JOHANNESBURG – Junior Dala’s not one for big celebrations. He gets a wicket, gives an ‘air punch', high-fives his teammates and then he’s off to the dressing-room.
He’s no Imran Tahir.
In fact, a clip emerged via Dala’s Titans teammate Tabraiz Shamsi’s twitter feed yesterday showing the team’s assistant coach Mandla Mashimbyi giving Dala a fairly firm congratulatory slap on the back of his head following his career-best limited overs return of 6/19 against the Cape Cobras in the semi-final of the Momentum One-Day Cup on Wednesday.
Most people would have collapsed, but Dala barely flinched and just carried on sipping his soft-drink.
As is the case for many of the Titans players, winning the semi-final was special, but it wasn’t their main goal. That comes on Sunday.
Dala’s been instrumental in the run to the final, turning around what has been a difficult, injury-ridden season.
“It was probably clear to everyone that at the start of the year I was bowling 130 (km/* ) and struggling,” said Dala. “But over the last five weeks, since I got over the back injury, it’s been much better. It’s about confidence, assessing the wicket and make sure what’s working right on the day.”
Dala played just two four-day matches in what was a bitterly disappointing defence of that title for the Titans. His back injury was the result of extended periods playing - even through the off-season - and not enough time to recuperate.
Titans coach Mark Boucher gave him time off to get fitter and stronger, a decision that has paid dividends. Dala is the leading wicket-taker in the One-Day Cup by some distance. His 26 wickets have come at an average of 15.69, putting him ahead of the next best Rory Kleinveldt by 11.
“Bouchie doesn’t want me pitching it up, bowling half volleys. We’ve got Dale (Steyn) and Boschy (Corbin Bosch) to swing the ball. I’m kind of the enforcer, that’s why I’m bowling outside the powerplay with the field spread. There’s no place for batters to hide, your best shots go to the fielders.”
Dala followed Boucher’s advice on Wednesday, making excellent use of a nasty bouncer to push the Cobras players back.
“There have been rumours circulating about how I’m bowling, teams are very aware of it, but at the end of the day you still have to face those short deliveries,” Dala said.
Although pitches haven’t always favoured that method of attack, it’s not one he is going to change.
“Bouchie has tried to help me along throughout the season. I’ve played on a lot of slow wickets and he’s told me that mentally I must never think a wicket is slow. I must run in and try to be destructive on any type of wicket.”
Just one match remains to turn what has been a difficult season into one the Titans and Dala can look back on with a smile.
“We don’t focus too much on the opposition. We try to play as close to the best cricket as we can. That’s all we can control,” he said.@shockerhess