We take a closer look at the chances of the three inland franchises in build-up to the Momentum One Day Cup.
Following a thrilling end to the Sunfoil Series, South Africa’s six domestic franchises will now turn their attention to List A duty.
Below we’ll take a look at the three inland teams and how they’re likely to fare in the Momentum One Day Cup.
Multiply Titans 15/4
The gains gathered across a triumphant CSA T20 Challenge earlier the season see the Titans primed for a second limited-overs trophy this summer.
A refreshing, contemporary approach to the position of head coach has yielded the appointment of the influential Mark Boucher, while their bench strength isn’t often unhinged by the absence of several Proteas cricketers – Quinton de Kock, AB de Villiers, Faf du Plessis, etc.
Last year’s campaign saw a mere three victories in 10 attempts for the Titans, whose impressive marketing rhetoric fell flat – in the Momentum One Day Cup, particularly.
However, a complementary dualism has been struck – and should generate the biggest of the six home crowds. Centurion, indeed, can prove somewhat of a fortress for the brigade in blue.
Their innate ability to appropriately fast track future Proteas – Tabraiz Shamsi, Lungi Ngidi, etc – speaks volumes of their big-picture focus, but franchise workhorses like Rowan Richards and Shaun von Berg are not forgotten. The latter – with his wily leg-spin and penchant for quick runs down the order – make him something of a hometown hero when the national players are away.
bizhub Highveld Lions 3/1
While last year’s campaign was a peculiar one, in that they won just 50 percent of their matches to finish second on the log and enjoyed a lopsided final against the Cape Cobras, the Lions are well worth their status as reigning champions this year.
An accurate mix of young, epitomised by the massively talented Wihan Lubbe, and old, typified by Test opener Stephen Cook, justify the squad’s search for balance. But their prowess with the ball is, arguably, more rounded than their batting ranks.
Their bowling department, for better or worse, is well aligned for taking the pace off the ball. Any two of Lubbe, Eddie Leie, Bjorn Fortuin and Aaron Phangiso, in tandem, will prove a challenge to the opposition.
Dwaine Pretorius’ ability to eventually step out of Chris Morris’ shadow bodes well for Matt McGillivray, with Pretorius’ graduation to the South African squad providing young all-rounder McGillivray the opportunity to lead the Lions’ seamers.
With former Titans coach Rob Walters out of the picture and the performance of the Proteas’ Russell Domingo constantly under the microscope, Geoffrey Toyana will certainly be on show. A second consecutive Momentum One Day Cup title will do wonders for his push for higher honours.
VKB Knights 11/2
Buoyed by a title-winning campaign in the 2016-17 Sunfoil Series, opportunity knocks for the Knights to transfer their superb first-class form to the intermediate format.
The men from Bloemfontein lost more than they won in last season’s competition, but have come a long way under the sage tutelage of head coach Nicky Boje.
Other than David Miller, the Knights haven’t had to forsake anyone to South Africa’s tour of New Zealand for the opening throes of their 2017 List A season – and should relish the experience of Proteas peripherals Theunis de Bruyn and Duanne Olivier.
Batting-wise, Rudi Seconds’ numbers all but speak for themselves – and fans can look forward to his 47.86 career aggregate walking the talk out in the middle. In the bowling ranks, well, the wise old owl that is Dillon du Preez brings plenty of experience.
How much – or little – cricket they will squeeze out of Rilee Rossouw amidst his Pakistan Super League commitments and impending move to Hampshire, meanwhile, remains to be seen.
Verdict: Losing finalists
Unassuming and characteristically free of frills, the Knights are a quietly convincing unit – and an intriguing opening fixture against last year’s losing finalists, Cape Cobras, will set a balanced precedent for the remainder of their campaign.