DURBAN – Seconds out, round ten! The final week of the franchise season is upon us, and it brings the tantalising prospect of five teams still in with a chance of claiming the Sunfoil Series title.
While much of the national attention will be in Cape Town, for the thrilling third Test between South Africa and Australia, the future graduates to that Test side will be looking to put their hands up on a dramatic, final weekend in the race for the four-day title.
The Lions, after a terrible season, are the only side out of the running. But, the Joburgers have already had a say, as they prevented the Dolphins getting a full haul of points last weekend, which was a hammer blow to the men from Durban.
As it stands, they are now the outsiders for the title. They not only have to beat the Warriors, but they also have to bank on other results going their way. The very same Lions will again play a part, as they host the resurgent Cobras in Potchefstroom.
The Capetonians must surely fancy their chances of scooping the loot, as the Lions have seldom strung two performances together this campaign. On the back of last week’s rear-guard against the Dolphins, the Lions will do well to rouse themselves once more. They may also be without the all-round services of Wiaan Mulder, which is crucial in itself.
The Dolphins welcome the table-topping Warriors, and both sides know that a draw is probably going to be useless for both of them. Certainly for the Dolphins, in any event. The Warriors also have the Cobras breathing down their necks, as well as the Titans and the Knights not far behind.
The Warriors also have the eternal threat of bad weather in Durban, which can render any title hopes useless. They've already seen the elements reduce their Momentum One-Day Cup final into a damp squib, and it would be a shame if they and the Dolphins were thwarted at this late stage again.
“We know that going into this weekend there is still a mathematical chance for us to win the competition and we might have to play the game through the internet from day one,” Dolphins coach Grant Morgan said. “If we are batting first then we are going to have to see how the other games are going and once the dust is settled we will play another game in the second innings.”
It is an approach that will be adopted across the country, as each session is influenced by what is happening elsewhere. In Pretoria, the Titans and the Knights could produce the most entertainment. Both sides play with an intent that always takes the game forward, and they both know that only a win will do.
The Centurion track has had a chance to replenish itself after the subcontinental storm of January, but there should still be encouragement for Tabraiz Shamsi and Shaun von Berg, the pair of wrist-spinner who will look to throttle the Titans in their web.
David Miller has led the Bloemfontein outfit with the bat, but it is their bowling that will have to do the damage. Duanne Olivier was called up to the Proteas squad as cover for Kagiso Rabada, but he may well be released in time to have a big say with the new ball.
Either way, by the time Sunday rolls in, whoever emerges victorious in their match will give themselves a great chance for the title. The Sunfoil Series went to sleep in parts during the season, but it is wide awake now.
Warriors - 128.04
Cobras - 127.02
Knights - 124.32
Titans - 121.58
Dolphins - 114.44
Lions - 96.28
Final Round of fixtures (Mar 22-25)
Dolphins v Warriors, Durban; Highveld Lions v Cape Cobras, Potchefstroom; Titans v Knights, Centurion