumps and then having Beuran Hendricks (4) caught behind, wicketkeeper Daryn Smit taking a sharp catch.
Abbott finished with superb match figures of 12 for 96 and, as far as the Cobras are concerned, their once considerable lead atop the series standings has now been whittled down to just 0.18 points over the Warriors.
The Lions are currently 14 points behind, but are well-placed to earn an extra 10 points for beating the Titans at the Wanderers, providing the rain clears in Johannesburg. The Lions also have a game in hand.
Earlier, an amazing bowling performance by Andrew Birch led the Warriors to a crushing 10-wicket victory over the Knights on the third day of their match in Bloemfontein.
The Knights batsmen could not fathom the late swing Birch obtained in cloudy conditions, crashing to 106 all out in their second innings and leaving the Warriors with a target of just 94 to win the match.
Birch finished with career-best figures of eight for 30 as he claimed four of the five wickets to fall on Saturday morning after the Knights had resumed on 76 for five.
He struck the first time in his second over of the day, having Patrick Botha (18) caught behind by Adrian McLaren to break a stubborn sixth-wicket stand of 33 with Dean Elgar.
Elgar, fresh off his maiden Test century last weekend, top-scored for the Knights with 34 before he was also caught behind off Birch four overs later.
Birch then wrapped up the Knights tail for the addition of just 20 more runs as the home side completed a dismal second-innings effort that lasted just 32.1 overs.
Quickfire innings of 48 not out by Michael Price and 44 not out by Davey Jacobs saw the Warriors go to victory in just 13.3 overs without the loss of a wicket.