CAPE TOWN. – Kieron Pollard, world-class all-rounder of the defending Ram Slam T20 champions, the Cape Cobras, won’t take part in the remainder of the domestic T20-showpiece due to an injury to his right knee.

He will fly back to the Caribbean on Wednesday.

The injury occurred while the 28-year Pollard was fielding in the T20-match against the VKB Knights at Boland Park in Paarl on Sunday.

Despite experiencing some discomfort, he hammered an unbeaten 22 off 13 balls to power the Cobras to a win to entrench their third position on the log.

“We are severely disappointed about the loss of a stalwart like Kieron, said Paul Adams, the Cape Cobras coach.

“Kieron has given his all. The fact that he went out to bat after he got injured, underlines his dedication and commitment to the team. He has been an inspiration to the whole squad.”

Adams said Pollard’s record speaks for itself. He was the domestic Ram Slam T20 Challenge player of the year in the 2014/2015-season and was at the summit of the Cobras’ batting averages (he averages 51.50 in the T20-format) at the time of the injury.

Yet mere statistics don’t do justice to Pollard’s contribution as his ability to change matches with his belligerence as a dashing batsman or with his expert change of pace with the ball, gave the Cobras the ascendancy in several matches the past season and a half.

Pollard had been on record saying the difference between winning and losing in Ram Slam T20 Challenge matches is about “who blinks first”. The lanky all-rounder was almost always the one to emerge victorious when the dust settled, as he showed during his stylish display on Sunday.

CAPE TOWN. – If he and the middle-order hit their stripes, terminate the tendency to score 20’s or 30’s and regularly struck big 50’s, the Cape Cobras will comfortably beat all-comers in the Ram Slam T20 Challenge, said Richard Levi. The hard-hitting Levi, who once hammered 117 off 51 balls with 13 sixes in a T20-International, made his bold prediction despite the fact that an injury jinx has left the Cobras vulnerable and almost in a state of despair.

They lost the services of their two premier left-arm spinners Robin Peterson and GF Linde through broken fingers.
To add to their woes, Kieron Pollard badly hurt his knee on Sunday while changing direction to field a ball after a wicked bounce in the Ram Slam T20 Challenge win against the KVB Knights at Boland Park in Paarl.

The brave West Indies all-rounder hobbled down the stairs after the Cobras had thoughts of replacing him because of his bad physical state, and smashed an unbeaten 23 off 12 deliveries. His defiance and bold boundary-hitting through clenched teeth and despite enormous discomfort carried the Cape Cobras to a four-wicket win.

Wayne Parnell, who captured 4-20 in the win against the Sunfoil Dolphins a week ago at SuperSport Park, injured his foot when hit on it while bowling at Paarl on Sunday. Both these stalwarts will undergo X-rays on Monday to determine the nature of their injuries.

Levi has been the Cape Cobras’ premier batsman in T20-cricket this season, smashing 226 runs at an average of 32.28 and a strike-rate of 161.42, but he has given himself only a 6 to 7 out of 10-rating.

“If you score 75 to 80 at a certain rate, your team will be winning 90 % of the matches. If I and the middle-order hit our straps and score big, we will comfortably beat any side,” he said. “We need to get us over the line.”

“I have been getting out regularly for 30’s, and yes, I have scored two half-centuries, but that is not enough,” he added.

Paul Adams, the Cape Cobras coach, agreed. “Richard keeps on getting out at the end of the power plays. If he can bat longer during the middle-period, and if we score 80’s at a strike-rate of 140 of more, we will make life easier for ourselves,” he added.

The Cobras middle-order has battled to assert themselves, but Levi has been more sympathetic to their performances than die-hard supporters with demanding and critical spirits.

“At times it is difficult to get going in the middle-period when the ball is not so hard, as the pitches are slower this time of the year.

“It is quite commonplace to see teams either score 180 for three through a very high-risk approach, or finish on 110 for nine. The conditions do play a role,” he said.

The Cobras, the defending champions in the Ram Slam T20 Challenge, sprung a surprise on Sunday by dropping Omphile Ramela, their batting hero in the domestic T20-final last season. Ramela, who finished the 2014/2015-season by smashing two consecutive Sunfoil Series-centuries, has not been at his stylish best this season.

He has only contributed 64 runs in six innings. “We have spoken to him. He has just been out of nick,” said Adams.

The two Ram Slam T20 Challenge matches this weekend hosted by the Cape Cobras at PPC Newlands on Friday against The Unlimited Titans and on Sunday at Boland Park in Paarl against the VKB Knights, will feature several world-class performers who can ignite any crowd with their explosive shot-making or sensational bowling.

This double dose of Ram Slam T20 action, however, will also be a dogfight about the summit of the Ram Slam T20 Challenge log and about who will consequently host the final of the domestic T20-showpiece in December.

The Titans are currently occupying top-spot. The Cobras are placed third on the log, and could leapfrog the Hennops River-team if they achieve bonus point-wins in both matches during the weekend.

Richard Levi, Kieron Pollard, Justin Ontong and Wayne Parnell are four of the Cape Cobras stalwarts who come to mind as game-changers. And Rory Kleinveldt is not far behind them, as his belligerent hitting and ability to strike regularly, propelled him into the national spotlight from 2012 to 2014.

The Titans have a top- and middle-order with an international flavour who can change the game in the blink of an eye, including Quinton de Kock, Albie Morkel, Farhaan Behardien, David Wiese and Chris Morris.

The only way to extinguish their fire is through the prodigious swing bowling of Parnell and Kleinveldt, the ingenious change of pace of Pollard and the seam bowling of Dane Paterson.

The Cobras have identified the middle-period as a weakness with the bat, but can rectify this if the talented Omphile Ramela reproduces the form that made him an irresistible force in the Ram Slam T20 Challenge final in December 2014.

Pollard, Ontong and SA Engelbrecht will play pivotal roles in building on sound starts by Levi and Andrew Puttick.
The Knights have flattered to deceive in the 2015/2016-season, but in Reeza Hendricks and Andre Russell they possess potential world-class T20-players.

The Cobras coasted to a four-wicket win against the men from Bloemfontein thanks to arguably their best, most cohesive batting display of the 2015/2016-season.

Paul Adams, the Cape Cobras coach, spoke about winning the key moments.

Pollard, the T20-stalwart of the West indies, has said: “He who blinks first, will lose. It is about keeping your composure.”

His inspirational presence might just be the X-factor that powers the Cobras to the top this weekend.

The Cape Cobras and The Unlimited Titans, the two in-form teams in South African cricket, are on a collision course at PPC Newlands in the Ram Slam T20 Challenge that might be determined in 12 pulsating overs, instead of the designated forty, simply because of the importance of the Power Plays. The match starts at 18:00 on Friday and will be televised on Supersport.

Following the departure of Kevin Pietersen, Richard Levi is arguably the most destructive batsman in South Africa T20-cricket.

He was targeted successfully in the previous clash between the two giant franchises by Chris Morris during the power play phase. The support cast for Levi has provided better contributions during the past two games, with SA Engelbrecht and Andrew Puttick showing some class.

Wayne Parnell, like Morris, has been sensational the past fortnight. Morris might have taken four wickets in the dismantling of the Sunfoil Dolphins on Wednesday, but Parnell did exactly the same on Sunday when he nipped out four batsmen for 20 runs including Pietersen, Dwayne Bravo and David Miller. Dane Paterson and Rory Kleinveldt have also excelled in patches.

The Titans possess fire-power in abundance, yet they have under-performed largely due to a mental problem. It is almost as if everybody has realized that there is always another batsman who can be a match-winner, and some of them have surrendered their responsibility to other stars.

Against the Dolphins, the Titans slammed 136 for nine, of which De Kock produced 38.

The Cobras possess a team capable of defending the Ram Slam T20 Challenge crown successfully, but they have been firing blanks on too many occasions in the period between the seventh and 12th over. If they rectify this alarming trend, they will be an irresistible force in the double-header this weekend, against the Titans on Friday at PPC Newlands and on Sunday against the VKB Knights on Boland Park in Paarl.

The Cobras squad is Justin Ontong (capt), Sybrand Engelbrecht, Rory Kleinveldt, Richard Levi, Lesiba Ngoepe, Wayne Parnell, Dane Paterson, Keegan Petersen, Kieron Pollard, Andrew Puttick, Omphile Ramela, Mthokozisi Shezi, Siya Simetu

THE Cape Cobras kept pace in the race for the RAM SLAM T20 play-offs after they triumphed by four wickets over the VKB Knights, who have now lost all six of their games in the competition.

On a Boland Park pitch that none of the batsmen were able to sink their teeth into, the Knights put up 140 for seven after being put into bat, which the Cobras eclipsed with three balls to spare.

While that suggested a close run chase, in truth the Cobras always looked in control after Richard Levi had scored a quick 36 and Justin Ontong had anchored the innings with his 40.

The Cobras were also grateful to Dane Paterson, who took 2 for 24 from four overs and, crucially, broke a threatening stand between Theunis de Bruyn and Andre Russell.

The Knights had slumped to 49 for three in the first half of their knock, but De Bruyn and Russell put on 51 in 34 balls to put them on track for a solid total.

Paterson ensured the pair were not around for the business end of the innings when he bowled Russell (27) and then completed the run-out of De Bruyn (45) in the same over.

With Levi scoring his runs from just 23 balls at the top of the Cobras innings, the scoreboard pressure was taken off the rest of the line-up.

Although they were pegged back by Dillon du Preez’s double strike in the ninth over and squeezed by Malusi Siboto’s canny bowling, which permitted just 15 runs in four overs, the required rate never rose above eight per over.

With Kieron Pollard’s firepower that was never a problem, and the West Indian’s unbeaten 23 from 12 balls saw the hosts over the line.

The Cobras remain in third place on the table, two points behind the second-placed Dolphins, but will feel that they are yet to hit top gear in the tournament.

THE Cape Cobras head into their crucial RAM SLAM T20 clash with The Unlimited Titans at PPC Newlands on Friday without their best two spinners after George Linde joined Robin Peterson on the injured list.

Linde fractured a finger on his bowling hand during the five-wicket win over the Dolphins on Sunday, and so the Cobras have been forced to call on Siya Simetu for their two games this weekend.

The left-arm spinner was a regular fixture in the Cobras side during the 2013/14 RAM SLAM, but did not feature at all last season and will need to adapt to the pace of the competition quickly.

The defending champions currently sit third with 12 points from five games, but need to rein in the Titans after their bonus-point victory over the Dolphins on Wednesday put them top of the table with 21 points.

“This is a key game – we need to take some points off the Titans now that they’re top of the log. We need to make sure that we’re ticking,” said Cobras coach, Paul Adams.

“We haven’t had the perfect game yet, and that’s what the players are striving for. We keep presenting that in front of them and hopefully it comes as we get close to the end of the league phase.”

A big part of the Titans’ success during their winning streak, which stretched to five games on Wednesday, has been their ability to think on their feet.

That may be a vital asset in Friday evening’s clash, which will be shown live on SuperSport 5, with the forecast suggesting that light rain may play a role at some stage.

“We’ve played on some funny wickets so far – some turners and some up-and-down wickets – so we’ve had to adapt our bowling plans on the field and I think that’s one thing we’ve done well so far,” reflected Titans captain, Albie Morkel. “We’ve assessed the situations quite nicely.”

Lungi Ngidi missed Wednesday’s game because he was writing exams, but has joined the Titans squad for the game against the Cobras.

HEAD TO HEAD – Cape Cobras v The Unlimited Titans

Matches Played 22
Cobras Win 10
Titans Win 11
Tie 00
No Result 01

 

MATCH STATS (RAM SLAM T20) CAPE COBRAS THE UNLIMITED TITANS
Highest Score 224/5 (Centurion 2010/2011) 222/4 (Centurion 2010/2011)
Lowest Score 114/9 (Cape Town 2004/2005) 105 (Centurion 2007/2008)
Highest Individual Score 93 JP Duminy    (Cape Town 2006/2007) 88* Gulam Bodi (Centurion 2009/2010)
Best bowling in a match 4/24 JP Duminy (Cape Town 2007/2008) 3/19 Justin Kemp (Cape Town 2004/2005)

CAPE TOWN. – A slightly more positive approach in the middle, capitalizing on explosive starts and a continuation of their excellent bowling would be part of the success recipe for the Cape Cobras in their crucial Ram Slam T20 Challenge at PPC Newlands against The Unlimited Titans on Friday, said Robin Peterson, injured stalwart of the Cobras.

Peterson said the bowling of the Cape Cobras is spot on and the fielding unit has definitely made a step up in their last few Ram Slam T20 Challenge games.

Wayne Parnell is getting back into the type of form that has made him a South African strike force.

Richard Levi has had the Cobras off to flying starts.

“One or two of the guys are just a bit tentative (in the middle) and scratchy. When you get in good positions, are positive and look to hit the ball, then it generally goes into the gaps. But when you try and deflect it, then it is when you struggle to get off strike,” he said.

Peterson said the batting could be a bit more structured after the fall of the first wicket.

The Cape Cobras have been on an attractive upward curve the past two matches by beating the KVB Knights with a splendid cohesive batting effort, while they also edged the table-topping Sunfoil Dolphins with a morale-boosting victory thanks to the 4-20 by Parnell and Levi’s pyro-technics.

Peterson will undergo a medical examination on Friday to review his rehabilitation from a finger injury.

CENTURION. – The two key moments were the way the Cape Cobras started with the ball and bat in claiming their five-wicket victory against the table-topping Sunfoil Dolphins at SuperSport Park, said Justin Ontong, the victorious skipper.

Richard Levi was at his belligerent best in his magnificent 61 off 28 balls with five fours and five sixes in setting up the win in the Ram Slam T20 Challenge clash on Sunday. The Dolphins struck 148 for nine, while the Cobras finished on 152 for five with two balls to spare. SA Engelbrecht keep his cool in the moment critique to guide the Cape Cobras to victory.

Arguably one of Levi’s best shots was his effortless clip off his hip off Ryan McLaren. He hammered two successive sixes off the South African bowler, and also struck 14 in an over bowled by Dwayne Bravo.

“He is such an important player for us to ensure us momentum. The only thing that he can improve on, is consistency, because it is either a duck or a 70 or 80,” said Ontong.

The Cobras reached 64 without loss after 5.3 overs before The Bear, as Levi is known, holed out to Kevin Pietersen off Dwayne Bravo.

Ontong also sung the praises of Wayne Parnell, whose four for 20 limited the Dolphins to 148 for nine. The left-arm swing bowler struck with two consecutive deliveries, removing the in-form Kevin Pietersen and Bravo to rock the Dolphins middle-order.

“Wayne has worked very hard with Paul Adams (the Cape Cobras coach) to improve his action and he has regained some of his rhythm. He is also getting his action right.

“His self-belief is returning, and with that you will see more consistent swing,” Ontong said.

“I thought Mthokozisi Shezi summed up the situation at the end of the innings superbly and was pro-active with his bowling,” said Ontong.

“Kieron Pollard was also a factor in keeping the players very calm as he knows the pressure-situations so well,” added Ontong.

Levi struck 392 runs in the 2014/2015-season and was a consistent threat with the blade, as he took attacks apart in the first six overs.

It was vintage Levi again on Sunday, as he demoralized Craig Alexander and McLaren early on, while playing a touch more sedately against the spinner Keshav Maharaj.

CAPE TOWN. – The rejuvenated Cape Cobras know an improved bowling performance will be pivotal in their Ram Slam T20 Challenge clash against the table-topping Sunfoil Dolphins at SuperSport Park in Centurion on Sunday.

Justin Ontong, the Cape Cobras skipper, admitted the fast bowlers did not hit their straps straight away in Wednesday’s pulsating T20-match against the VKB Knights. Reeza Hendricks got off to a flyer.

“We know we have to improve with the new ball. We will be up against a dangerous top-order,” said Ontong.

The Dolphins middle-order recently imploded against The Unlimited Titans when the off-spinner Henry Davids captured three wickets in eight balls.

Ontong is aware of the importance of good off-spin bowling to challenge the middle-order batsman David Miller and his left-handed colleague Vaughn van Jaarsveld.

“SA Engelbrecht and I will have to be accurate. Recently, when I bowled against Qaasim Adams, I thought I had the beating of him, but the ball still travelled (off the outside half of the bat) over the boundary at SuperSport Park,” he added.

The dry conditions at SuperSport Park in Centurion on Sunday could offer ample opportunities to the spinners of the Cape Cobras, and their self-belief would have been bolstered by the excellent four for 21 by the left-arm spinner GF Linde against the VKB Knights.

Ontong said the Cape Cobras have discussed strike-rates extensively. In T20-cricket, openers have to bat at a strike-rate of 125 to 130. And if the middle-order batsmen are chasing a sizeable target, a strike-rate of 150 to 180 might be required. “We have spoken about greater urgency being required. You cannot bat at a run a ball in T20-cricket,” Ontong said.

The Cobras achieved their arm of batting at beyond a strike-rate of 100 in splendid fashion on Wednesday when they chased down 174. The middle-order rallied with SA Engelbrecht, Rory Kleinveldt, Ontong and Lesiba Ngoepe all clearing the boundary ropes to power the Cape Cobras to 176 for six with one over to spare.

“We know other teams have targeted Richard Levi. It was very satisfying that we reached the target on Wednesday after he had been dismissed cheaply. But hopefully Richard will get us off to a flyer on Sunday,” he added.

The left arm swing bowler Wayne Parnell’s hand injury is still a concern and his two injured fingers are feeling tender. “It takes time to heal, but we trust that it will clear up over the next two days,” Ontong added.

Winning key moments vital against unbeaten Dolphins, says Cape Cobras-coach

CAPE TOWN. – “We are playing against an unbeaten team. Yet, we are not focusing too much on them, but on executing our game-plan and winning the key moments,” said Paul Adams, the Cape Cobras coach.

The Cobras and the Sunfoil Dolphins will clash on Sunday in a crucial Ram Slam T20 Challenge match. The Cobras are third on the log, and the Dolphins are at the summit.

The Dolphins will be without Kevin Pietersen and Kyle Abbott, who has departed to India to replace the injured Cape Cobras and South African fast bowler Vernon Philander.

Ryan McLaren will return to the Dolphins-team, as will Vaughn van Jaarsveld.

The Cobras will welcome back Kieron Pollard, arguably one of the very finest T20-players in the world, whose ability to take wickets or accelerate with the bat has made him an international icon.

Siya Simetu is replaced by Pollard and misses out.

The Cobras are aware of the dry pitches up North and the importance of using their spinning resources well to neutralize the hard-hitting Van Jaarsveld, Cameron Delport, David Miller and Morné van Wyk.

Wayne Parnell is on the comeback-trail after a slight injury scare.

The South African bowler has produced some of his best spell as SuperSport Park in Centurion. It is at this fortress of The Unlimited Titans and South Africa that he took four for 25 against Australia in a One Day International match and removed Michael Hussey, Ricky Ponting and Michael Clarke.

If the force is with him and he is in a similar mood, the Dolphins better watch out.

“We have gained confidence from the win against the VKB Knights on Wednesday. We must make sure we continue our upward curve,” said Adams.

The Cobras Cobras squad:  Justin Ontong (capt), Keegan Petersen, Kieron Pollard, Andrew Puttick, Richard Levi, Omphile Ramela, SA Engelbrecht, Rory Kleinveldt, Lesiba Ngoepe, Dane Paterson, GF Linde, Wayne Parnell, Mthokozisi Shezi.