The Ram Slam T20 Challenge makes a welcome return this weekend with all six franchises set to play their first games on Sunday afternoon. The event, which is always well supported by fans around the country, is testament to the growing popularity of T20 cricket across South Africa.
Chevrolet Warriors 13/20
VKB Knights 5/4
The first match of the afternoon sees two of the smaller franchises in the competition go head to head. Both teams will be desperate to get off to a good start here before having to lock horns with the likes of the Titans, Cobras and Dolphins.
The Free State Franchise will be sweating on the fitness of star batsman, Rilee Rossouw, who is yet to fully recover from a stress fracture he sustained against New Zealand earlier this year. If he’s not fit in time for Sunday, the Knights will be banking on a solid innings from their big-hitting opener, Gerhardt Abrahams, who will need to be supported by the likes of Reeza Hendricks and Andre Russel lower down the order. The Knights currently sit at the foot of the Momentum One Day Cup standings and will be looking to spring a surprise or two in this competition.
The Warriors come into this game without their premier off-spinner, Simon Harmer, who is on international duty with the Proteas’ Test squad. Having finished sixth in last season’s edition of the competition, the Port Elizabeth franchise will be looking for a better showing over the next two months. They got off to an excellent start in the Momentum One Day Cup and currently sit in second position behind the Cape Cobras. The men from PE will be looking to build on their solid start to the limited overs domestic season by kicking their campaign off with a win against the Knights.
Verdict: Knights 5/4
There really isn’t much to choose between these two sides. The teams will be playing at a neutral venue, and given the fact that the Knights have already defeated the Warriors this season the Momentum One Day Cup coupled with the return of Andre Russell, they’re good value to get the job done this weekend at 5/4.
The Unlimited Titans 8/10
Sunfoil Dolphins 1/1
The second game to get underway this Sunday will see the Dolphins travel to Pretoria to take on the Titans in the biggest fixture of the first round.
The Titans will be looking to put last season’s disastrous Ram Slam T20 Challenge campaign behind them. The 2014/15 edition saw the Pretoria giants finish rock bottom of the standings after winning just two of their 11 games. The men in blue will be able to call on the likes of Chris Morris, Fahaan Berhadien and Quinton de Kock who have all just returned from a successful limited-overs tour of India. Opposition teams won’t enjoy looking down the order of a batting line-up that includes Albie Morkel, David Wiese, Quinton de Kock and Farhaan Berhadien. The Pretoria-based franchise’s bowling attack also looks strong with Marchant de Lange, Chris Morris, Farhaan Berhadien and Albie Morkel all available for Sunday's clash. Expect them to come out firing this weekend.
The Dolphins will be thrilled to have secured the services of Kevin Pietersen for the first five games of this season’s Ram Slam campaign. The Englishman will complete a top order which includes the likes of Morne van Wyk, Cameron Delport and David Miller. It is this top order that is key to the Dolphins’ chances of doing well in this tournament, if these guys fire, the KZN franchise may well go on to lift the trophy in December. The Dolphins also have one of the stronger bowling attacks in the competition and can toss the ball to Kyle Abbott, Craig Alexander, Robbie Frylinck and Keshav Maharaj. Being one of the best death bowlers in world cricket, Abbott will need to be at his brilliant best to keep the Titans quiet on Sunday afternoon.
Verdict: Dolphins 1/1
Although both teams possess immensely strong batting line-ups, the Dolphins’ top order simply can’t be ignored. The spectators at SuperSport Park Centurion had best bring their hardhats down to the ground with them if the Dolphins’ top four get going. Go with the KZN franchise to get the business done away from home at 1/1.
Nashua Cape Cobras 13/20
bizhub Highveld Lions 5/4
The final match to get underway this Sunday will see the bizhub Highveld Lions travel to PPC Newlands to take on defending champions, the Nashua Mobile Cape Cobras.
The Cobras head into this game looking like the side to beat in this season’s Ram Slam T20 Challenge. The Cape franchise have managed to secure the services of big-hitting West Indian, Kieron Pollard, who will no doubt set this competition alight with his ability to effortlessly clear the boundary rope. Coming in at the top of the order is probably the competition’s strongest opening pair, Richard Levi and Andrew Puttick. If these two lay a decent platform, the Cobras’ middle and lower order have the ability to absolutely demolish fielding teams toward the end of an innings. Captain, Justin Ontong, can also toss the ball to the likes of Wayne Parnell, Rory Kleinveldt, Kieron Pollard and Robbie Peterson who are all have bags of experience bowling at international level.
The Lions will come into this game off the back of a strong showing in the first half of their Momentum One Day Cup campaign. They currently sit in third position on the table and will look to carry their good form into the Ram Slam T20 Challenge. Key to the Johannesburg franchise’s chances of going all the way is the form of Alviro Petersen. He comes into the competition with three centuries in as many games in the Momentum One Day Cup. The towering top order batsman will need to be supported by the likes of Neil McKenzie, Stephen Cook and Rassie van der Dussen who are all more than capable with the bat. The Lions don’t have the strongest bowling line-up in the competition and may struggle to keep a lid on the Cobras’ attacking batsmen if the likes of Eddie Leie don't get it right with the ball on Sunday.
Verdict: Cobras 13/20
There’s good reason for the Cobras heading into this competition as joint favourites. Their top and middle order coupled with an incredibly strong bowling line-up should see them win in front of their home crowd on Sunday. Back them at 13/20
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