The RamSlam competition has just reached the halfway stage. So, who is hot and who is not? Cricket writers Stuart Hess, Zaahier Adams and Lungani Zama provide an update on the progress of the six franchises...
Highveld Lions (Stuart Hess)
Where are they at: Officially the most difficult team to read, such is the erratic nature of their play. They have the tournament’s leading run-scorer and top wicket-taker, yet they are fifth on the standings, having won two and lost three.
The batting – besides Reeza Hendricks – has been inconsistent, with the middle order struggling to make any kind of impression. The bowling remains strong, although there are increasing concerns over the form of Beuran Hendricks and Dwaine Pretorius.
The second half of the campaign could go any way, and a playoff spot remains a distinct possibility.
Top performer: Reeza Hendricks has surged passed 300 runs after five matches, and is the competition’s dominant batsman. He has been patient and clinical in compiling his innings, and his strike rate of 137.50 is indicative of how he has not been handcuffed trying to make up for the struggles of his batting teammates.
Out of touch: “Mr Reliable” for the Lions in the last few seasons, this summer Pretorius has struggled with both bat and more worryingly the ball. His economy rate of 11 suggests he has lost control of line and length, and it’s the latter which has hurt him most.
He has tried variations of pace to upset opposing batsmen, but when the fundamentals aren’t working, it’s not going to change by employing the fancy stuff.
Titans (Stuart Hess)
Where are they at: Absolutely cruising, dominating the tournament perhaps even more than many had felt was likely. Coach Mark Boucher has managed the plethora of talent at his disposal well, giving players opportunities, while the team’s standards have not dropped. They still believe they have a few more gears that can be engaged.
Chris Morris will return at some point in the second half of the competition, though where he will fit in remains a mystery.
Perhaps the only concern is if an injury befalls one of their three Black African players, as their depth in that regard seems shallow.
Top performer: Aiden Markram has scored runs and taken wickets. He has displayed solid defence – yes, it’s still possible to do that in T20 – but when he does dig into his shot-making repertoire, those are delivered with power and panache.
Out of touch: Quinton de Kock still hasn’t fired with the bat yet, and was in fact dropped from the squad for the rained-out match against the Dolphins last Friday.
He may just be bored, but it is a concern ahead of a heavy international schedule for the Proteas if bad habits start creeping into his game. His keeping has not been as tidy as expected either.
Cape Cobras (Zaahier Adams)
Where are they at: It seemed to be going horribly pear-shaped after three consecutive defeats in the Cobras’ first three games. Senior players were not performing and young players were not stepping up. There was talk of a “crisis” after the blow-out at SuperSport Park against the Titans.
But what a difference a week, a return to home conditions and a shake-up within the senior ranks can make. Suddenly the Cobras are on a winning streak after picking up victories at Boland Park and Newlands.
With another home game to follow on Wednesday against the Warriors, the Cobras seem to have rediscovered their mojo at just the right time.
Top performer: Captain JP Duminy has led from the front with 217 runs, with both his half-centuries playing important roles in the Cobras’ last two victories.
He has not been at his explosive best, often due to having to start a consolidating process, but he has been “Mr Dependable” in a team that needs someone they can rely on.
Out of touch: The Cobras have struggled to post commanding totals due to Richard Levi’s lack of form. The powerhouse opener has routinely got the Cobras off to rollicking starts in previous T20 Challenge campaigns, but has been surprisingly quiet this season.
Eighteen runs in four matches, coupled with a finger injury, could see Levi not being utilised any further this season.
Warriors (Zaahier Adams)
Where are they at: It has been a struggle for last season’s runners-up, with the Eastern Cape team finally getting off the mark against the Lions on Sunday.
It was always going to be a tough act to follow up last season’s success with all the Proteas available to other teams, and that lack of extra quality in their playing department has shown.
Instead of relying on all their Kolpak players, an overseas professional should have been a priority. It is hard to see the Warriors giving their coach Malibongwe Maketa a parting gift before he joins the Proteas at the end of the T20 Challenge, with the team currently bottom of the standings.
Top performer: The lack of runs has been the Warriors’ main problem, but Christiaan Jonker has battled away. He needs greater support from the likes of Colin Ingram and Colin Ackermann.
Out of touch: Jon-Jon Smuts has been particularly poor for the Warriors. Last season’s leading run-scorer in the T20 Challenge, Smuts has looked a shadow of the player who earned a few T20 caps for the Proteas this past season.
Smuts’ highest score thus far is only 23, and he needs to get out of the starting blocks if the Warriors are to get off the basement any time soon.
Knights (Lungani Zama)
Where they are at: They have won two games, so it is an improvement on last season’s disastrous campaign. But despite their wins over the Warriors, the men from Bloemfontein have struggled to really get a foothold in the competition.
Their batting relies almost exclusively on David Miller and Theunis de Bruyn, and their attack has not nearly been as penetrative as they would have liked. They need a late charge, but it is hard to see where it will come from.
Top performer: Miller came into the tournament in terrific nick, and started with a brutal assault of the Warriors in the first game of the competition. He has continued to make decent, if not telling contributions in the middle-order.
He certainly looks a different character when he has the equally destructive De Bruyn at the other end. The Knights need their Proteas’ talisman to go even harder in the next fortnight, because his power is their best chance of somehow making the playoffs.
Out of touch: The pace attack includes the likes of Marchant de Lange, Ryan McLaren and Shadley van Schalkwyk, but they have really struggled to make an impression upfront.
That failure to strike with the new ball has put their spinners under huge pressure, which they have been unable to recover from. The new ball needs to start striking for the Knights, and they also need to close out an innings better. If they can’t find better control upfront, they will be goners.
Dolphins (Lungani Zama)
Where they are at: Desperately frustrated, and quite rightly so. The men from Durban must be the unluckiest side in South Africa, because they seem to have a rain cloud following them wherever they go.
They started things off in majestic fashion, blowing the Cobras out of the water and seemingly setting off on a path towards the playoffs.
Three rain-outs and a last-gasp defeat to the Lions is all the action they have seen since then, and it has been nigh on impossible for them to get any continuity going, as Durban has been a puddle for the past fortnight.
Top performer: Sarel Erwee’s century at the start of the competition is the stand-out knock for them thus far, given that they have only completed two innings.
The left-hander has given them a new dimension at the top of the order, and will be eager to build on that in the second half of the league phase.
He and Morné van Wyk seem to have a good understanding of their roles, and Erwee has managed to mix old-fashioned cricket strokes with dollops of innovation.
Out of touch: The bowling unit, and you cannot really blame them. They have barely had a full spell, as even the opening match against the Cobras was reduced by the elements.
Robbie Frylinck almost pulled a rabbit out of the hat against the Lions, but the lack of action has hurt the Dolphins. Their bowlers need to play and be put under pressure if they are to go deep in the competition.