Cape Cobras coach Ashwell Prince has refused to get carried away with his team’s results despite their flying start to the 4-Day Franchise Series, warning that the season is still in its infancy ahead of their meeting with the Dolphins at Newlands on Monday.
The hosts will enter the game top of the table having won three out of three matches so far. They are undoubtedly the form team in the country and have proved it with an outstanding victory over champions the Multiply Titans this past week.
‘We’re obviously happy with the start to the season having won the three games,’ Prince said. ‘But it’s still early in the season and there’s other teams also playing good cricket. If you look at the Lions they’ve got two from three, so it’s very much early doors and we take it one game at a time.’
The Cobras’ good start has put them on a strong 75.52 points thus far, a whole 21.54 points clear of the Lions (53.98) in second. The next best side, the Warriors, are more than 10 points further back on 42.54.
In contrast, the Dolphins are bottom of the table – winless after losing two out of their three matches.
However, Prince remains coy about their prospects at Newlands.
‘It’s very pleasing the way the guys have started and we’re expecting every game to be a tough test,’ said Prince. ‘I don’t think there’s any easy opposition, so we need to start again from scratch and we’re expecting a tough match with the Dolphins.’
The visitors will be kicking themselves after blowing a golden chance to gain that first win when they went down to the Warriors in Durban during round three. They were in a winning position needing 199 for victory at the start of the final day, before a massive collapse of eight for 32 led to a heavy 93-run loss.
It left coach Grant Morgan bitterly disappointed.
‘I was devasted in the sense that we started the season so well against the Titans, which in a way kind of built on last season,’ he said. ‘I think last year was disappointing, but we showed a lot of resilience and we were still in it going into the last game.
‘We lost just one game and the winning team lost one game, so we’d shown how we’d become a resilient team and then this loss to the Warriors on the back of another one to the Knights the previous match.
‘It’s massively disappointing and the first time in my tenure at the Dolphins where we seem to have gone backwards in a format. It’s a difficult pill to swallow and I take responsibility for it.”
Morgan hopes there will be a reaction come Monday, adding: ‘We have to try and be positive ahead of next week and for me the positives are how we dominated the last two games. We were on top of the Knights for probably 60 to 70 percent of the game and then against the Warriors was probably 85 percent. So we need to make sure we can capitalise on this.’
Nkwe wary of wounded Titans ahead of derby
Highveld Lions coach Enoch Nkwe is expecting a strong reaction from the wounded Titans when the two teams meet at Senwes Park in Potchefstroom from Monday. The defending champions are hurting after losing to the top-of-the-table Cape Cobras this past week and will arrive at the second home of their rivals desperate to make amends. Nkwe’s side, on the other hand, enjoyed another productive few days when they claimed a stunning win over the Knights in Johannesburg, meaning they will enter the contest in the North West on a high.
‘The Titans are very competitive, and we know the team and franchise they are,’ the Lions boss said. ‘They are the champions and will be hurting after losing at home. We need to make sure we still apply our fundamentals well and every opportunity that comes our way, we pounce on that.
‘Every game against the Titans is always huge. Just like any other sporting code between the two sides. This will be no different, there will be that little bit extra on the field from both sides and we look forward to it.’
The Lions produced a wonderful performance to beat the Knights by an innings and 22 runs in the last few days. It was a result that delighted the coach after they moved second on the table, but he was not too fussed about positions at this stage of the campaign.
‘Collectively as a team it was a very good performance,’ Nkwe added. ‘But there’s a lot to work on and several areas where we can improve.
‘I think as a coach a good start is something you always hope for, but you can’t plan for it. Now that it’s happened, we fortunate to have won two out of three. We’ll be trying to build on that when we start out again in the derby from Monday.
‘I must also point out that we’re not going to get ahead of ourselves. We need to ensure that we are just improving every week.’
Titans coach Mark Boucher, meanwhile, took full responsibility for their defeat in Centurion – a match in which they were bowled out for 122 in the first innings.
‘It wasn’t ideal in the first innings and to be honest with you, I got the conditions and probably the selection wrong. So, I’ll take it on the chin,’ said Boucher. ‘I’m very proud by the way in which the guys fought back. A lot of other teams would have probably just rolled over, but we hit back brilliantly.’
Boucher was also hopeful they would be able to turn the tables in Potch.
‘The Lions are also just coming off a win, so we’ll have to be at our best. I think for us it’s not about who we’re playing at the moment. It’s more about overcoming our own little battles within our space. The plans are all there and we now need to implement them effectively,’ added Boucher.
Warriors taking nothing for granted against Knights
Warriors coach Rivash Gobind was full of pride for his players this past week, but he knows they will have to do it all over again when they welcome the Knights to Port Elizabeth for their latest 4-Day Domestic Series encounter starting on Monday.
The Eastern Cape franchise produced an outstanding come-from-behind victory against the Dolphins, where they overturned a 160-run deficit to win by 93 runs in Durban. It was their first triumph of the season and now back at St George’s Park, they will entertain a wounded Knights side, who themselves were on the wrong end of an embarrassing innings loss to the Highveld Lions.
The Central Franchise lost seven for three in that game, one of the worst collapses ever witnessed in the competition’s history, but Gobind is not reading anything into it.
‘With Franchise cricket I always say that any given day, any given game, the teams are always close together and it’s what you produce day in and day out. So expect them to bounce back from that. We need to prepare very well and we need to take some lessons out of what we did here because there’s definitely some areas we can improve on,’ said Gobind, who is in his first full season in charge of the Warriors
‘We started the game OK, but then we collapsed from 120 odd for two to 175,’ he lamented. ‘After that we got together as a group, understanding very well that we needed to win pretty much every session from there. We went a long way to doing that, bar a few sessions, so it was an outstanding performance for the guys to come back, especially after being so far behind after the first innings.
‘This group of guys have a lot of personal pride and pride in the team. That shone through brightly over these last few days and I’m very pleased.’
Nicky Boje, meanwhile, was predictably downbeat after what happened in Johannesburg but felt it was part of the game.
‘Yes, it was a disappointing defeat, we made some mistakes throughout, but that’s also part of the game,’ said Boje. ‘What we need to do is to try and reflect on the game, learn from it, see what positives there were and try to implement them in the next game. There may not have been many cricket positives, but more mental stuff that we can look at,” he said, reflecting on their performance against the Lions.
‘I think we can implement some of those lessons in our game going into the next one. It will be a tough game against the Warriors, but every match at this level is challenging. We’re looking forward to bouncing back.’
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