HOW will the Cape Cobras go without their captain? The answer to that question is that they simply must get on with the job against the Titans at Willowmoore Park tomorrow evening at 6pm.
Regular skipper Justin Ontong is on international duty with the Proteas and will miss the trip to Benoni. In comes youngster Yaseen Vallie, who was relegated to Western Province Amateur duty for the opening three games of the RamSlam T20 series. Ontong’s leadership should not be missed that much. That is not a slight on the 33-year-old’s ability, but rather a reflection of the experience in the Cobras squad.
Overseas professionals Owais Shah and Azhar Mahmood have played tons of T20 cricket all around the world, and Shah especially is very vocal out in the middle. The Englishman is constantly engaged in conversation with younger players, formulating gameplans and tactics. Likewise, bowlers such as Johann Louw and Charl Langeveldt have been around long enough to guide a precocious talent like Beuran Hendricks through his spell.
It is more Ontong’s dynamic batting during the death overs that the Cobras may long for. His clean striking of a cricket ball forms a big part of the Cobras’ mode of attack.
It was evident in the Knights match last Friday at Boland Park when Ontong blasted 20 runs off just six balls. His cameo was ultimately the difference between the teams with the Cobras winning by just 25 runs.
Vallie is not cut from the same cloth, with his skill-set revolving more around rotation of the strike and good running between the wickets to accumulate his runs. He played a vital part in the knockout stages of the 1-Day Cup in this role, but could possibly be forced to be a bit more expansive in this T20 competition.
Ontong’s absence could, though, open the way for strong left-hander Qaasim Adams to have a greater opportunity to showcase his abilities. Like the previously unknown Dwaine Pretorius has been a big hit for the Lions, it is not always the star players that prosper in the rollercoaster world of T20. Adams has already showed in his only innings thus far that he can provide the firepower at the back-end of the innings with a 22-ball 43 in the opening game against the Lions.
Coach Paul Adams will, however, be banking on his powerful top-order to lay the platform for the likes of Qaasim Adams later on. And this is where the powerful Richard Levi holds the outcome of the game in his hands.
He is without a doubt the Cobras’ danger man, with the Western Cape franchise benefiting from Levi being available for the entire campaign after he was dropped from the national T20 side for the Pakistan series. Last Sunday, Levi walloped an undefeated 80 off just 53 balls to ease his side home against the Dolphins. It is not only his personal contribution that puts the opposition under pressure, but batting partners also benefit, according to Cobras wicket-keeper Dane Vilas.
“It is great batting with Richie when he plays like that,” said Vilas, who shared an unbroken 115-run partnership for the second wicket with Levi last Sunday at Newlands. “It allows you to just get on with your own game without feeling the need to play a big shot. Bowlers also offer you some ‘free hits’ by missing their lengths because they have taken a pounding from Richie.”
The Titans will also be without their national T20 players, with Henry Davids and Farhaan Behardien in action at Kingsmead on Friday. Their absence actually leaves a big hole in the defending champions’ line-up which the Cobras will look to exploit.