DURBAN – Their first mini-break of the season has come at a terrible time for the Dolphins.
After being handed their first loss of the Four-Day Series campaign by the Knights, all they wanted to do was kick on and play again next week.
“We would have loved a run of games, but that is how the schedule has worked itself out,” coach Grant Morgan bemoaned.
Having come back from Kimberley a day early, Morgan and his men were at training yesterday, grinding away at the things that saw them come short against a determined Knights outfit.
“We could have taken the weekend off, but the guys are keen to rectify the things that held us back in the first two matches. We will be back in again (on Saturday), and then look to next week.”
While they acknowledged they were bested by a Knights team who were more ruthless than themselves, the Dolphins also hurt their own ambitions by shelling several chances.
Under Morgan, the Dolphins had developed a tenacious reputation on the field, but those standards have slipped of late.
“We are working harder than ever on our fielding. There was a period when we had gone over 20 chances taken, and that is where we need to be,” Morgan agreed.
This season’s four-day fare has a different feel to it, even just two rounds into the campaign.
There is a sense that, beyond the World Cup, there may be red-ball openings in the national set-ups, and players are sticking their hands up.
The Cobras and the Knights might not have been listed as favourites a few weeks ago, but their blend of exciting potential and hardened, committed veterans like Ryan McLaren and Dane Piedt makes both very dangerous.
The Dolphins, too, will look to their senior pros. Dane Vilas is back, and will never be found wanting in terms of ambition.
Robbie Frylinck will also return from national duty and lead an attack that has already shown their potential, even in his absence in Kimberley.
“We were two wickets away from beating the Titans. And we have created chances in both our games this season. So, we haven’t become a bad side after one loss,” Morgan reiterated.
The nature of the four-day season dictates that those teams who have staying power will have a bigger say, as the Titans proved last year.
Morgan has already had to juggle his squad to try and get the best out of them, and he remains content with the options he has to play with.
“We have pushed a few guys up a lot in batting, to try and maximise our order. In terms of bowling, we have seen our young guys like Mungroo and Cele grow into their roles, which is encouraging.
“Sen (Muthusamy) is bowling very well, and then we’ve got our national players.”
There is, then, plenty of playing stock. What Morgan will sit and ponder, especially ahead of the Dolphins’ first home game, is precisely what his best XI is.
Khaya Zondo and Frylinck will definitely slot back in, and then there will be hard choices to be made.
Result: VKB @KnightsCricket 139-5, (39 overs) @Hollywoodbets Dolphins lost by 5 wickets. A disappointing day in the field for our boys but we’ll back be fighting in our next match.
Special mention to @sen_muthusamy for picking up 8 wickets in the match. #KNIvDOL #4dayseries pic.twitter.com/l6p2eVHtGF
However, an assignment away to the Cobras looms large at the end of the month.
At that point, Morgan would want his troops at their best, and ready to make a statement to the rest of the competition.
Having learnt similar lessons in the past two seasons, they don’t want to leave too much work for the back-end of a long and demanding season.