JOHANNESBURG – Because it’s a cricket match involving the KwaZulu-Natal Dolphins, the first thing to do is check the weather – and on that score there will be relief all round, because the forecast for Centurion today is clear.
The RamSlam final will be a full game of T20 cricket, which is something the Dolphins have missed out on half the time in the league phase of the tournament.
Their players, some with their shirts off, hooted and hollered their way through training yesterday, basking in the Gauteng sunshine.
The very serious business of the final is an occasion they will relish said skipper Khaya Zondo.
In fact beyond the final itself, it’s the opposition they wanted too. “The team wanted this final, we wanted to play against the Titans, we didn’t want any other team,” Zondo remarked.
The Titans – hunting a third consecutive T20 Challenge title – have dominated the competition with a host of superstars who have, with the exception of Quinton de Kock, all been in excellent form.
However, Zondo explained that the Dolphins wouldn’t be intimidated. “We’ve also got experience,” said the captain.
“We’ve got seven or eight internationals. In our meeting (yesterday) we added up all the years in terms of our careers and we ended up at about 116 years (worth of experience).
“The knowledge is there in the change-room. I’m not star-struck or fussed about their team, it’s about us executing our skills; if we play well, we win the game.”
In Morné van Wyk, Imran Tahir, Dane Vilas and Vaughn van Jaarsveld, Zondo has an experienced core he can rely on, who also won’t be intimidated by the occasion.
His two front-line all-rounders, Rob Frylinck and Andile Phehlukwayo, could be key contributors.
Phehlukwayo’s form in the competition has been poor, though – he’s scored just 19 runs in four innings and was even demoted below Keshav Maharaj in the order in the Dolphins’ last league game against the Titans – while with the ball he’s picked up just five wickets and conceded runs at a rate of nine an over.
The Titans too are carrying a national player who’s struggled for form in the RamSlam, and their captain Albie Morkel is hoping that De Kock’s fortunes will change in today’s final.
“He’s the type of guy, who isn’t bothered about it... other guys might be down in the dumps, he’s still Quinny as we know him,” said Morkel.
De Kock has scored just 79 runs in seven innings in the tournament – an average of 11.28 – and his top score of 39 came in the Titans’ opening match against the Lions six weeks ago.
“He’s training like a guy who’s in serious form. When he bats in the nets, you can see he’s striking the ball well.
“It’s just a case of the ball rolling for him (today). He’ll hit one in the air into a gap, or a nick will go through the slips for four and he can go on to get a big score,” said Morkel.
It will be crucial that it does go well for De Kock, because the Titans will be without a key component of their side in Henry Davids, who damaged his meniscus during warm-ups moments before the semi-final against the Warriors on Wednesday.
Davids has been replaced by 21-year-old Rivaldo Moonsamy, who’s played just one match in this season’s RamSlam.
“It’s not ideal, but it can be the best launchpad for his career,” Morkel said of Moonsamy.
“I said to him he mustn’t see this as the only opportunity he gets to play for the Titans; this is a great stepping stone for him, we are not expecting anything from him.
“He’s a tough little man, and likes tough situations. I think a game like this suits his personality. The occasion won’t be too big for him, he’s a little fighter, a little gangster – and I mean that in a nice way.”
Even for Morkel who’s played in some high pressure matches at international level and in the Indian Premier League, the occasion of the RamSlam final at home still excites.
“We enjoy good crowds (at SuperSport Park) and this is our third final in a row, and if we can win, that’s a little bit of history that we’ll create. I’ve got a feeling it will be a close game, it should be a good spectacle.”
Play starts today at 6pm.
RamSlam Final Squads
Titans: Quinton de Kock, Aiden Markram, Rivaldo Moonsamy, AB de Villiers, Farhaan Behardien, Albie Morkel (captain), Chris Morris, Malusi Siboto, Tabraiz Shamsi, Junior Dala, Lungi Ngidi, Heinrich Klaasen, Shaun von Berg, David Wiese.
Dolphins: Sarel Erwee, Morné van Wyk, Khaya Zondo (captain), Sibonelo Makhanya, Andile Phehlukwayo, Rob Frylinck, Keshav Maharaj, Prenelan Subrayen, Athi Maposa, Imran Tahir, Mthokozisi Shezi, Dane Vilas, Vaughn van Jaarsveld.
TV: SuperSport 2, 5.30pm.