Johannesburg – The One-Day Cup defending champions, the Cape Cobras, have it all to play for when they take on the Highveld Lions in the final of the tournament at the Wanderers Stadium on Friday.
With their title on the line and having won six matches on the trot, many might think there is extra pressure on the Cape side to bring home the cup.
The Cobras lost three matches early on in the competition but, since then, the team has come together and pulled off some spectacular performances and, for skipper Justin Ontong, it is those kind of team efforts, which hold the key to their success.
“I don't think there is that much extra pressure on us. We didn't start off very well in the competition, but we got much better as the competition went on,” Ontong said.
“We gelled nicely and it was always a good team effort. Of course there have been some outstanding performances from individuals, but it's always been the team that has come together to get us over the line.”
The Lions have been equally resolute throughout their campaign, having lost just two matches.
Ontong knows his charges will need one more slog to get over the line and bring the trophy back to Cape Town.
“These last few games have taken a lot out of us mentally, but we know we need that one final push in the final. It definitely won't be easy against the Lions, but we have time to put in the hard work to get us ready for that final clash,” the skipper said.
The Cape Cobras have been bolstered by the return of some of the star Proteas players with Dale Steyn, Robin Peterson, Rory Kleinveldt, Vernon Philander and Graeme Smith all back in contention.
Philander was not selected for the eliminator and Smith missed out through injury, but Steyn was outstanding upon his return, taking five wickets against the Titans on Sunday.
“It's fantastic to have the Proteas guys back in the side and Steyn was outstanding on Sunday,” said Ontong.
“These senior players bring a completely different energy to the side and it's great for the younger guys and the domestic guys to feed off that energy and that experience.”
Ontong was appointed captain at the start of the season, taking over from Justin Kemp, when Paul Adams took over as coach.
The 32-year-old has a wealth of experience, having made his first-class debut in 1998 and says the challenges of captaincy have been lessened thanks to the way the team has performed.
“The job is much easier when you are winning,” Ontong said.
“I think we have such a good blend of senior guys and younger guys and the way they have come together as a team, the way we spoke the same language, that's what has been our strength and what has helped us in this competition.” – Sapa