CAPE TOWN – “I love it when a plan comes together.”
Cape Cobras captain Dane Piedt is probably too young to remember the catch-phrase from the hit 80’s TV series The A Team, but he would certainly have felt like the team’s cigar-chomping leader, Colonel John “Hannibal” Smith, after the Cobras opened their Sunfoil Series account in Pietermaritzburg this weekend with an eight-wicket thumping of the Dolphins.
It has been a long time coming for the Cobras, with Piedt especially pleased for the young players in his team, particularly centurion Zubayr Hamza who guided the visitors’ home with a superb undefeated 109.
“It means a helluva lot,” Piedt told Independent Media. “There are a lot of youngsters in this team who haven’t tasted victory in the Sunfoil Series yet. And that’s quite hard, especially on us seniors who came through a culture of winning the first-class competition at the Cobras.
“So really happy for them, especially someone like ‘Zubi’. He has played 11 games without winning a game, so it is a good feeling and hopefully the taste of victory will spur us in the right direction.”
The Cobras certainly now have it all to play for with just two rounds remaining of the season. The victory catapulted them into second position - less than a full point behind the table-topping Warriors - and within a real chance of collecting the final silverware on offer this season.
Although Piedt doesn’t want to look too far ahead, he knows what a monumental achievement it would be for his squad to go on and finish the season on a high note.
The Western Cape team have regularly fielded one of the youngest teams in the competition and only recently added some experience in the form of left-handed batsmen Stiaan van Zyl and Andrew Puttick. And although Van Zyl, in particular, has contributed heavily over the past three games, Piedt still believes it’s a credit to the rookies and their development that the Cobras are within striking distance at this late stage of the season.
“Everything has been set up beautifully. It is nice feeling to have thrown a spanner in the works. But we obviously need to focus on our own game and focus on what we need to do. We have a blueprint to win four-day games now and we need to stick to it.
“The youngsters have contributed tremendously to where we find ourselves. A guy like Zubi it just shows what can happen when a youngster is given quality of opportunity. We don’t hide him down at No 6. He is given the responsibility of batting at No 3 in our batting line-up and the way he has kicked on has been tremendous. That was his second hundred for the season and he continues to play spin well.”
It is not only the young batsmen that have repaid the trust of the Cobras management. Having struggled to take all 20 wickets previously this season, the team management and selectors placed their faith in 21-year-old leg-spinner Junaid Dawood this past weekend.
It was high-risk selection due to the Cobras’ tail being lengthened, but Dawood came up trumps when it mattered. The former Rondebosch Boys’ High prodigy - he played in same school First XI with Hamza and fellow Cobras all-rounder Dayyaan Galiem - bagged 3/74 in the Dolphins’ second innings to set up the run chase.
“(Coach Ashwell Prince) Ash and I have been speaking about getting the leggie in the side to help take those 20 wickets. So, we placed our faith in the batsmen to put up a decent total which we did. There wasn’t a lot of spin on offer, hardly any footmarks to bowl into, but he then came around the wicket and importantly showed good control which we are all very pleased about,” Pied explained.