DURBAN – The Dolphins have become accustomed to meeting the formidable Titans right at the start of each season. As it was for the past two summers, they start their four-day programme against the men from Pretoria next week with a trip to Centurion.
“We have got used to it and we actually use that fixture as the benchmark for our season,” coach Grant Morgan mused.
“The Titans as a franchise are the benchmark in South African cricket and we have met them at full-strength in times gone by, and given a good account of ourselves. We look forward to the start of this season and the boys are ready.”
Given the one-day internationals against Zimbabwe, both sides will be missing several players, but Morgan still anticipates a strong Titans team to take the field.
“They have great depth but if you take Aiden Markram, Heinrich Klaasen, Lungi Ngidi and Tabraiz Shamsi out of a side, it will be different. That said, they can still call on the likes of Dean Elgar, the returning Chris Morris, Shaun von Berg, Theunis de Bruyn... It will still be a good Titans side,” Morgan warned.
On his side, the national call-ups have also ravaged the squad.
Skipper Khaya Zondo, Imran Tahir and Andile Phehlukwayo are in the mix, while David Miller is no longer available for red-ball cricket.
The Dolphins will also have to wait on the outcome of Sarel Erwee’s disciplinary hearing after an incident in the Africa T20 Cup over the weekend. The left-hander is a vital cog at the top of the order and his absence would be a blow the Dolphins could do without.
With that in mind, Morgan pondered if it may be time to start blooding a few more youngsters and see if they are ready for the next level.
“Maybe that is the way to go for us because we have been hit hard, which is a good thing in itself because it means guys are performing in domestic cricket and earning a call-up.
“It is an opportunity, then, for someone else to stake a claim at the Dolphins.”
Although it was a disappointing Africa T20 Cup weekend for both the KZN Inland and KZN Coastal outfits, Morgan said he did see enough from some up-and-coming players, which bodes well for the future.
“It was a pity that neither side was able to advance, but there were some good performances from some youngsters we have our eye on. It is a long season ahead and we want to see more and more of them pushing for higher honours.”
Morgan added that his charges would have a two-day fixture starting yesterday, where they will look to iron out any lingering issues before the season proper starts next week. There have already been two days of hard graft since the Africa Cup disappointment and the focus now quickly shifts to long format cricket.
Durban has become rather hot and sticky and the two-day fixture will be sapping on those players looking to impress.
The Dolphins have a blend of youth and experience and will need both of those over the course of a long, demanding season.