THE Cape Cobras have usually found the Titans pretty tough opposition. In limited-overs cricket, even more so, with the Titans routinely having the better of the Cobras since the advent of the franchise system.
Yet the home side have many reasons to believe they can enhance their record over their northern rivals in Sunday’s 1-Day Cup qualifier at Newlands. A significant part is, of course, the fact that Paul Adams’s side overcame a major obstacle on Wednesday when they thrashed the Titans by 111 runs.
It was the first time the Cobras beat the “Light Blues” in Paarl and has put the Cobras in a good space and on track to meet the Highveld Lions in next week’s final at the Wanderers.
The Cobras 1-Day Cup campaign has not been a sprint. Instead, it’s been tackled in a manner the great Brit Mo Farah would break down a 5 000m race. A good start, followed by a slow middle period, before kicking into full gear as the finish line approaches.
This is the same way Adams’s team have mentally and technically improved throughout the competition.
The landscape changes, though, for Sunday, with wholesale changes set to be made in both camps due to the availability of the Proteas stars.
The big guns are back in town, with the likes of Test captain Graeme Smith, Dale Steyn, Vernon Philander, Robin Peterson and Rory Kleinveldt all ready to don the “Dark Blues” after their heroics Down Under.
Likewise, Titans coach Matthew Maynard can call upon AB de Villiers, Jacques Rudolph, Morné Morkel and Faf du Plessis, although South African cricket’s latest superstar Du Plessis will only arrive late tomorrow evening after playing in a once-off Big Bash League game today.
This is where Adams believes the structures that are already in place at the Cobras will give his team the edge come Sunday.
“We have created a real good energy within our camp, and the boys are really feeding off it at the moment,” Adams said.
“And although the personnel will change for Sunday, there will be half a side remaining that were part of that success.
“It is these guys that I am looking towards to sustain that energy and not the Proteas. They will fit into our systems, which will allow them to concentrate on their own games, which in turn will benefit the side.”
And what about the furore that surrounded Steyn’s apparent commitment to remain in Australia to play a match for the Brisbane Heat, which was reportedly sanctioned by Cricket South Africa?
“Dale was never an issue by us. We released a statement after the reports in the media caused a stir. It has been dealt with and Dale is really happy to be running out for us.
“Needless to say, I am really happy that the best fast bowler in the world will be wearing the Cobras blue on Sunday,” the former Proteas spinner said.
Adams has yet to finalise his starting XI for Sunday’s big game, with the Proteas all set to join the rest of the Cobras at Newlands for their first training session together later today.
It is likely, though, that only one change will be made in the batting line-up, where Andrew Puttick could drop out to accommodate Smith’s return.
The Test captain will therefore have the best seat in the house on Sunday to decide whether the in-form Richard Levi, who struck a career-best 166 on Wednesday, has turned the corner for good this time.
There will be more shuffling around with the bowling unit, which could bear a close resemblance to the Proteas’ victorious Waca attack. Steyn, Kleinveldt and Peterson are all set to play at the expense of Charl Langeveldt, Lizaad Williams and Alistair Gray.
It is unlikely that Philander will be utilised, considering his bowling workload needs to be monitored after missing the second Test in Adelaide due to a side strain. With Langeveldt pulling up during the dinner break on Wednesday with a Grade 2 groin strain that will rule him out of Sunday’s semi, it is likely that Johann Louw will share the new ball with Steyn.
It’s not every week that franchise cricket serves up a buffet of stars like this, and with the Cobras in such rampant form at the moment, there will be few better places to be than Newlands this Sunday.
LIKELY COBRAS TEAM
Graeme Smith, Richard Levi, Stiaan van Zyl, Dane Vilas (wk), Justin Ontong (capt), Yaseen Vallie, Robin Peterson, Justin Kemp, Rory Kleinveldt, Johann Louw, Dale Steyn.
Start: 10am. TV: SS2, SS HD 4.