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PAUL ADAMS is never far away from a laugh. It is often a loud, outlandish laugh that gets people around him smiling too.
There were not many, though, on Sunday, until Rory Kleinveldt walked in and nonchalantly smashed his first three balls to the boundary to take the Cobras home in a nerve-wracking semi-final against the Titans.
“Look here, all semis are tense affairs, hey. It was no different against the Titans. There were some moments in that game which could have swung it either way. But that’s finals cricket. It’s a battle of the key moments, and Friday at the Wanderers is going to be no different,” Adams told the Cape Times yesterday.
Adams is certainly on the money in terms of the pressure that both teams will be feeling tomorrow in the 1-Day Cup final at the Bullring. The Cobras, as defending champions and with their plethora of national stars, are undoubtedly the favourites, and that pressure of expectation can sometimes derail a team’s ambitions.
In contrast, the Highveld Lions are a group of young players who could be overawed by the big occasion. They also carry the failures of previous Lions teams who have not won a single franchise trophy over the past five seasons.
“It’s all about keeping calm, sticking to your processes, and staying cool under pressure. And that begins with me. The guys feed off my energy and they look at me for guidance, so I can’t be walking around like a nervous wreck,” Adams said.
“It’s about trusting your systems, bringing that over to the players.
“But I’m really happy with the mental space the guys are in, they certainly are in a good space.”
The Cobras coach is certainly leaving no stone unturned in his preparation. It is nothing entirely different from normal procedure, but Adams has had sports psychologist Mary-Anne Dove around the team during the playoffs.
“Mary-Anne is a very valuable member of our squad. It’s not just during the finals that she is here. She regularly has one-on-one meetings with the guys, and also just watches them during training, in regards to their intensity and focus.
“We then have an informal chat about things, but it’s not anything new. She is simply another set of eyes that pick up things I might miss while I’m throwing balls or hitting catches.”
Adams had further reason to smile yesterday. The injured Justin Kemp seemed to be responding well to treatment, showing great signs of encouragement for the Cobras. He bowled a lengthy spell in intense heat at the Newlands nets, with his hamstring looking like it should be fit enough to carry him through the final.
Although the Cobras have Proteas Test star Vernon Philander on standby, Kemp has played a significant role during the middle overs this season. He bowls a difficult length to get under because of his height, which has troubled batsmen all around the country. He has claimed 13 wickets at 25.38 thus far, and has conceded under four runs to the over.
Young Lions batsman Quinton de Kock, who enjoys scoring freely, especially on the Highveld, was particularly bogged down during the league game earlier this season, which led to his rapid demise.
Meanwhile, Stuart Hess reports from Johannesburg that the Lions are sweating on the fitness of their two new-ball bowlers. Hardus Viljoen and Chris Morris have both been laid low with injuries.
Viljoen’s right ankle is the reason for concern, while Morris suffered a grade one tear of his left quad muscle at a practice match the Lions held under lights at the Wanderers on Tuesday night.
Lions coach Geoffrey Toyana described Morris’s chance of playing in the final as “50/50,” with an assessment to be made after practice this morning. “The doctor says he may be able to play, but we have to see. We’ll give him four overs at practice (this) morning and if gets through those with no discomfort, he’ll play,” said Toyana.
Meanwhile, the Lions will still stick to the players who have served them splendidly during this 1-Day Cup campaign. They are sweating on the fitness of their pace spearhead Hardus Viljoen, as the rain currently permeating in Johannesburg has given the Lions no chance to test his bruised heel that has kept him on the sidelines during the latter stages of the competition.
To compound coach Geoff Toyana’s woes Viljoen’s new-ball partner Chris Morris is also now struggling with an injury.
though, will not be utilising his national Test players Imran Tahir and Thami Tsolekile in order to maintain the balance of his side. Proteas Test opener Alviro Peterson, who will also lead the side, is the only change Toyana is expected to make to his starting XI.