CAPE TOWN - After a heavy duty net session, coupled with an intense fielding practise out in the middle, the Cape Cobras gathered around to catch their breath under the shade at Newlands.
Besides a few new youthful faces, and the addition of a couple of superstars like Hashim Amla and Temba Bavuma, it was basically a gathering of the Cape Cobras “old boys” club that reached the inaugural Champions League T20 semi-final in India back in 2009.
The core of the side that lost to Trinidad & Tobago have not been seen together for some time.
However, this motley crew of cricketers that includes JP Duminy, Rory Kleinveldt, Justin Ontong and Vernon Philander - Richard Levi would have played that fateful night in Hyderabad, but for an injury on the eve of departure for India - are all back for the Cobras in Sunday's T20 Challenge opener against the Dolphins at Centurion (12pm start).
Suddenly this competition has a greater significance for it may be the last time this group plays together as they are fast approaching the sunset of their professional careers. This fact is certainly not lost on 32-year-old Philander.
“It is great to be back wearing the Baggy Blue. Being back with the boys, guys you have grown up with, and watched how their careers developed over time," Philander said.
“So, it is exciting to play for the Blues again and hopefully over the next six weeks we can do something special together."
Philander will be central to the Cobras' objectives, due to his all-round abilities. His skills with the new ball is highly regarded - albeit more with the red ball in hand - but Philander still possesses the ability to wield the willow with great effect, especially at the backend of the innings.
It was an area the Cobras were found wanting last season especially after Wayne Parnell was moved up the order to partner Levi, but with Philander back in the line-up things are looking promising again.
“I certainly can contribute with bat and ball, which gives the team options, because we can either play the extra batsman, bowler or all-rounder,” Philander explained.
“I have enjoyed my batting over the last 18 months. I have invested a lot of time into it. White-ball cricket is there to express yourself and hopefully I can bring my part.”
Although Philander’s major personal assignments are still to come with India and Australia set to visit these shores in the new year for the much-anticipated Test series, the seam bowler does have unfinished business in the shorter formats and hopes to set a few things straight in this season’s T20 Challenge.
“Sometimes when you go off the white-ball scene for a little while, it is almost as if they label you as a one-format player. But white-ball cricket was always a part of my game that I enjoyed,” he said.