Cape Town - Twenty20 cricket started out as a young man’s game. It then evolved into the older heads having a greater impact on proceedings. After the Cape Cobras’ opening RamSlam T20 defeat to the Highveld Lions, they might be inclined to think it has reverted to the former as a 20-year-old gave them a good old runaround at Senwes Park.
The Cobras are arguably the most experienced franchise team, which has benefited them greatly in the first-class and 1-Day Cup competitions, trophies they have already collected this season. They possess stalwarts like Johann Louw, Charl Langeveldt and Owais Shah, with Justin Kemp and Azhar Mahmood to come into the frame later.
However, in the truncated format of T20, an equal amount of - if not greater - importance is placed on speed and agility as there is on skill.
Coach Paul Adams alluded to fielding lapses playing a role in the Potchefstroom defeat, and captain Justin Ontong backed this up on Wednesday.
“Our fielding did let us down at times. That is definitely true,” he told the Cape Times on Tuesday. “We are not a young side, that is also a fact, and in T20 cricket, you definitely need speed around the park. Saying that, though, with experience, it makes you aware of situations before they actually happen, and that also helps a fielding side. It helps with judgement calls.”
Fortunately for the Cobras, they have a captain in Ontong who sets the precedent, even at 33 years old. He may have lost a touch of pure speed to a whippet like 22-year-old Yaseen Vallie, but there are few more dangerous fielders covering the backward-point region in South Africa.
“It is about putting in the hard work, and that is exactly what we are going to do for the remainder of the week,” the skipper said. “The weather conditions have kept us indoors, but it will clear up and you will see us sweating it out there. We need to lift our fielding standard, and that comes through intensity at training sessions. There’s no doubt Paul will be pushing us hard this week.”
Ontong was also wary of being left behind in the competition and then having to play catch-up, which only increases the pressure on his team. He prefers to build steady momentum, which is why he has placed great emphasis on getting the Cobras moving again in this weekend’s home double-header against the Knights (Paarl) and Dolphins (Newlands) on Friday and Sunday respectively.
“It is a massive weekend for us,” Ontong said. “It is not win or bust, but, like we saw in the 1-Day Cup when teams get on a roll, it is hard to stop them. The Lions won their first five games and they were basically secured of a place in the playoffs, while we put together a run of form at the back-end of the competition which got us to the final.
“That is the type of momentum you want to create, but it can only be done through proper execution of skills. In T20 cricket, the margin for error is very limited.”
There was no positive news for Ontong on Kemp’s fitness yet. The former skipper is still undergoing rehabilitation with physio Shane Jabaar in regards to his hamstring. Opener and part-time leg-spinner Alistair Gray is also not available for selection due to the broken wrist he sustained in the second last Sunfoil Series game.
“We will wait until later in the week to make a call on Kempy. There are a few other things to discuss, especially with Azhar coming into the mix too. It is important for us to get the combinations right,” Ontong added.
Thursday: Lions v Titans, Johannesburg, 6pm.
Friday: Cape Cobras v Knights, Paarl, 6pm; Dolphins v Lions, Durban, 6pm; Warriors v Titans, Port Elizabeth, 6pm.