One of the open secrets of South African cricket which is hardly ever discussed on social platforms, yet has been a pivotal factor in making the Cape Cobras such a competitive franchise, has been the all-round qualities of Justin Ontong.

One of the traits he shared with arguably the greatest batsman of the past two decades, Sachin Tendulkar, is his ability to bowl a Liquorish Allsorts variety of slow deliveries. It includes the traditional off-spinner, the arm ball, the leg-spinner and even the googly.

Perhaps that explains why Ontong, who has hammered 10 901 runs in first-class cricket, has also captured 245 wickets in all formats of the game.

“It is one aspect of my game that I’m going to be working on much harder. I wish to contribute more with the ball. Last season, I started as the spinner in a few games as Robin Peterson and Dane Piedt did not play. And I don’t think I did a bad job,” Ontong said.

Asked about his googly, Ontong said he did not use a mentor to learn it. He just watched other practitioners of the art, but wants to refine it more.

Ontong had surgery on his right knee in the off-season of 2015 and is up-beat about the current strength of the knee.

He also praised the fitness and conditioning coach, Sherman Baatjes, on the work done to supervise and mentor the fitness programme, which is going according to the script.

“I am very impressed with the work-ethic of the current group,” Ontong said.

“We have eight players currently busy with the programme, but we are on route.”

Ontong captured key wickets in the home match against the bizhub Highveld Lions at Boland Park in Paarl last season just prior to the lunch interval of the final day.

If the Cape Cobras had just poached three catches after lunch on that fourth day, the Lions would not have been able to stave off defeat.

The 36-year old captain of the Cape Cobras in the limited overs, is very keen to fade brightly in the four-day campaign. Ontong has expressed his determination to add more centuries to his impressive cricket resume.

He has slammed 23 first-class tons. Only Andrew Puttick, with 24, is more successful in the first-class arena (apart from CSA-contracted players in the Cape Cobras squad).

 

 

 

Aviwe Mgijima yearns to be the stabilizer in the middle-order and be Mr Dependable in long, economic spells with the ball. His injury and subsequent shoulder surgeries put his all-rounder status temporarily on hold, although it was not career-threatening or crippling.

The 27-year old batting all-rounder of Western Province and the Cape Cobras sustained the injury while at the T20 Africa Cup in September 2015 and consequently missed five months of action.

Upon his return, he was able to bat in the top-six for Western Province, but hardly bowled long spells, as his shoulder was not strong enough yet.

He says his long-term goal is to return to the Cape Cobras’ fold as middle-order batsman and be the batting all-rounder.

“I am still searching for a first-class century and want to produce that ton and the half-centuries for the franchise team.

“As a bowler, I am not looking for the optimum pace. What I want to do, is to bowl for long spells and play the holding role while taking wickets.  Because I am getting stronger, I will be able to fill that role once the new season starts,” he said.

Mgijima said the Cape Cobras squad has been put through their paces by Sherman Baatjes, fitness and conditioning coach of the franchise.

Apart from the gymnasium work, the squad has done extensive repetitive shuttle-work over shorter distances.

“I think the most you will run on a cricket field (at pace) is about 40 metres, so it is relevant and appropriate to do the shuttle work,” Mgijima added.

The all-rounder was part of the Western Province team that reached the final of the Sunfoil Three-Day Cup campaign last season. He also represented the Cape Cobras occasionally.

His role as bowler will be important to the Cobras, and if he can produce early success for the semi-professional team by means of a century or two and a five-wicket haul, he might force his way to the front of the queue where Jason Smith is currently positioned.

But it is still early days for Mgijima and the rest of the squad, who are getting their bodies in tune for the rigours, bumps, bruises and challenges of first-class cricket.

The Cape Cobras, one of South Africa’s most decorated franchises since its inception and a powerhouse, will kick off their campaign for the coveted domestic triple-crown with a Sunfoil Series clash against the bizhub Highveld Lions from 6th October at the Bidvest Wanderers Stadium.

The Cobras squad has been strengthened by the return to form by a rejuvenated Wayne Parnell. Six of their stalwarts will be on tour with South Africa A, which gives the Cape Champions ample opportunity to bolster their self-confidence ahead of a packed domestic 2016/2017-season.

The Cobras have also signed two of the most talented young South African cricketers, Zubayr Hamza and Jason Smith, for their professional squad.

Hamza slammed 833 runs in the Sunfoil Three-Day Cup in 2015/2016, while Smith celebrated his first appearance for the Cape Cobras in a Momentum One Day Cup-match with a composed half-century.

The Cape Cobras, who hosted five of their past domestic limited-overs finals at PPC Newlands, start their Ram Slam T20 Challenge campaign on 12th November at the Wanderers against the Knights.

The tall, canny left-arm spinner GF Linde, currently at the national academy, will boost the Cobras’ slow-bowling resources.

The first Ram Slam T20 Challenge match at home will be against The Unlimited Titans at Boland Park in Paarl on 16th November.

PPC Newlands will play host to the Cape Cobras and the Warriors on the 18th November.

At the back-end of the pulsating T20-series, the darling of domestic crowds, the Cobras and the VKB Knights will contest the spoils at PPC Newlands on 7th December in the penultimate round of the series.

The Cobras finish off the league phase on the 11th December against the bizhub Highveld Lions on 11th December.

The availability of Kieron Pollard, undoubtedly a world-class T20-player whose match-winning exploits with bat and ball has made him the toast of PPC Newlands and the Queen’s Park Oval, will strengthen the Cobras’ middle-order.

The consistency of the Cape Cobras in Momentum One Day Cup matches has been unmatched in domestic cricket the past four years. They finished the league phase with 33 points in the 2015/2016-season, seven points clear of their nearest rival.

They begin their pursuit of a title on 18th February against the VKB Knights at the Manguang Oval and also play away against the Warriors at Buffalo Park in 22nd February.

The Cobras will host the Titans at PPC Newlands on 22nd February.

Smith has taken 22 wickets in 17 first-class matches and averages 25.59.

His progress will be monitored closely, and his swashbuckling ability with the bat will give the Cobras options in all three formats.

Five nationally contracted players will form part of the Cobras’ squad. They are Dale Steyn, JP Duminy, Vernon Philander, Hashim Amla and Parnell, the 2015/2016-player of the season.

The Cobras boast the presence of two members of an elite 10 000-club. Andrew Puttick and Justin Ontong have both struck more than 10 000 first-class runs. Their appetite for runs is unsaturated.

Dane Vilas was the leading domestic Sunfoil Series batsman in 2015/2016 in terms of averages. The wicketkeeper/batsman was equally impressive in the Momentum One Day Cup competition, blasting 282 runs at an average of 141.

The competitive off-spinner Dane Piedt and the fast bowler Philander will welcome the presence of several challengers to their position in the South African team, a factor which will no doubt propel them to even loftier heights domestically.

The Cape Cobras fixtures in the Sunfoil Series are: October 2016: 6-9th October: bizhub Highveld Lions v Cape Cobras (Wanderers); 13-16th October: VKB Knights v Cobras (Mangaung Oval, Bloemfontein), 20-23rd October: Cape Cobras v Warriors (PPC Newlands); 20-27th October: Cobras v The Unlimited Titans (PPC Newlands); November: 3-6th November: Cobras t Dolphins (Boland Park, Paarl); January: 5-8th January: Cobras v bizhub Highveld Lions (Recreation Ground, Oudtshoorn); 12-15th January: Warriors v Cape Cobras (Buffalo Park, East London), 26-29th January: Titans v Cobras (SuperSport Park, Centurion); February 2017: 2-5th February: Cape Cobras v VKB Knights (Boland Park, Paarl), 9-12th February: Dolphins v Cape Cobras (Kingsmead, Durban).

Momentum One Day Cup: 18th February 2017: Knights v Cobras (Mangaung Oval, Bloemfontein); 22nd February: Warriors v Cape Cobras (Buffalo Park), 24th February: Cape Cobras v The Unlimited Titans (PPC Newlands), 26th February: Dolphins v Cobras (Pietermaritzburg Oval); 3rd March: Cape Cobras v bizhub Highveld Lions (Boland Park, Paarl), 8th March: Cape Cobras v Dolphins (Boland Park, Paarl), 10th March: Lions v Cape Cobras (Senwes Park, Potchefstroom), 12th March: Cape Cobras v Warriors (PPC Newlands); 19th March: Cape Cobras v VKB Knights (PPC Newlands), 23th March: The Unlimited Titans v Cape Cobras (SuperSport Park, Centurion);

Ram Slam T20 Challenge: 12th November: VKB Knights v Cape Cobras (Bidvest Wanderers Stadium, Johanesburg); 16th November: Cape Cobras v The Unlimited Titans (Boland Park, Paarl); 18th November: Cape Cobras v Warriors (PPC Newlands), 20th November: bizhub Highveld Lions v Cape Cobras (Bidvest Wanderers Stadium, Johannesburg); 23rd November: Cape Cobras v Dolphins (PPC Newlands); 25th November: The Unlimited Titans v Cape Cobras (Supersport Park, Centurion); 4th December: Dolphins v Cape Cobras (Kingsmead, Durban); 7th December: Cape Cobras v VKB Knights (PPC Newlands); 9th December: Warriors v Cape Cobras (St. George’s Park, Port Elizabeth); 11th December: Cape Cobras v bizhub Highveld Lions (Boland Park, Paarl).

The Cape Cobras squad is: Andrew Puttick, Dale Steyn, Beuran Hendricks, Dane Paterson, Dane Piedt, Wayne Parnell, Dane Vilas, Justin Ontong, Lizaad Williams, Hashim Amla, Omphile Ramela, Richard Levi, GF Linde, Rory Kleinveldt, Vernon Philander, Stiaan van Zyl, Tshepo Moreki, George Linde, Zubyir Hamza, JP Duminy, Jason Smith, Keagan Petersen, Aviwe Mgijima.

The rebirth of the Cape Cobras’ spearhead Beuran Hendricks as a bowling force is gaining momentum. Remodelling his bowling action, regaining his swing and recapturing that searing pace are all part of his pursuit of excellence.

Hendricks is only 26 years of age, but much has happened since he took a career-best 11-63 against India A in 2013 to announce his arrival as a swing bowling sensation.

His 28 wickets in the domestic T20-showpiece for the Cape Cobras in the 2013/2014-season did much to propel him into the international spotlight. He was subsequently selected for South Africa’s ICC World Twenty20-campaign in 2014.

Hendricks did lose momentum for a while due to back injuries.

But he has firmly invested in a program to remodel his action slightly and to get his body and wrists even stronger in order to recapture his swing through the air in both directions, as well as operate at maximum pace of 140 km/h +.

Hendricks said the implementation of a stringent routine of five 500 meter-runs and four 50 metre-sprints on Tuesdays and Thursdays are firmly aimed at getting the bowlers even stronger.

Towards the business-end of the previous two seasons, the bowlers got a bit tired, he admitted.

These exercises will do much to add to their fitness levels, while they will also address their core strength in the gymnasium on Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays, he added.

Hendricks said remodelling his action in minuscule ways is mentored by the Cape Cobras’ coach, Paul Adams, while his colleague Dane Paterson will also be keeping a close eye on his progress.

A Hendricks in full flight is a beautiful sight, as he could swing it both ways through the air and also nip in both ways off the deck. When he is operating at the peak of his powers, batsmen find it a daunting task to keep the ball on the ground or protect the state of their wickets.

He acknowledged that he has lost a bit of pace last season while attending to his action, but the three months before the start of a new season might just give him the breathing space to add that yard of pace that would make him a menace again.

THE Cape Cobras have stuck with their tried and tested squad for the 2016/17 season, with a few rookies set to bolster their ranks.

Zubair Hamza and Jason Smith are the two who will spend a full season with the senior squad for the first time.

Right-hander Hamza is yet to make his franchise debut, even though he was on the fringes during the second half of last season.

The 20-year-old has been a prolific scorer at provincial level and boasts an impressive average of 56.85 in 20 matches.

All-rounder Smith, 21, did get his chance at the back end of the last campaign when he debuted for the Cobras against the Sunfoil Dolphins in Durban.

He has 22 wickets through his medium-pace in 17 first-class games, whilst averaging 25.59 with the bat.

Other inexperienced faces in the squad are Keagan Petersen and Aviwe Mgijima.

The Cobras also have five nationally contracted on their books. They are Hashim Amla, Dale Steyn, JP Duminy, Vernon Philander and their 2015/16 Player of the Season, Wayne Parnell.

The full Cobras squad is: Andrew Puttick, Dale Steyn, Beuran Hendricks, Dane Paterson, Dane Piedt, Wayne Parnell, Dane Vilas, Justin Ontong, Lizaad Williams, Hashim Amla, Omphile Ramela, Richard Levi, Rory Kleinveldt, Vernon Philander, Stiaan van Zyl, Tshepo Moreki, George Linde, Zubair Hamza, JP Duminy, Jason Smith, Keagan Petersen, Aviwe Mgijima.

 

Michael Owen Smith

If most of the international cricketers and even journalists were scratching their heads in disbelief about the run spree which yielded 445 for eight by Nottinghamshire, the second highest score for a List A match anywhere in the world, bolstered by a 342-run opening partnership between Riki Wessels and Michael Lumb, they would possibly have even been more astonished by the 128 struck by the Cape Cobras all-rounder Rory Kleinveldt in pursuit of the total.

Kleinveldt hammered his highest List A score on Monday. He hit the ball to the boundary 10 times and cleared it on nine occasions for Northamptonshire while facing only 63 balls in the Royal London One-Day Cup game against Nottinghamshire.

Nottinghamshire won by 20 runs.

The Cape Cobras coach, Paul Adams, and the limited-overs skipper, Justin Ontong, were hardly surprised by Kleinveldt’s exploits.

“When Rory’s mind is focused, he can really destroy an attack. He is not merely a brute attacker of a ball, he also possesses all the shots in the book,” said Adams.

“He times the ball beautifully and can caress it or play the reverse sweep and lap shots,” said Ontong.

Adams said he acutely remembers when the Cape Cobras were chasing against the VKB Knights in the Ram Slam T20 Challenge in 2015/2016, and Kleinveldt struck 36 off 14 balls to take the Cape champions to victory.

Richard Levi, who had a shoulder injury, batted at number eleven and consequently could not bat at the top of the order, otherwise Northamptonshire might have possibly chased down the massive total.

Kleinveldt’s ton powered them to 425, an extraordinary performance.

“I remember how Rory was a factor for South Africa at the Adelaide Oval in 2012 when they reached 248 for eight to save the test. He defended so well in tandem with Faf du Plessis (who scored an unbeaten 110 to defy Australia),” said Adams.

Kleinveldt has also struck 231 runs for Northamptonshire in the first-class format at an average of 46.20 in 2016, while capturing 10 wickets.

Levi has already assembled a ton for Northamptonshire. His 104 would have bolstered his confidence.

 

Splendid game-plans have been at the heart of Omphile Ramela’s evolution in four-day cricket, culminating in his inclusion in the South Africa A-team in 2015.

The next step for the skipper of the Cape Cobras would be to set up games for South Africa A and to increase his tally of hundreds, said Paul Adams, the Cape Cobras coach.

He added that Ramela would obviously want to bat for lengthy periods of time and occupy the crease for sessions in those games.

Ramela struck 724 runs at an average of 48.26 in the 2014/2015-season. He compiled 592 runs in the 2015/2016-season and produced two tons, while his average was a healthy 42.28.

Five of his seven first-class tons came in his last two seasons.

Salieg Nackerdien, the batting coach of the Cape Cobras, said Ramela’s improvements are gratifying.

One of the greatest traits of a successful batsman that knocks down the door of the national selectors is volumes of runs. It is something that is done by players in franchise-cricket who struck between 900 to 1000 runs in first-class cricket and who repeat that feat the next season.

In the 2013/2014-season, Stiaan van Zyl knocked 933 runs and Justin Ontong produced 927.

Andrew Puttick has been another stalwart who regularly slammed more than 700 runs.

“I think scoring four to five centuries and eight half-centuries would be two of the goals for a player of Ramela’s quality,” said Nackerdien.

Ramela produced an unbeaten 202 in a Sunfoil Series match against The Unlimited Titans in 2014/2015.

He also struck a century on debut for South Africa A to underline his class.

A feature of his play has been his patience and his dogged determination to occupy the crease and bat for lengthy periods. This and his vastly improved understanding of the game have contributed to Ramela’s transformation.