MODC: Hollywoodbets Dolphins vs VKB Knights

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Thursday effectively brings a quarter-final, as the Hollywoodbets Dolphins look to secure their passage to either the final or the eliminator, while the VKB Knights will target a bonus-point triumph, but must rely on other results around the country going their way, too.

A straightforward victory, indeed, will send the Dolphins straight into this Sunday's qualifier while a bonus point win could see them clinch a home final if the Cobras can upset AB de Villiers and co in Pretoria.

The Knights, though, require victory, the additional point, the Cape Cobras to beat the Multiply Titans - and their weak net run-rate to increase substantially if they are to claim an unlikely home final. Realistically speaking though, the best the Free Staters can hope for is a home qualifier - something victory at Kingsmead will all but secure.

Hollywoodbets Dolphins vs VKB Knights | Thursday, 23 March | Kingsmead | 14:00 

To Win Match
Dolphins 7/10 | Tie 35/1 | Knights 23/20

Hollywoodbets Dolphins
Pretty dominant throughout the group stage of the competition, the Dolphins were recently defeated when it counted most - and were consequently unseated from the top of the standings. While there is no real shame in losing to the impressive Titans, the result failed to afford them the leeway they would otherwise have been able to exercise in this fixture.

Instead, they've got plenty of responsibility to shoulder at their home ground on Thursday, when coach Grant Morgan expects all the talent at his disposal to gel well as a unit: "It's a privilege to be in our position and to be under pressure at this late stage in the tournament. We have experience, talent and form – all the right ingredients to take us all the way."

Boasting the 2017 competition's third-highest run-scorer in the hard-hitting Vaughn van Jaarsveld and joint-leading wicket-taker in seamer Robbie Frylinck, the hosts are formidably resourced elsewhere, too. This cohesion will have to be showcased, entirely, if opposition brimming with confidence after Tuesday's win over the bizhub Highveld Lions are to be overcome.

Exposed by spinner Shaun van Borg and the late swing of Junior Dala against the Titans, dramatic improvement in the batting ranks is key. The return of the globetrotting Cameron Delport will help - and opportunity again knocks for the young Sibonelo Makhanya to genuinely justify his selection. The Dolphins' bowling, otherwise, is settled enough - with ongoing faith in the occasionally erratic Rabian Engelbrecht warranted.

Win a Bakkie Banner Nissan NP 200

VKB Knights
The men from Bloemfontein might yet rue not stringing together a couple more wins during the opening throes of the competition, as their late surge will prove vain if undone by the Dolphins on Thursday. Acutely aware of the need for one final push for a berth in the qualifier, coach Nicky Boje wants to his troops capitalise on the impetus.

"We are always confident. We have picked up a bit of momentum going into the last third of the competition. The main thing has been our focus on each and every game. Hopefully we'll do the same on Thursday - and worry about what happens after that when the game is done," said Boje, who rightly reminded his team to focus on controlling the controllables.

Preparing to win a match with a bonus point is not a simple matter. The incentive is usually incidental - now it's imperative. To that end, the Knights will hope to bowl first at Kingsmead. Regardless of the hefty or modest size of the target, they must reach it as quickly as circumstances allow. They could, for instance, approach a sub-200 pursuit in Twenty20 fashion.

March's twin centurion David Miller will be vital to this - and he will be able to lean on the experienced Rudi Second, former Cobras batsman Keegan Petersen and captain Pite van Biljon, in particular. Fast bowler Duanne Olivier, meanwhile, has been released from the Proteas Test squad - and might be back from New Zealand in time to boost the Knights' attack.



Verdict: Dolphins: 7/10
The teams last met at the start of this month, when the Knights fell prey to the Dolphins' spinners, who accounted for eight of the 10 wickets. Conditions will be different this time, but the result - if not from the slow bowlers, then the seamers - the same.

Value bet: Most match sixes, tie: 6/1
We're backing van Jaarsveld and company and Miller and cronies to strike the same amount of sixes, but fours and sharp running between the wickets to ultimately tip the scales.

Written by Jonhenry Wilson for @Hollywoodbets.net

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