The other side of the T20 Knock Out quarter-final draw presents an intriguing battle of wit.
The Free State Knights will be up against Western Province in a fascinating quarter-final at the Kimberley Oval on Tuesday (2:30pm), while the Boland Rocks will take on the North West Dragons on Wednesday (2:30pm).
The winners of those games will go head to head in the second semi-final on Thursday ahead of potential trophy celebrations in Friday’s final.
The Knights, coached by South African cricket great Alan Donald, were in fine fettle in Pool B, recording two wins, and a rained-out game against Mpumalanga, to take top spot ahead of the Titans. The experienced, exciting pair of Farhaan Behardien and Rilee Rossouw starred with the bat for Free State, as the latter smashed two half-centuries and scored 140 runs in his two innings.
“We are obviously very happy with our first-round performances. Two wins and a rainout, the guys played really good cricket,” said Knights captain Pite van Biljon.
“We started quite slowly in the pre-season with our buildup against Namibia, but we got it right in the last couple of games against them and that carried over into this competition – so hopefully we can carry our form and our confidence into the knockout rounds.”
Similarly, their quarter-final opponents Western Province head into the contest with vigour in their step after they overcame a must-win game in Pool A to qualify. With the form of players such as Zubayr Hamza, who raised his bat for the tournament’s first hundred, and the involvement of left-armer Wayne Parnell, it is an exciting time at the union under the domestic cricket restructure.
“We take pride in getting through to the playoffs. In our last game against the Northern Cape Heat we had to win within a certain time frame and overs, and we managed to do that which was very pleasing,” said Parnell.
“Now it is a fresh start, every game is a one-off game and it’s just about trying to stay in the moment. It’s massively important to put a marker down to try and win every competition that we play in.
“This one especially, being the restart of the Western Province Union, will mean a lot to the players and to everyone back home in Cape Town if we can get over the line.”
Meanwhile, the Rocks were one of only two sides (along with the Dolphins) to finish with a 100% record in the pool action as they swept aside all before them, including the EP Warriors, Eastern Cape Iinyathi and Limpopo Impalas.
Although Clyde Fortuin’s magical century against his former Warriors team grabbed the headlines, it was the side’s bowlers, including Ziyaad Abrahams’ six wickets, that contributed heavily according to captain Pieter Malan.
“We were quite happy with our performances in the first round, especially from the bowlers, they really put their hands up and carried the team through,” he said.
“As a batting unit, there’s still a bit we want to improve on but as a unit, we were pretty happy, especially as it’s the first time playing together as a group, we are quite satisfied with how it went.
“In terms of batting conditions, there are definitely shorter boundaries here [in Kimberley] than it would have been the case in Bloem and the ball does travel at altitude, we are aware of that. But again, with the bowling attack we have, we are quite confident that we can restrict teams to manageable scores.”
The Rocks won’t have it all their own way when they go toe to toe with the Dragons under the captaincy of veteran wicketkeeper-batter Nicky van den Bergh, with impressive youngsters in the squad and an all-action Senuran Muthusamy racking up consistent performances.
North West overpowered a tough Eastern Storm outfit in Pool C to seal their spot in the knockout round and as a Division 1 side under the new system, with a point to prove.
“Success in this tournament will be massive for us, especially as one of the non-franchise teams from the last system who came up to the first division,” Van den Bergh said.
“It is still a learning curve for a lot of the players, a lot of the youngsters who are having their first year in full professional cricket, so to taste a bit of success in this tournament already is great for the guys.
“The way that the guys have pulled together, they have rallied around with senior players still being injured, showing real character and showing there is depth, not just in the North West but in South Africa, and I am really excited to see what this team has to offer.”
All seven knockout matches will take place in front of a vaccinated crowd (maximum of 2,000) and be broadcast live on SuperSport.
Tuesday, 19 October
SWD vs Northerns Titans (10am)
Free State Knights vs Western Province (2:30pm)
Wednesday, 20 October
KZN Dolphins vs EP Warriors (10am)
Boland Rocks vs North West Dragons (2:30pm)
Thursday, 21 October
Winner QF 1 vs Winner QF 3 (10am)
Winner QF 2 vs Winner QF 4 (2:30pm)
Friday, 22 October