The T20 Knock Out moves into the knockout stage with South Western Districts taking on the Northerns Titans in the first quarter-final in Kimberley on Tuesday (10am).
The winners of that game will have to wait until Wednesday’s third quarter-final clash between the KZN Dolphins and EP Warriors (10am) to determine their semi-final opponents.
SWD have enjoyed a fairytale tournament so far, outsmarting Pool A teams on their way to a first-place finish during which Herschell America nabbed seven wickets to become the top wicket-taker in the competition.
Under the captaincy of Jean du Plessis, they claimed outstanding victories over hosts Northern Cape Heat and Western Province to become the last Division 2 team standing.
Du Plessis wants to harness the same team spirit that got SWD through the pool stage, specifically the energy in the field and the performances with the ball that followed.
“The things we will be looking forward to taking into Tuesday’s game would be the consistency in which our bowling attack executed their plans and also the enjoyment and lighthearted energy our players brought to the field,” said the former SA U19 batter.
“It was noticeable that our players really enjoyed themselves out there. They enjoyed showcasing their skills, playing for one another and playing for South Western Districts. We look forward to continuing playing a positive brand of cricket and having fun out there with our fellow teammates,” he added.
Meanwhile, their more experienced and trophy-laden opponents believe they are trending upwards in their performance from their pool-stage displays, with seasoned campaigners Simon Harmer, Junior Dala and Theunis de Bruyn in the squad under the leadership of stand-in skipper Aaron Phangiso.
“We were a side that was just getting better and better as the games were going along. We were a side that was quite far away from our best game of cricket,” said Titans all-rounder Corbin Bosch when assessing their performances in Pool A.
“That is also an exciting thing about going out into knockout cricket, where we have to hit the ground running. There is no time to settle yourself in. We are definitely going to bring the best we’ve got for this knockout section and all the guys are really excited.”
The third quarter-final offers a classic matchup between an explosive batting side in the Warriors and an in-form bowling attack of the Dolphins.
The Eastern Province side – under the tutelage of former Proteas spinner Robin Peterson and captain Sinethemba Qeshile – scored a total of 637 runs in three innings, with opening batter Matthew Breetzke topping the run-scoring charts with 190 runs at a strike rate of 163.79.
Qeshile believes their distinct style of play will continue to be successful under the batting-friendly conditions in Kimberley and they won’t alter their gameplan going into the playoffs.
“We don’t need to look at the conditions too much. The brand of cricket we want to play is quite attacking, so there’s nothing that we need to change,” said the wicketkeeper-batter.
“Whether it’s a good pitch or a bad pitch, you need to find a way of getting those high runs and we chose a positive, fearless and free brand of cricket, hence the high scores we’ve got consistently.”
The Warriors batters will be put to the test by the potent Dolphins bowling lineup that includes Ottneil Baartman, who recorded the tournament’s best figures of 4-20, as well as all-rounder Bryce Parsons, the tournament’s most economical bowler (4.41 runs per over in 12 overs).
“The pool stage was really successful,” said Marques Ackerman, who will lead the Dolphins in the absence of injured captain Prenelan Subrayen. “We lacked a bit in certain areas still and there’s a lot to improve on going into the quarter-finals but we’ve got some exciting guys coming into the squad, which is a real positive for us, with our bowling attack being red-hot.
“Fans being back in the stadium is the best news we’ve heard in a long time for cricket in South Africa. The guys are really excited about that. It just brings a little bit of a different vibe to the performance and some guys really strive off that energy that the fans bring.”
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