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Johannesburg - It might be a different competition, but the two teams that shared the One-Day Cup title in December, the Cape Cobras and the Highveld Lions will face off when their Sunfoil Series match gets underway at Newlands on Thursday.
The hosts have been impressive in this season's campaign with four wins from six matches and remain undefeated. The visitors, on the other hand, have a game in hand and have two wins from their five matches with two losses to boot.
A defeat for the Highveld Lions could effectively end their title hopes, but a victory would put them within striking distance of the log leaders.
The Cape side have a slender 5.2 point lead over the second placed Warriors and cannot afford any slip up.
One man the visitors will be banking on to take them forward is the discarded Proteas leg-break bowler, Imran Tahir.
The Pakistan-born player has regained his form of late with a surge of wickets, which has catapulted him into third position on the wickets standings.
A 12-wicket haul against the Dolphins in Durban last week proves that the former Proteas man means business.
“He's always been a good performer in domestic cricket and he's got his back up at the moment,” Cobras coach Paul Adams said.
“He also wants to prove a lot of things, it was a big game for him last week, picking up all those wickets, but we are mentally refreshed and getting back into things after our break,” Adams added.
The Cape Cobras have an ace up their sleeves of their own, in Johann Louw.
The opening bowler has spearheaded the hosts' bowling attack this season with injuries to Charl Langeveldt and Justin Kemp, leaving the Cape side devoid of experience at times. But the right-arm medium-fast bowler has led by example, claiming 18 wickets in his past two outings.
“I think that's what experience brings within our squad. They understand what is required to be successful on certain wickets and what to do at certain stages of the game,” Adams said of his charges.
In their previous encounter in Potchefstroom, it was the Cape Cobras that triumphed by 10 wickets.
A superb 194 from Andrew Puttick helped setup a huge first innings score of 543 all out.
The Lions were then bundled out for 210 in their first innings, where Stephen Cook top scored with 52.
Were it not for a fantastic 194 from the 19-year-old Quinton de Kock in the second innings, the Lions would have lost by an innings.
But in the end, the Lions posted 339 all out in their follow-on innings, leaving the Cape side to score the seven runs for victory. - Sapa