The Sunfoil Series resumes on 5 January with the Titans looking to keep up the momentum against the Knights. On the other hand, there is much to do for the beleaguered Cobras…
Knights vs Titans
The Knights (55.2 points) will look to leave their horrendous T20 campaign behind them, which saw them at the bottom of the standings with only three wins and seven defeats. Instead, they will aim to refocus on the tournament where they sit second on the log, hot on the heels of the Titans in first place (59.74 points). Head coach Nicky Boje will be delighted that his captain, Theunis de Bruyn, was released by the Proteas to participate in the clash starting on Thursday. The Knights star sits third on the scorers’ list with 423 runs at an average of 64.09. Duane Olivier has been dominant too, taking 28 scalps as he sits comfortably on the top of the standings. Keegan Petersen is a new edition after he left the Cobras to join the Bloem side.
The Titans (59.74), who retained their T20 Challenge trophy, will hope they can keep their winning momentum. Their last three victories were largely due to their young emerging talent, Aiden Markram. The 22-year-old is the highest ranked Titans batsman in the competition, and has scored two centuries and a fifty in his last three matches. With the help from experienced campaigners Heinrich Klaasen, Heino Kuhn and bowlers, Malusi Siboto and Shaun von Berg, Mark Boucher’s side will look to prevent the Knights from catching up by claiming a victory against them in Bloemfontein. They are expected to have Chris Morris back after a lengthy injury and Tabraiz Shamsi could also feature after his Test debut during South Africa’s successful tour to Australia recently.
Dolphins vs Warriors
The Dolphins (54.58) occupy fifth position, despite the inspiring form of Khaya Zonda and Robbie Frylinck. Both players sit second on their respective standings. Zonda has 494 runs (one century and four fifties) and Frylinck has 22 wickets. The Dolphins will have to fight their way back up the table without their star spinner Keshav Maharaj, who lit up the stage earlier this season by taking 13 wickets and scoring 126 runs (including one 50) in two matches for his franchise. The spinner is currently playing for the Proteas in the Test series against Sri Lanka. Andile Phehlukwayo, Daryn Smit and Brandon Scullard are all fit again and in contention, but the Dolphins are still missing Daryn Dupavillon, amongst others, through injury.
The Warriors (54.8 points), came close to claiming the T20 Challenge and this was largely due to their captain JJ Smuts who ended top of the pile with the only century of the tournament, picking up nine wickets along the way. The big hitter never had chance in the Sunfoil Series, in fact his last first-class match was for Gauteng in the Sunfoil Three-Day Cup in October. In the longer format, it’s Colin Ackermann who has been the Warriors’ talisman, topping standings, one run short of 500 this campaign. Simon Harmer will take up the captaincy.
Cobras vs Lions
The Cobras (26.86), in light of their season of turmoil which saw them lose three and draw two Sunfoil Series matches, will look to to turn their year around after Paul Adams stepped down as coach on 1 January after facing some issues with senior players in the side. Ashwell Prince, assisted by former Proteas batsman Faiek Davids, will take up the role of interim coach and has already made a bold move, making Dane Piedt captain after he returned from his T2o challenge loan to the Titans. Wayne Parnell has also been released from the SA squad to play in this match and along with their wonderkid, Jason Smith, the Cobras will hope they help resuscitate their Sunfoil Series campaign. They are entering uncharted territory, though, playing the first franchise game ever at the Recreation Ground in Oudtshoorn.
The Lions (50.14) are a well-balanced side full of young potential. Dwaine Pretorius, 27, has impressed and lies fourth on the scorers’ list with four fifties in three matches, but has not yet starred with ball only taking eight wickets. Lions have not suffered in the wickets department this season and this is largely due to their in-form speedster Hardus Viljoen. Although he sealed off his chance of representing the Proteas again by signing a Kolpak deal with Derbyshire, the 27-year-old has excelled for his franchise ending top of the pile in the CSA T20 challenge with 19 and will look to continue his good form in this Series by adding to his 22 scalps thus far. Wiaan Mulder, the 18-year-old SA schools captain, has been a revelation and adds some youthful exuberance to Geoffrey Toyana’s side.