Dolphins coach Grant Morgan is expecting a level playing field ahead of their T20 Challenge opener against the Warriors in Durban on Sunday.
After five rounds of four-day cricket since the start of October, the 2016-17 domestic season shifts to 20-over mode.
The signs after the opening few weeks of action all seem to back Morgan’s expectations – the top five teams have all won two matches in the Sunfoil Series, with only the Cape Cobras yet to win a game.
‘No one can afford to function ten percent under their best because then they’ll get a hiding,’ Morgan said.
‘It really is that close between the franchises.’
Their opening opponents from the Eastern Cape have also looked much better as a unit this season and have impressed many so far this term, the Dolphins coach included.
‘They’ve got guys like Colin Ackermann who has done well, captain JJ Smuts who has played in the CPL (Caribbean Premier League), Colin Ingram is a world-class player, Simon Harmer and Andrew Birch will give them experience and then they’ve also got some improving youngsters like Sisanda Magala,’ Morgan explained.
‘We respect the Warriors, but we don’t have to stand back and I believe that if we fire at 100 per cent and they fire at 100 per cent, then we can give a very good account of ourselves.’
With English superstar Kevin Pietersen only scheduled to link up with the Dolphins for the second half of the campaign, Morgan was confident that others like Standard Bank Proteas duo Imran Tahir and Andile Phehlukwayo as well as Morne van Wyk, Cameron Delport and Robbie Frylinck will shine.
‘If I look at our side, we’ve got some guys who really know their game and have been dominant in the Twenty20 format,’ he added.
‘Looking at Delport, Tahir, Van Wyk, Frylinck, Phehlukwayo, you hope those guys can reach their maximum potential.’
Opposite number Malibongwe Maketa inherits many players that won the Africa T20 Cup playing for Eastern Province, amongst them skipper Smuts. And he felt that will be a real vantage point for the Warriors.
‘It’s a while ago now, but you can’t ignore that win,’ Maketa said.
‘The confidence they gained from that will definitely help us.
‘There’s quite a few players with us that were in that squad and the fact that we have the same captain works out well for us.
‘We also won our last game in the Sunfoil Series, so there’s a lot of confidence oozing in from there, which adds to the excitement and the fresh energy that is injected into the squad.’
Star batsman Ingram is returning from injury and faces a late fitness test, with the coach saying:
‘Colin Ingram is making his way back and he’s a big marquee player for us. We’re thrilled that he’s back for us.’
Dolphins squad: Craig Alexander, Cody Chetty, Cameron Delport, Rabian Engelbrecht, Robbie Frylinck, Kyle Nipper, Morne van Wyk (c), Andile Phehlukwayo, Prenelan Subrayen, Mthokozisi Shezi, Imran Tahir, Vaughn van Jaarsveld, Khaya Zondo.
Warriors squad: Colin Ackermann, Andrew Birch, Clyde Fortuin, Aya Gqamane, Simon Harmer, Colin Ingram, Christiaan Jonker, Jon-Jon Smuts (c), Sisanda Magala, Lesiba Ngoepe, Solomzi Nqweni, Somila Seyibokwe, Basheer Walters.
Photo: Muzi Ntombela/BackpagePix