Star-studded Free State Knights favourites to top T20 Knock Out Pool B
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The Free State Knights, featuring a host of players with international experience, go into this week’s Pool B round of fixtures in the CSA T20 Knock Out competition as clear favourites to top the group.
Adding to the advantage for the side coached by Allan Donald, is that they’re playing at home, at the Mangaung Oval, the largest playing surface in the country.
Donald, acknowledged that he’s had a difficult time finalising his squad, such is the depth of talent available to him. “We can’t be more prepared than we are right now,” he said. “It’s going to be very tough in terms of selection. I take my hat off to all the players that have worked so hard to get themselves into a position to challenge for a spot in the team.”
Five players have featured for South Africa in the past, with Farhaan Berhardien and Rilee Rossouw both having played for the Proteas at the 2015 World Cup. Skipper Pite van Biljon was recently in the national men’s T20 side, the big hitting Jacques Snyman was capped in Pakistan earlier this year, while Mangaliso Mosehle, who played in Durban last season, has played seven T20 Internationals.
And then there’s the young talent, like Raynard van Tonder, Gerald Coetzee, Wandile Makwetu and Migael Pretorius, the latter, was called up to the Proteas Test squad last summer.
The Knights will open the Pool with a match against the Northerns Titans on Tuesday morning. In recent seasons, the Titans have been the side that’s been able to call on a number of Proteas. That is less the case now, although they still have Proteas Test captain Dean Elgar, who will lead them in Bloemfontein and Aaron Phangiso, who remains one of the craftiest limited overs bowlers in the country, at their disposal.
The pair of Division Two sides who round out the Pool, don’t have quite the depth internationally experienced talent to call on, but both KwaZulu Natal Inland and Mpumalanga will have taken some confidence in seeing how South Western Districts, another Division Two side, managed to qualify out of Pool A played in Kimberley last weekend, knocking the Lions out of the competition, and beating Western Province along the way.
“We are massively aware that we’re heading into the competition with an underdog tag, and we’re more than happy to fly under the radar and hopefully surprise some teams. We won’t be holding anything back and will be looking to play a fearless brand of cricket,” said Gordon Matheson, Mpumalanga’s head coach.
His counterpart at KZN Inland, Michael Smith, does have Cameron Delport, who has played in T20 Leagues in Australia, Pakistan, the Caribbean and Bangladesh, to provide some experience. Michael Erlank, Keith Dudgeon and Kyle Nipper all have experience of playing in the now defunct franchise system to call on as well.
“Having a guy like Cameron in the team is great, as he adds so much on and off the field within our squad. We have a nice mix of some high-quality experienced players, and we have some seriously exciting young talent who hopefully will showcase what they've got and start making a name for themselves,” said Smith.
First Day Fixtures:
ITEC Knights vs Multiply Titans, 10am; Mpumalanga Rhinos vs HollywoodBets Tuskers, 2.30pm
ITEC Knights: Pite van Biljon (captain), Farhaan Behardien, Patrick Botha, Mbulelo Budaza, Gerald Coetzee, Matthew Kleinveldt, Dilivio Ridgaard, Gregory Mahlokwana, Wandile Makwetu, Mangaliso Mosehle, Alfred Mothoa, Migael Pretorius, Rilee Rossouw, Jacques Snyman, Nealan van Heerden and Raynard van Tonder.
Momentum Multiply Titans: Dean Elgar (captain), Corbin Bosch, Bonga Chepkonga, Dayyaan Galiem, Aya Gqamane, Okuhle Cele, Neil Brand, Jiveshen Pillay, Jan Hendrik Pretorius, Grant Mokoena, Aaron Phangiso, Gihahn Cloete, Sibonelo Makhanya, Donovan Ferreira and Jarred Jardine.
Mpumalanga Rhinos: Yassar Cook (captain), Jared Alder, Rubin Hermann, Jon Hinrichsen, Kyle Klesse, Alex Kok, Brian Koto, Akhulile Mkhatu, Kgaudise Molefe, Luvuyo Nkese, Liam Peters, Blake Schraader and Bamanye Xenxe.
KZN Inland: Michael Erlank, Cameron Delport, Tshepang Dithole, Keith Dudgeon, Kyle Nipper, Kurtlyn Mannikam, Andile Mogakane, Thula Ngcobo, Zac Paruk, Luke Schlemmer, Cameron Shekleton, Michael Sclanders, Nduduzo Mfoza, Mondli Khumalo, Gareth Dukes, Mathew Pollard.