The Cape Cobras assured themselves a place in the final of the Ram Slam T20 Challenge with a comprehensive victory over the Warriors on Sunday. The final will also be held in Cape Town, meaning the winner of the semi-final between the Dolphins and the Titans will be forced to win away from home if they want to secure the title. In the case of the Titans, they will need to do this twice, travelling to Durban for the mid-week knockout fixture. With the Dolphins having already secured their semi-final spot, the Pretoria based side needed things to go their way on Sunday in order to progress. The needed the Cobras to win, and they needed to beat the Knights. They did so comprehensively in Kimberley and will be travelling to the coast full of confidence. An added bonus to making the final is entry into the T20 Champions League, a much wider stage for squads to display their talents.
The home side handed the basement-dwelling Lions their first victory of the competition on Sunday in an valiant but altogether paltry display. They had the Lions 82/3, but in the eight overs that remained failed to take a wicket. Forties from Neil McKenzie and Temba Bavuma lifted the Johannesburg side to 159. The Dolphins’ chase was littered with wickets from poor strokes, yet a rearguard flurry from Smit, Frylinck and Abbott saw them fall only eight runs short. Nevertheless, they will need to show the tenacity they have displayed throughout the competition in order to get any further. The truth is that the Dolphins make up a combatant unit, but rely heavily on the likes of David Miller and Vaughn van Jaarsveld in the middle-order. Their bowling attack lacks that something special, so relies on working as a unit. Good news for the Dolphins is that they have beaten the Titans twice in the tournament so far and won’t be losing any players to the South African Test squad. However, they have yet to play the Titans in Durban and the Dolphins have performed remarkably better on the road.
The Titans’ thrashing of the Knights by eight wickets was initially set up by their overseas star, spinner Saeed Ajmal. He’ll be excited to ply his trade at Kingsmead; it has taken a bit of turn already in this tournament, Sunil Narine finding success. Ajmal returned figures of 3/24 from his four overs, instrumental in reducing the Knights to 137/7. Runs from the Titans’ top three, consisting of Henry Davids, Heino Kuhn and Theunis de Bruyn, as well as a contribution from Graeme van Buuren, saw them over the line with fifteen balls to spare. The Titans will miss Proteas AB de Villiers and Morne Morkel, although they do have depth to cover these areas. Farhaan Behardien has been their top run scorer, averaging 38.00 in the tournament, while Albie Morkel still packs a punch at the death and has been in good form. In five matches, Ajmal has claimed fourteen wickets at an average of 7.57. Interestingly enough, he was the only Titans bowler to take a wicket in their encounter with the Dolphins in Pretoria.
The Dolphins have played four, won two and lost two at their home ground, the wicket gripping and taking turn in the latter stages of the game. Run-scoring has also been frequent, with scores anywhere in the region of 150-180 to be expected. With a 60% chance of evening thunderstorms however, it could also be a tight, frantic, shortened fixture.
BEST: Top Dolphins Batsman, Cody Chetty 4/1
The young Durbanite has really come into his own in this tournament, and looks in good knick. He top scored in a losing effort on Sunday against the Lions and two games previously scored a fifty against the Titans. 4/1 is a good price, get on.
VERDICT: Dolphins 17/20
It has been a charmed kind of competition for the Dolphins and although they come up against an arguably more talented side, I feel they have the team unity to pull off the win. If they are able to see off Ajmal with any kind of dignity I see no reason why they shouldn’t book themselves a place in the final.