Hashim Amla will make his Cobras debut today against the Knights, as the Cape side look to avenge their poor showing from last season that saw them finish bottom of the T20 log.
Cobras coach Paul Adams will have a host of international players in his squad, including JP Duminy, Rory Kleinveldt, Graeme Smith and Robin Peterson.
Dale Steyn and Vernon Philander have been rested for the tie but could feature for the Cobras during the competition.
All-rounder legend Jacques Kallis will also miss out on today’s action, while Adams will also have the services of West Indies spin master Sunil Narine available for selection as the tournament progresses.
“We have a really strong squad for the T20’s but our aim remains the same. We have to stick to our processes and do what needs to be done to get the win,” said Adams.
Along with the international players bolstering the squad, the Cobras squad has also been boosted by the return of big-hitting Richard Levi from injury.
Since his return to fitness, Levi has been involved in amateur games for Western Province, where he has been successful, notching up a limited-overs century.
“Having Richard back in the side is a big boost for us, he has been playing a few games and he looks in good form. His addition really makes the side stronger,” said Adams.
Knights coach Sarel Cilliers has kept his players busy over the Christmas period, and has veteran left-arm spinner Nicky Boje back in his squad for the entire T20 campaign.
“We had two practice matches this week in Bloemfontein on a very good deck, and there were some very good performances,” Cilliers said.
“Rilee Rossouw got a 97 and a 50-odd so he’s in good form, and there were some good performances from other guys – Obus Pienaar came straight from his hundred for the amateur side and played quite nicely, Pite van Biljon carried his form from the Sunfoil Series, as did Johan van der Wath, who’s bowling well at the moment.”
Today’s game against the Knights will be the third of the day at Newlands, with two other Ram Slam T20 matches set for earlier in the day – the Dolphins will face the Titans at 10am, while the Lions face the Warriors at 2pm.
International stars Faf du Plessis and David Miller make an appearance for the Titans and Dolphins repectively.
The Titans will be without AB de Villiers, Morne Morkel and Marchant de Lange.
De Villiers will be the notable omission from the competition, after it was revealed earlier this week that he would have to undergo surgery to his hand, in order to repair a previous injury sustained in 2011.
During the later stages of the T20 competition both teams will also welcome top talent from around the world, with Pakistan spinner Saeed Ajmal turning out for the Titans and West Indies opener Chris Gayle set to play for the Dolphins.
Today, Lions coach Geoff Toyana will be looking to turn his team’s domestic season around.
Last season the Lions shared the one-day cup, came a close second in the four-day series and won the T20 title in his debut season, however, this term the Lions failed to make an impact in the one-day cup and they are also struggling for form in the four-day series.
“It has been a tough season for us due to many different issues, one of them being that a number of our top players were not available for long periods of time,” Toyana said.
“Missing someone like Imran Tahir for the whole season is a big blow for us but it is something that is part of the game.
“If your players do well then they get called up to the national side, just the price you pay for having players on good form.
“Our job as provincial coaches is to produce Proteas, so while we miss the players during the season I am really pleased that we have players who reach international level.”
Pakistan international Sohail Tanvir will be playing for the Lions during the cup, and after the fast bowler returns from international duty he will join former Pakistan international Azhar Mahmood in the Lions team.
“Both have a lot of experience and they will both play a big role in the team. Sohail has been playing with us for a while Azhar will also be integral to our success. We are also looking forward to having Quinton de Kock back,” said Toyana.
The Warriors are looking forward to having a host of key players back in their team after losing five key members to injury for their final domestic game of 2014.
“Davy Jacobs is back, Rusty Theron should be back and so should Christiaan Jonker,” Warriors coach Piet Botha confirmed. “I think the only one that’s a bit doubtful is Colin Ingram, but he may yet be fit.”
While Narine, Gayle, Tanvir and Ajmal will not be playing today, there will be an overseas representation in the form of Mahmood and England international Graeme Onions – who will be playing for the Dolphins. - Weekend Argus