Ontong is the King Cobra


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COME ON LIONS! Cape Cobras captain Justin Ontong celebrates after his team had clinched a spot in the final against the Highveld Lions with a three-wicket victory over the Titans at Newlands yesterday.

Titans 241/9 (50 overs)

Cape Cobras 245/7 (47.1 overs)

Cape Cobras won by 3 wickets

Zaahier Adams

EVERYBODY had come to Newlands yesterday to see the Proteas’ triumphant heroes from Down Under. AB de Villiers and Dale Steyn did not disappoint, scoring a ton and claiming five wickets for their respective teams, but it was not the superstar duo that made the most telling contributions in this 1-Day Cup semi-final.

That was left to two individuals at the opposite ends of their careers. Cape Cobras captain Justin Ontong (82 not out) and rookie Yaseen Vallie (60) were the heroes for the defending champions, who will now travel to Johannesburg to face the Highveld Lions in the final at the Wanderers on Friday.

The pair shared a 109-run partnership for the fifth wicket to not only take the Cobras to the edge of victory, but also bring calm to a dressing room that was clearly incensed by Dane Vilas’s earlier dismissal.

The focus could easily have been lost after Vilas (27 off 34 balls) was controversially given out obstructing the field when Titans seamer David Wiese threw a ball back at him. The Cobras wicket-keeper “blocked” the ball while out of his ground and was sent back to the pavilion after a long period of deliberation.

“There’s no doubt we were upset by the nature of the dismissal. I don’t want to comment on the decision just yet until I view it again. The guys told me Dane kept his line and did not change his direction towards the ball, but I’m just glad the decision did not cost us because it came at a crucial time in a crucial game,” Ontong told the Cape Times.

There is little doubt, though, that the nature of Vilas’s dismissal seemed to galvanise the Cobras skipper. Ontong’s eyes were filled with determination, eager not to let his team suffer because of the officiating. Young Vallie, who is still just 22 years of age, seemed to feed off his captain’s energy and the pair ran the Titans fielders ragged with some snappy work between the wickets. It was the hallmark of a partnership that was beautifully punctuated with elegant drives straight down the ground and some agricultural swipes to the leg-side when required.

“I felt I was due for a big score. The beginning of the competition hadn’t really gone too well for me, but I’ve been feeling good recently, and to get a big score for the team in an important game really means something to me,” Ontong said.

“I was also delighted for Vallie. He is still very young, but is a really promising batsman and he showed his talent today in a big pressure game and the way he handled it was really good. It’s just a pity the way he came out, especially in terms of the timing of the game as we still needed to kick on, but he will learn from that going ahead.”

There were still 42 runs required when Vallie was dismissed, and despite a late- innings wobble, the Cobras were never really in any danger of losing this game with Ontong still at the crease. New Proteas Test cap Rory Kleinveldt made sure of this when he smashed Wiese for consecutive fours and a six in the 47th over to seal the game in style for the Cobras.

Earlier in the day, it seemed the home side would be facing a much stiffer target when De Villiers was timing the ball sweetly across the Newlands turf. The Proteas limited-overs captain was seemingly still in the same kind of form he displayed so wonderfully in the third and final Test against Australia at the Waca to ease to another century off just 119 balls.

However, it was Ontong (yet again) who made the pivotal difference when he threw down the stumps from backward point to run out De Villiers for 107 just when he was ready to launch an assault during the death overs. This opened the door for Steyn (5/45) to clean up the Titans tail, picking up three wickets in his second-last over after his double opening strike when he removed his former team’s openers.

“Dale is a true professional. And he just showed it again with a great performance. He just hit his lengths from the get-go and put the ball in the right areas. He really is a great professional and it bodes well for Friday,” Ontong enthused.


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