Veterans Imran, Louw could hold the key
It might be a different competition, but the two teams that shared the Momentum One Day Cup title in 2012 will be at each others' throats when their Sunfoil Series match gets under way at Sahara Park Newlands on Thursday.
The Nashua Mobile Cape Cobras are hosting the bizhub Highveld Lions in what is turning out to be one of the most pivotal games of the season. The hosts have been impressive in this season's campaign with four wins from six matches and remain undefeated. The visitors, on the other hand, have a game in hand and have two wins from their five matches with two losses to boot.
A defeat for the Lions could effectively end their title hopes but a victory would put them within striking distance of the log leaders. The Cape side have a slender 5.2 point lead over the second-placed Chevrolet Warriors and cannot afford any slip-up.
"There have been a lot of victories in this season's competition, so anything can happen. We just have to control what we can and look to win our last four games," stated Paul Adams, head coach of the hosts, in an interview on Tuesday.
One man the visitors will be banking on to take them forward is the discarded Proteas leg-break bowler, Imran Tahir. The 33-year-old Pakistan-born player has regained his form of late with a surge of wickets that has catapulted him into third position on the wickets standings. A 12-wicket haul against the Sunfoil Dolphins in Durban last week proves that the former Proteas man means business.
"He's always been a good performer in domestic cricket and he's got his back up at the moment," Adams said of Imran Tahir.
"He also wants to prove a lot of things, it was a big game for him last week, picking up all those wickets, but we are mentally refreshed and getting back into things after our break," said Adams.
The Cobras have an ace up their sleeves of their own, in the evergreen form of Johann Louw. The 33-year-old opening bowler has spearheaded the hosts’ bowling attack this season with injuries to Charl Langeveldt and Justin Kemp, leaving the Cape side devoid of experience at times. But the right-arm medium-fast bowler has led by example, claiming 18 wickets in his last two outings.
"I think that's what experience brings within our squad. They understand what is required to be successful on certain wickets and what to do at certain stages of the game," Adams said of his experienced charges.
"Johann has been a real work horse for us, almost like Mr Reliable," Adams added.
In their previous encounter in Potchefstroom, it was the Cobras that triumphed by 10 wickets. A wonderful 194 from Andrew Puttick helped set up a huge first innings score of 543 all out. The Lions were then bundled out for 210 in their first innings, where Stephen Cook top scored with 52.
Were it not for a fantastic 194 from the 19-year-old Quinton de Kock in the second innings, the Lions would have lost by an innings. In the end, the Lions posted 339 all out in their follow-on innings, leaving the Cape side to score the seven runs for victory.