Kevin Pietersen, Kieron Pollard and Andre Russell are the overseas drawcards in this year’s Ram Slam T20 Challenge. It may lack the overseas influx of last year, but that will not diminish the intensity, especially with the World T20 looming in March.
The Dolphins have had their fair share of disappointment over the years when it comes to marquee signings, so their hearts must have skipped a beat when they saw Pietersen’s plaintive tweet:
— Kevin Pietersen (@KP24) October 26, 2015
Fortunately, it was just a blip in the system, and within 24 hours the star attraction was back on track. Even if it is just for five games. Heaven knows, the Ram Slam needs all the help it can get. West Indian Pollard is back with the Cobras, which should give the Cape franchise a cutting edge in defending their title. He was the standout performer with bat and ball among the Calypso contingent last year. He is joined by Andre Russell (Knights) and Dwayne Bravo will take over from KP.
The Titans, Highveld Lions and Warriors, for the time being it seems, will have to make do with their home-grown produce. Not that that is a bad thing, but the Ram Slam needs some impetus. The Caribbean League, the English T20 Blast and Australia’s Big Bash are all sold on ‘star names’, which leaves the Ram Slam out in the wilderness. But that is the reality of South Africa. The rand will not support the import of big names.
So it’s up to the likes of Farhaan Behardien, Quinton de Kock, Kyle Abbott, Chris Morris and David Miller – all fresh from the uplifting limited-overs wins against India – Richard Levi, the leading run scorer last year with 392, and Morne van Wyk, Albie Morkel, Khaya Zondo and Wayne Parnell – all capable of playing with international class and flair.
Looking at that list, the spotlight swings towards the Titans, where De Kock continues his revival from a lean few months around the World Cup. He smashed his way back into the limelight and has been rewarded with a place in the Top 10 ODI world rankings. Titans coach Rob Walter has confirmed that he will open the innings. Behardien bolsters the middle order and Morris the tail, to make an interestingly effective unit.
The series kicks off with a double-header at Newlands with the Warriors against the Knights. Keep a close eye on the Knights this season, who have undergone a face-lift in the past couple of days. Sarel Cilliers has parted ways with the Free State franchise, with Nicky Boje coming in. Furthermore, they have brought in Allan Donald as a consultant. Along with Andre Russell, the explosive Titans batsman Theunis de Bruyn has been snapped up on loan.
The Cobras begin their campaign against the Lions, while Pietersen makes his Dolphins debut in Benoni, against the Titans. If that doesn’t inspire the Highveld folk to make the trip, nothing will.
1 Nov, Cape Town: Warriors vs Knights (12:00); Cobras vs Lions (16:00)
1 Nov, Centurion: Titans vs Dolphins (14:30)