CAPE TOWN - Cobras coach Ashwell Prince has left no stone unturned in his quest for maximum points against the Sunfoil Series log leaders, the Titans, with the recall of the former Proteas Test batsman Stiaan van Zyl for this weekend’s clash in Benoni.
Van Zyl, who has a Kolpak contract with Sussex in the England County Championship, has not been utilised at all this season by the Cobras as Prince has looked to give a couple of younger batsmen opportunities in the middle. However, due to Justin Ontong’s elevation to the Proteas support staff hastening his retirement from first-class cricket midway through this season, Prince has called on Van Zyl’s experience at No 4.
“This is a crucial game. If we lose, there will be daylight between the Titans (currently at the summit with 79.68 points) and the Cobras (on 64.14 points). We have done it before. This season we beat them in white-ball cricket. Last season, while they were cruising to the title we were victorious as well,” he said.
Prince highlighted the pivotal aspect of taking 20 wickets and has covered his bases by taking two specialist spin bowlers to Benoni for the match starting on Thursday. George Linde or Jason Smith might be used at No 7 to cover as second spinner or fourth seam bowler.
Prince said many people have bemoaned the fact that the pitches were too flat in the first half of the competition, but bowlers must find a way to take wickets, as is the case when they operate on the subcontinent.
It could be a case of bowling straighter, getting more close-in fielders in front of the wicket or just being consistent and building pressure. But those bowlers need the support of better catchers, as the Cobras have let the attack down in the field in the first half of the season.
“We dropped too many catches,” Prince said. Apart from more support in the field, bowlers must extend their abilities. They must also look at options like reverse swing. “Bowlers must grow and improve their skills,” he added.
The team, after a poor start against the Knights, have prospered with the bat and has struck totals in excess of 400 and 500, and this is the area in which they have improved markedly. “We want more of the same,” said Prince.
The Titans have been hard hit by call-ups to the national team, but they possess enormous depth, especially with the ball.
Van Zyl said he was hungry and eager for success after three months on the sideline.
“We must focus on not scoring attractive 20’s or 30’s, but to convert that into big hundreds. That will be my aim,” said the classy left-hander, who has struck 23 centuries in 152 first-class matches at an average of 43.42
Pieter Malan, with 446 runs, and Zubayr Hamza, with 303 runs, have both been prolific this season, while Aviwe Mgijima has notched up a century and a half-century in the first half of the competition.
Cape Cobras squad: Dane Piedt (Captain), Michael Cohen, Zubayr Hamza, Simon Khomari, George Linde, Pieter Malan, Aviwe Mgijima, Mthiwekhaya Nabe, Dane Paterson, Jason Smith, Stiaan van Zyl, Kyle Verreynne, Lizaad Williams
Titans squad: Dean Elgar (capt), Andrea Agathangelou, Corbin Bosch, Junior Dala, Henry Davids, Tony de Zorzi, Eldred Hawken, Heino Kuhn, Rivaldo Moonsamy, Alfred Mothoa, Migael Pretorius, Rowan Richards, Malusi Siboto, Shaun von Berg.