Paul Adams enjoyed a quiet 37th birthday yesterday. He arrived home from Durban, fetched his kids at school and frolicked with them in the swimming pool. Nothing raucous, just a nice relaxing day after a hectic weekend on the road that saw his team, the Cape Cobras, take a firm grip of the RamSlam T20 Challenge log.
“The grey hairs are starting to show, aren’t they?” Adams quipped about his advancing age. “It’s been a hectic weekend, going from Bloemfontein to Durban, but it’s been a good one with two wins out of two. I’ll take that as a birthday present any day,” he added.
The reason for the muted celebrations, though, is that another action-packed week awaits the Cobras. The table-toppers return to Newlands for the first time tomorrow since the New Year Festival of Cricket to face the Titans before heading to the winelands, where they host the Dolphins in Paarl on Friday.
A 100% return from these two games will virtually ensure a place in the playoffs for the Cobras, and after missing out on qualification for the lucrative Champions League T20 the past couple of seasons, Adams is keeping his team firmly focused on the prize.
“We’re playing some really nice cricket, but we can’t take anything for granted. There have been occasions where we’ve been in a bit of trouble, but that’s when the experience within our squad has come to the fore. We’ve made sensible decisions under pressure,” Adams said.
“The momentum is with us, and in T20 cricket that’s really important. We saw last season when we were down and just could not get back up again. It’s the same with the Lions, they were all over everybody last season, and now the ball is rolling against them. That’s how T20 can get sometimes with the games so close together. That’s why you need to take advantage when it’s going your way.”
Opening bowler Beuran Hendricks is certainly a Cobra who is taking advantage of a plum period in his career. The left-arm seamer may concede the odd extra and leak a few runs on occasions, but he certainly does know how to knock over the timber.
Bowling at good pace throughout, with the extra skill to deliver variations that include slower-ball bouncers and knuckle balls accurately when under pressure has seen Hendricks streak clear of his nearest rivals atop the national wicket-takers-list. The left-armer has 16 scalps already, seven wickets clear of Warriors duo Rusty Theron and Lundi Mbane.
National selection convenor Andrew Hudson and his panel will struggle to ignore Hendricks’s claims for higher honours when they sit down to discuss both the Test squad for the Australian series and the World T20 Championship in Bangladesh in March.
The 23-year-old’s stocks would have risen even further in correlation with Warriors left-armer Wayne Parnell’s star diminishing the longer the RamSlam T20 Challenge continues.
Parnell, long considered one of the best “death-bowling” specialists in the country, was shown up by his less experienced colleague in the North vs South clash at Newlands, and the Eastern Cape star let himself down by delivering a no-ball on the final ball of the innings to gift the Titans a spectacular victory recently.
He has since been relieved of the death-bowling duties, with Theron and Mbane taking over the responsibility.
“I’ve spoken a lot about Beuran this season, but that’s because of the impact he has made for us this season. He’s vitally important to us in terms of how we want to play, and that is to be attacking with both bat and ball,” Adams said.
“We always say you can’t win the game in the first six overs, but you can certainly lose it, and Beuran puts us on the front foot with his ability to pick up wickets all the time.”
Adams is likely to stick with the same XI that did duty over the weekend, despite the availability of Test captain Graeme Smith and Justin Kemp.
The coach seems content with the balance of the Cobras at the moment, also hailing the impact “golden arm” Aviwe Mgijima has had every time the medium-pacer has taken the ball this season.
Cape Cobras vs Titans,
Newlands; Dolphins vs Lions, Durban; Knights vs Warriors, Kimberley
Cape Cobras vs Dolphins, Paarl; Lions vs Knights, Potchefstroom; Warriors vs Titans, East London
All games start at 6pm - Cape Times