THE bowlers enjoyed a fruitful time as 18 wickets fell on the opening day of the CSA Provincial three-day cricket encounter between Eastern Province and Gauteng at Union yesterday.
When stumps were drawn after a windy day, EP would have had the happier dressing room, although they will acknowledge there is still plenty of work to be done before any thoughts of victory can be entertained.
The bottom line is that Colin Ackermann’s men enjoy an 82-run advantage after they dismantled the Gauteng batting line-up for 84 in less than two sessions and then reached 166/8 by the close.
For that position they could thank an excellent effort by Warren Bell, who came in at 49/4 and stroked nine fours in his knock of 57, departing just before the end with the total on 163/8.
He and Sisanda Magala added 37 for the sixth wicket to ensure EP would take a lead and then there was another important stand of 48 with Anrich Nortje (19 not out) for the eighth wicket.
That stand has given EP what could be a critical lead, but the batsmen on both sides will be hoping the pitch eases up as the match progresses.
Not that there seemed anything seriously wrong with the strip, but there was enough life to keep the seam bowlers interested. EP never used a spinner, while Gauteng offspinner Richard das Neves sent down 18 overs without reward.
And both EP batsmen David White and Kelly Smuts seemed to get sharp rising deliveries which took them by surprise as they offered simple catches near the wicket.
Magala again led the way for EP with impressive figures of 3/10 in nine overs, while Nortje (3/17) and Solo Nqweni (3/28) were equally effective.
Besides Bell, Eddie Moore (28) batted brightly for EP, upper-cutting a ball over third man for a six before hanging his bat out to offer Matt McGillivray an easy scalp.
Three balls later, McGillivray bowled James Price for a duck and he later took the key wicket of Bell to keep Gauteng in the hunt with 3/22 in 14 overs.
Ethan O’Reilly, who grew up in PE, also came to the party for Gauteng, picking up three important wickets as the visitors strived for parity after their batting failure.