Seconds out, round five.
The Dolphins and the Cobras are at it again and, although both teams will be watered down from the recently completed T20 format, there will still be plenty of quality on the park for their Momentum One-Day Cup match today.
Along with the quality, there is bound to be a bit of needle, as the Cobras look to make a better start in the second limited-overs franchise offering of the summer.
It is already the fifth time that the two teams would have met this season, though the last two fixtures were decided by the weather.
That bad weather left a bitter pill for the Cobras to swallow last week, as it saw the Dolphins advance to the final of the RAM Slam T20 Challenge. There are still concerns about the forecast for Thursday, but the ramifications will be a lot more palatable for Ashwell Prince and his team.
More than anything else, Prince wants to see his side start the competition far better than they did in the T20 format, where they had to play catch-up for most of the round-robin stage. Eventually, that pressure caught up with them.
“We had a disastrous start to the T20 competition, so we want to obviously start this competition in the best way possible,” the former Proteas batsman said.
“But we also know that it’s not the end of the world if you don’t, if you consider how we turned things around in the T20 competition. At the end there was only one team that won more games than us, so we can take heart from that. The guys showed a lot of character and if they do that again, we’ll have every chance of success in this competition as well.”
That the Cobras were a factor so deep into the T20 competition, despite losing their first three fixtures, is testimony to the enduring talent that lies within their ranks. They will be hurt by some national call-ups, but they still have serious pedigree to call upon.
The likes of JP Duminy and Rory Kleinveldt have played the world over, and they will again be central to most things that the men from the Cape try and do. Duminy has found a new lease of life in domestic cricket, and still has a heck of a lot to offer. Chuck in the likes of George Linde, the developing Aviwe Mgijima and Ferisco Adams, and the Cobras are no pushover.
On the other hand, the Dolphins are a team still smarting from their humiliating capitulation against the Titans.
Like the Cobras, they know that a good start is key to setting on a path to the semi-finals.
“Starting well is key, obviously,” skipper Khaya Zondo said.
“The results that we achieve now are going to set the tone for the new year. If we win these two games, then we take a lot of pressure off ourselves next year,” he said of the Cobras match, as well as the visit to the Highveld on Saturday.
Zondo, who publicly expressed the level of embarrassment he and his team suffered, expects his charges to roll up their sleeves and react today.
“Guys should be ready and want to start well - especially after our performance in the T20 final.”
As ever, there is a lot at stake when these two coastal foes lock horns. Even without a rash of national players, it should still be a fascinating battle.