It is the scale of the transformation that continues to amaze. Three months ago the Cape Cobras seemed to be in disarray. They were on a three-match losing streak, which culminated in a dismal RamSlam T20 defeat to the Titans at SuperSport Park which appeared to be the death knell.
Even the television commentators were writing off the Cobras, with the fiercest detractors predicting the wooden spoon for the Western Cape team. Many believed it would take time to heal both the team and the public’s disenchantment.
And yet here we are, heading towards the climax of the Momentum One-Day Cup, with the Cobras ominously close to pole position. It was a revival that started in the RamSlam T20 with only the weather eventually denying the Cobras the opportunity to fight for a place in the final.
This allowed the Titans – who have only been defeated by Ashwell Prince’s side this season – to steamroll the Dolphins in the T20 final, but now the Cobras are once again hot on the Centurion side’s heels.
Only two bonus points separate the Titans and Cobras at the summit of the One-Day Cup table and the final week of action is certainly going to keep everyone checking the ladder after each game.
The Cobras have demonstrated that they are indeed on an upward curve, and are certainly crawling their way back into the hearts of their devoted fan base. The atmosphere at Boland Park during the comfortable victory over the Highveld Lions on Friday evening was so joyous that it was almost impossible to believe this was a team that everyone had shunned at the start of the season.
A major feature of the Cobras’ success has been the emergence of new heroes. While veterans such as captain JP Duminy and opening bowler Rory Kleinveldt have led the way through performance and experience, the way the new blood have embraced the Cobras culture has been exciting.
Pieter Malan is certainly a case in point. After almost a decade of piling on the runs in the semi-pro ranks for both Northerns and later Western Province without moaning about his lack opportunity at a higher franchise level, the former South Africa U-19 prodigy has grabbed his chance with both hands when it finally came his way this year.
It would have been a big decision for Prince at the beginning of the season to exclude long-serving opening batsman Andrew Puttick in all formats to accommodate Malan in the Cobras team, but the 28-year-old has repaid his coach’s faith in abundance.
Malan is the fourth leading run-scorer in the Sunfoil Series this season with 446 runs, including a highest score of 195. He has gone even one better in the One-Day Cup with the right-hander topping the scoring charts with 489 runs already.
The eldest of the cricket-playing Malan brothers – the other two brothers play for North West – will certainly be looking to add to his tally when the Cobras face bottom-of-the-log Knights in Bloemfontein on Sunday.
The Knights have been dismal in this One-Day Cup and are basically hoping for a swift conclusion to the tournament. This situation could free up the hosts to play with greater freedom, but the scars of the last Wednesday’s thrashing by the Cobras at Newlands when Duminy blasted Eddie Leie for a record 37 runs in an over should still be fresh though.
The Cobras should not be satisfied with anything less than a bonus-point victory from their visit to the City of Roses.