The Cape Cobras could virtually seal a third Sunfoil Series title in four seasons should they win against the Knights in Kimberly over the next four days.
It’s been a dominant season for Justin Ontong’s men, who topped the log in the Momentum One-Day Cup, did the same in the RamSlam T20 and are 16-and-a-bit points clear atop the Sunfoil Series table.
They would like a bit more than just a share of the Momentum Cup to show for this season’s endeavours, and it is the four-day competition that offers them the chance for some solo silverware.
The Cape-based franchise has shown that they have far greater strength in depth than perhaps any other franchise.
In the Sunfoil Series they have three batsmen with aggregates over 600 runs including the competition’s leading run-scorer in Stiaan van Zyl, while on the bowling front, off-spinner Dane Piedt (28 wickets), left-arm seamer Beuran Hendricks (21) and Rory Kleinveldt (18) are among the top ten wicket-takers.
Van Zyl’s 742 runs have included two big centuries, to which he has added four fifties.
There’s never been much doubt about the stylish left-hander’s talent, but this season he has married that natural ability to tenaciousness playing long innings.
Van Zyl has been backed up by two experienced heads in the Cobras batting order – Andrew Puttick (626) and the skipper Ontong (602).
In the Knights, they face the only team who have managed to defeat them this season.
Unfortunately for the Free State/Northern Cape franchise they will have to make do without three of their best players. Dean Elgar picked up an Achilles strain in the final Test against Australia, while Ryan McLaren is battling with a shoulder injury.
Their captain, Johan van der Wath is still recovering from a hamstring tear picked up in the side’s win two weeks ago against the Warriors.
Still they produced an impressive showing in the severely curtailed match against the Lions at the Wanderers last week, where they put the Lions under pressure on the final day.
Ontong pointed out yesterday that his team first wanted to inspect the Kimberly pitch before deciding on whether to play Piedt, who picked up 6/100 on the final day in Paarl last week, to bowl the Cobras to victory over the Titans.
“Just looking at their team, I know they’ve been playing four seamers so they might be tempted to leave a little bit more grass on the wicket,” said Ontong.
In Van der Wath’s absence last week, young Corne Dry, Quinton Friend, Duanne Olivier and Malusi Siboto bowled with fire.
For the Lions, the bad weather, their poor bowling and shaky first innings batting against the Knights probably ended any chance of them over-taking the Cobras over the last three rounds.
They’ve welcomed back Alviro Petersen for their trip to Port Elizabeth to play the Warriors.
Fixtures: Cape Cobras v Knights, Kimberly; Lions v Warriors, Port Elizabeth; Dolphins v Titans, Benoni. - The Star