The Ram Slam T20 Challenge gets underway this Sunday with all six franchises in action. Newlands will host a doubleheader on Sunday with the Warriors taking on the Knights in the early start while the Cobras face off against the Lions later in the day. The other opening round fixture sees the Dolphins head to Willmore park to take on the Titans.The format of this season’s competition follows a similar format as last year with each team playing home and away. Whichever team finishes top of the log will advance to a home final while the second and third placed teams will compete in an eliminator with the winner advancing to the final.
To Win Outright
The defending champions will go into this tournament without Hashim Amla, JP Duminy, Vernon Philander, Dane Piedt, Dale Steyn, Stiaan van Zyl and Dane Vilas who are all with the Proteas in India. Even without the bulk of their first team squad, the Cobras still look like a side that could go all the way in this tournament.
Richard Levi and Andrew Puttick are probably the most devastating opening pair in the competition and can easily take the game away from the opposition if given the chance to settle. Kieron Pollard joins the Cape side again this season to bolster an already strong middle order comprising of Justin Ontong, Ompile Ramela and Sybrand Engelbrecht. If opposition bowling attacks do manage to plough their way through this glittering top and middle order, they’ll still have to deal with the likes of Robbie Peterson, Rory Kleinveldt and Wayne Parnell who are all capable of scoring a quick-fire 30 at the end of the innings.
The Cobras also boast a wealth of talent in the bowling department. Even with six of their bowlers away on international duty, Justin Ontong can still throw the ball to the likes of Robin Peterson, Rory Kleinveldt, Kieron Pollard and Wayne Parnell who all have experience at international level.
The Unlimited Titans
Although the Titans will be without AB de Villers, Faf du Plessis, Morne Morkel and Deal Elgar, the side from Pretoria still have more than enough firepower to win this competition at a canter.
The Titans will be bolstered by the return of Chris Morris, Fahaan Berhadien and Quinton de Kock who will all slot back into the side after arriving home from international duty. De Kock’s return will have fans licking their lips, the young wicketkeeper /opening batsman is in a rich vein of form having recently demolished a strong Indian bowling attack on the Sub-Continent. He will likely partner captain, Henry Davids at the top of the order. Heino Kuhn, Grant Mokoena and Graeme van Buuren make up a strong middle order while David Wiese, Chris Morris, Albie Morkel and Farhaan Behardien will provide the fireworks at the end of the innings.
Supplementing the batting line-up is a more than capable bowling attack. The Titans can call on the likes of Marchant de Lange, Albie Morkel, Chris Morris, David Wiese and Farhaan Berhadien who all have heaps of experience at international level.
While perhaps not on the level of the Cobras and the Titans in this format of the game, the Sunfoil Dolphins still boast a squad that is more than capable of going all the way in Ram Slam T20 Challenge. The men from KZN will be without Imran Tahir who is currently on Test duty with the South African national team.
In Morne van Wyk, Cameron Delport, Kevin Pietersen and David Miller; the Dolphins have one of the most belligerent top orders in world List A Cricket. They will be ably backed by a solid middle-order comprising of Ryan McLaren, Khaya Zondo, Cody Chetty and Robbie Frylinck who will add extra impetus in the middle and late overs.
A destructive batting line-up is capably accompanied by the miserly and aggressive bowling of Craig Alexander, Ryan McLaren Robbie Frylinck and Keshav Maharaj. If the Dolphins are to do well in this year’s tournament, however, they’ll need Kyle Abbott to be at his brilliant best. The Proteas quick is one of the best death bowlers in world T20 cricket and is capable of single-handedly winning matches for his side with the ball in hand.
bizhub Highveld Lions
The Lions will be looking to build on last season’s campaign where they were knocked out of the eliminator at home to the Knights. The men from Johannesburg will be without the services of Temba Bavuma and Kagiso Rabada who are both in India with the Proteas.
The Lions’ squad contains plenty of experience, however, I don’t really think they have the sort of players you need to mount a title challenge in this format of the game. While Stephen Cook and Alviro Peterson are excellent top-order batsmen in their own right, they’re not particularly suited to the T20 game. The team from the Highveld will be looking to Rassie van der Dussen to provide the impetus at the top of the order. The middle-order is solid enough with Niell McKenzie providing the bedrock upon which a solid innings can be built while Temba Bavuma can be explosive toward the end of the piece.
There’s a decent smattering of experience in the Lions’ bowling line-up with Lonwabo Tsotsobe, Hardus Viljoen, Dwaine Pretorious and Shaylen Pillay having all represented South Africa, South Africa A or the South African U19 teams. I’m not convinced they’re good enough to win this competition, though.
The Chevrolet Warriors head into the Ram Slam T20 Challenge looking for an improvement on last season which saw them finish in fifth place. The PE based franchise will only be without Simon Harmer who is with the Proteas in India.
If the Warriors have any chance of getting into the knockout phase of this competition, they’re going to need Jon-Jon Smuts to be at his brilliant best. The talismanic opener will need to be supported by the likes of Gihahn Cloete who is more than useful with the bat in this format of the game.
The Warriors may well struggle without their premier off-spinner, Simon Harmer. The men from Port Elizabeth will be relying on the likes of Basheeru-Deen Walters, Andrew Birch Sisanda Magala to keep opposition batsmen quiet.
The Knights come into this tournament as rank outsiders under new coach Nicky Boje. The former South African all-rounder takes over on an interim basis with the franchise set to make a permanent appointment in May 2016. Although they were the surprise package of last season’s competition, falling in the final the Cobras; don’t expect the same sort of fireworks this year.
The Knights have a strong enough batting line-up with Reeza Hendricks and Gerhardt Abrahams opening the batting with Rudi Second coming in at three. All three of them have bags of experience and are more than capable at this level, they simply don’t have the support needed to compete with the stronger franchises. The Knights will be sweating on the fitness of Rilee Rossouw who still hasn’t recovered from an injury he sustained whilst on international duty in New Zealand.
The bowling attack will be spearheaded by the evergreen Quinton Friend who will be supported by the likes of Dillon du Preez, Malusi Siboto and Werner Coetsee. While they may spring a surprise or two, I simply can’t see them reaching the heights of last season.