Lions look to down Co­bras

Kings of the jun­gle take on Prince’s men as four-day cricket re­sumes

The Star Early Edition - - SPORT - STU­ART HESS

IN A sea­son that’s fea­tured win­ter Tests, a tour to Aus­tralia and a do­mes­tic T20 com­pe­ti­tion sans a spon­sor, you’d be for­given if you’d al­ready for­got­ten about the four-day Sun­foil Se­ries which re­sumes to­day and sees the sleepy Klein Ka­roo town of Oudt­shoorn host­ing a match.

But for all the wise­cracks about crowds be­ing made up of ‘one man and his dog’ – or should that be os­trich in Oudt­shoorn’s case – the Sun­foil Se­ries re­mains the bedrock upon which the Pro­teas are built and in that re­gard is a vi­tal part of the cricket sched­ule. This sea­son’s com­pe­ti­tion just so hap­pens to be shap­ing up as one of the most com­pet­i­tive tour­na­ments of re­cent sea­sons with the top five teams sep­a­rated by less than 10 points.

It’s only the hap­less Cape Co­bras who are win­less but they have prob­a­bly had the most in­ter­est­ing mini break of all the fran­chises fol­low­ing a change in coach. The board of Western Cape Cricket fi­nally came to their senses and re­al­is­ing it’s im­pos­si­ble for play­ers to work with a coach they don’t want shifted Paul Adams to a High Per­for­mance po­si­tion, al­though how a failed coach can now be placed in a po­si­tion to man­age coaches is some­thing the WCC failed to ex­plain.

Ash­well Prince will guide the Co­bras for the re­main­der of the sea­son. It is un­der­stood to be a pop­u­lar choice among the play­ers and his in­put, given his re­cent in­ter­na­tional ex­pe­ri­ence, will be most wel­come in a dress­ing-room that’s been di­vided over the coach­ing is­sue which the WCC al­lowed to get so out of con­trol that it ended up with CCMA.

Prince will garner the nec­es­sary re­spect from the dress­ing-room sim­ply by virtue of his fine record as a Test player. A dis­ci­plined pro­fes­sional, his first task will be to pro­vide some sort of sta­bil­ity to a side that’s won just three matches out of 15 across two com­pe­ti­tions so far this sea­son.

Per­haps play­ing in Oudt­shoorn is the right kind of en­vi­ron­ment as well for the play­ers, where the only dis­trac­tion will be count­ing os­triches.

It is an un­usual venue for a first class match but Cricket SA and the WCC de­serve some credit for tak­ing a match to small-town venues where it will be treated like a main event.

Cer­tainly in the case of the Co­bras’ op­po­nents, the Highveld Lions, thoughts have turned to host­ing a Sun­foil match in Soweto at some stage next sea­son, a step up from the an­nual eKasi Chal­lenge against the Ti­tans.

Be­sides spread­ing the game though, the match it­self is an im­por­tant one for both sides. The Co­bras are seek­ing to es­tab­lish them­selves this sea­son, per­haps with an eye on mak­ing a proper chal­lenge in the Mo­men­tum Cup that starts in just over five weeks, while the Lions have to keep the pres­sure on the ta­ble-top­ping Ti­tans.

It’s been an un­usual sea­son for ev­ery­one given there’s been no do­mes­tic cricket since the T20 Chal­lenge Fi­nal on De­cem­ber 16 and the play­ers have all en­joyed a break over the fes­tive sea­son. No doubt they’ve all been hard at work try­ing to get back into rhythm, but they can cer­tainly be for­given some rusti­ness in this round of matches.

Which adds to the in­trigue, be­cause it’s dif­fi­cult to mea­sure just how the break will have af­fected all the teams. The Ti­tans would cer­tainly have been able to prop­erly cel­e­brate Mark Boucher’s first tro­phy as a coach, but the re­turn of the Sun­foil Se­ries also sees dif­fer­ent play­ers re­turn to the mix for the de­fend­ing cham­pi­ons.

What­ever mo­men­tum was gar­nered when the first half of the tour­na­ment was com­pleted at the start of Novem­ber is now gone, and it’s a bit like start­ing over again for all the teams.

Per­haps the match of the round sees the Ti­tans face the Knights in Bloem­fontein.

The first meet­ing be­tween the pair saw the Knights stage a re­mark­able turn­around thanks to two for­mer Ti­tans play­ers; The­u­nis de Bruyn and Marchant de Lange, to claim vic­tory at Cen­tu­rion.

At Kingsmead the com­pe­ti­tion’s two lead­ing run-scor­ers will go up against each other when the Dol­phins, with Khaya Zondo – cur­rently with an ag­gre­gate of 494 runs, face a War­riors team con­tain­ing Colin Ack­er­mann – 499 runs. FAC­ING A FA­MIL­IAR FOE: The­u­nis de Bruyn will be up against his for­mer em­ploy­ers (the Ti­tans) for the Knights in the Sun­foil Se­ries this week­end. The sec­ond half of the tour­na­ment starts to­day.

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