Cape Cobras coach Ashwell Prince says his players are relishing a return outdoors with their 4-Day Series opener at PPC Newlands against the Knights, starting on Monday.
As what has become the norm in the Western Cape, the cold and wet winter months mean little outdoor cricket, forcing most players and teams to do their prep work indoors.
Prince’s men were no different, but now they have the chance to get outside and everyone is looking forward to it.
‘It’s been a long winter, for us longer than most people because [we were] mostly indoors due to the weather patterns in the Cape,’ said Prince. ‘But now the boys are excited to get outdoors and start the season.’
The Cobras ended the four-day season in third place last year, with the Knights finished fourth. Both sides were among five teams contending for the title heading to the final round and Prince maintains the Knights will again pose as formidable opposition.
‘The Knights have some good players in their ranks and they’re always a competitive outfit, so that respect factor will be there for them. But we approach every game the same way, which is to respect the opposition. We also know what we’re capable of, though. We want to focus on executing our game more than theirs, so we look forward to that,’ added Prince.
New Cobras signings Tladi Bokako and Janneman Malan have been named in a strong squad for the opening game, with Prince confirming that every single one of his players is available.
The Knights suffered a major blow in the winter when captain Theunis de Bruyn left for the Titans, resulting in Pite van Biljon taking over the armband.
Their coach Nicky Boje is also optimistic about the season after an underwhelming past season, especially in the limited-overs formats.
‘I think in four-day cricket we were okay,’ he said. ‘We were in the mix until the last game where we also made a game of it to try and see if we could win the competition. I was happy with the four-day stuff.
‘But there are some new guys in, sort of a new younger more local squad, quite a lot of new things.’
Looking ahead to the clash in the Mother City, Boje believes that the side that settles quicker will enjoy the week better.
‘I think the first game is always tough because you worked on a lot of things during the off-season,’ he concluded. ‘It’s interesting to see how that pans out for both sides. I think whoever finds their feet quicker will enjoy the game more.’
Knights CEO Johan van Heerden is confident the selected team will kick off their campaign on a good note.
‘The guys are fitter than ever and our batsmen are in amazing form, with already six centuries scored during the pre-season warm-up matches. Our bowlers have also given us great spells to set a serious tone for this season.
‘This group of players is most probably the strongest and the best-balanced side that the Knights had for a long time,’ he added. ‘The team is motivated and ready for the challenge. We are looking forward to a fantastic season under the captaincy of Pite van Biljon,’ concluded Van Heerden.
The newly elected captain of the VKB Knights also shows confidence in his team. ‘I feel we have a strong team and we cover all the bases. We have a nice mix of youth and experience and I can’t wait to get out there with the boys,’ said Van Biljon. ‘I am happy with the team, we have been working hard and I look forward to see what we can do against a strong WSB Cape Cobras squad.’
|Cape Cobras squad||Knights squad|
|Dane Piedt (capt)
|Pite van Biljon (capt)
HEAD TO HEAD – Cape Cobras v Knights
Matches Played: 28
Cobras Wins: Six
Knights Wins: 10
(4-Day Franchise Series)
|WSB CAPE COBRAS||VKB KNIGHTS|
|Highest Score||573/8* (Bloemfontein 2009/10)||623/4* (Bloemfontein 2017/18)|
|Lowest Score||92 (Kimberley 2013/14)||129 (Kimberley 2008/09)|
|Highest Individual Score||189 HM Amla (Bloemfontein 2017/18)||203* RS Second (Oudtshoorn 2017/18)|
|Best bowling in an innings||7-43 RK Kleinveldt (Cape Town 2008/09)||8-38 R McLaren (Stellenbosch-US 2006/07)|