MODC: Warriors vs VKB Knights Preview

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The Warriors and the VKB Knights go head to head in what should be an cracking clash in Port Elizabeth. 

A win for the Warriors will put them right up there with the log-leading Dolphins, while triumph for the Knights will see them jump into the top half of the standings.

Indeed, there is plenty to play for, as the tournament nears its business end, with last weekend's centurions - Jon-Jon Smuts and David Miller - ready to further ignite the intrigue.

Warriors vs VKB Knights  | Friday 17 March 2017 | St George's Park | 14:00 

To Win Match
Warriors 8/10 | Tie 35/1 | Knights 1/1

Warriors
Without a title sponsor and minus any particularly big names, the Warriors have surprised a few doubters this season en route to second position on the table. Inspired leadership and batting from Smuts - and solid support from former skipper Colin Ingram - has gone a long way in boosting the Eastern Cape unit to this season's promising heights.

Smuts was truly outstanding against the Cape Cobras recently, smashing an initially measured - and belatedly cavalier - century at Newlands. His 173 broke several records, including the third largest score in the history of List A cricket in South Africa. Cricket can be a cruel leveller, though, and Smuts needs to balance Sunday's amazement with an adequate follow-up innings.

The Knights attack will be a challenging one, spearheaded by the in-form Marchant de Lange, who is eager to weigh in on the home front before heading abroad on a Kolpak deal. But if de Lange can't find complementary spells from the bulk of the bowling department, a lone battle will be too much for the former Proteas pace ace to fight. Plenty of onus on fellow seamer Shadley van Schalkwyk and spinner Aubrey Swanepoel, then.

Be it at Buffalo Park in East London or St George's Park in Port Elizabeth, the Warriors are pretty good at making home ground advantage genuinely work for them. Workhorse new-ball bowler Andrew Birch is key to this. His variations - out-swingers, in-duckers, cutters and other slower balls - make for a difficult prospect in familiar surroundings for him.

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VKB Knights
The visitors will do well to remember the Warriors spinners' fruitful impact the last time the teams met in late February, when slow-bowling trio Smuts, Ingram and Simon Harmer shared eight wickets. Their middle-order, in particular, was flummoxed. Captained Pite van Biljon offered standalone resistance that Saturday in Kimberley - and might be the man for the occasion this time. Hopefully others, too.

The return of Miller to the ranks brought instant success against the Titans last weekend. The big-hitting left-hander struck an impressive century, but the Knights have an over-reliance on their Proteas star - and van Biljon, who managed 90 against the Titans - to avoid. If the Warriors do their homework correctly, they'll notice the weakness on the flanks of this duo - and duly exploit.

It will, indeed, be (K)night time come Friday in Port Elizabeth. Batting under lights, at most grounds, is a challenge - but St George's Park tends to be particularly tough. The toss will be an important one - and will sway even the most stubborn captain to bat first in evidently spin-friendly conditions.

The Knights won the Sunfoil Series competition this year. They're running out of time and results to transfer their four-day form into the limited-overs arena, though. While the closing throes of the Momentum One Day Cup are still a while away, considering they have a game in hand over three of the other five teams, now is the key juncture to set themselves on course for another title.

Verdict: Warriors, 8/10
The Warriors have a momentum about them that the Knights just don't - and, naturally, there is good old home ground advantage at play. Depending on the outcome of the Dolphins' clash against the Titans, we may well see a new table topper by the middle of next week.

Written by Jonhenry Wilson for @Hollywoodbets.net

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