DURBAN - After a long and frustrating fortnight, the Dolphins head into the final weekend of the Ram Slam T20 Challenge with a simple goal - well, two actually.
The first is to get back on the field. The second one is to finish a game on home soil, on Sunday against the Titans. But, that is in the laps of the weather gods, which means the Durbanites have to revert back to the simple matter of beating the Knights on Friday night.
If they do that, they push the side from Bloemfontein deeper down the table, and give themselves every chance of sneaking into the semi-finals. The Dolphins currently sit on 14 points, which is the same number as the Lions, and two more than the Knights. Below their opponents on Friday night are the Warriors, who currently have ten points.
In the upper reaches of the table, the Cobras’ resurgence in the second half of the competition sees them now in second, while the freight train that is the Titans has already garnered 32 points, and are in the final four.
Every franchise coach in the land insists that the Titans are not untouchable, but they have shown to be just that on the field, finding an answer to every question asked of them by their would-be rivals. Perhaps they will turn into something else when the matches become must-wins instead of should-wins.
But, that will reveal itself when the semi-finals come around. The scramble for the final three places has been frenetic, frantic even, and only the Cobras have risen to the occasion and put themselves in a terrific position.
The Lions have been sporadic, a team of stars who have not really shone at once. The Knights have relied too much on David Miller, while the Warriors are paying for a slow start. And yet, somehow, all of them still have a mathematical chance of making it to the knockout stages, where anything can happen.
The Dolphins, with five washouts out of eight matches - and two, last-ball defeats to go with their opening round victory over the Cobras - need time out in the middle. That much has been apparent in the little cricket they have played in the RAM SLAM Challenge.
For the fifth time in eight matches in this year’s RAM SLAM T20 competition, the @Hollywoodbets Dolphins were denied by bad weather, as their match against the @HighveldLions was called off without a ball being bowled. Full article: https://t.co/nOMCD0aLMv pic.twitter.com/NcGBy1WTRy
The batsmen have lacked fluency, while the bowlers have sprayed the ball around at crucial times. Practices have been hampered by bad weather and they have got to the point of looking forward to being on the road.
That said, they did have an incredible 12-hour delay at an airport recently, so they can sincerely say that it surely pours when it rains. All these things, the weather, the delays, the lack of sharpness and certainty, the bad luck and the frustration are mitigating factors, but they are also in the rear-view mirror for Grant Morgan’s men.
Somehow, over the next three days, they have to win at least one of two cricket matches, to keep their heads above water. They have to find the form of that game against the Cobras at Centurion, when they looked - and played - like the first day of spring.
That seems forever ago now, and it remains their only win in the entire competition. That is crazy in itself, but they will still be a factor in this competition if they can play their best cricket now, as Robbie Frylinck has urged this week.
More than anything, though, they just want to play. In the history of the competition, no side has played so little, and still stayed in the hunt for so long. The Dolphins know that the door is still ajar, and they must now force their way in. But, more than anything, they need to remember how to win again.