It was a phenomenal innings by the best batsman in South Africa, is how Ashwell Prince described the 189 crafted in 482 minutes by Hashim Amla as the World Sports Betting Cape Cobras assembled a gigantic 567 for six on Friday on the final day of the first Sunfoil Series match of the season against the VKB Knights at the Mangaung Oval in Bloemfontein.

The match ended in a stalemate. The WSB Cape Cobras were dismissed for 159 in their first innings and the VKB Knights hammered 623 for four in reply. In the second innings, the Cobras were defiant and answered the call by Prince prior to the season to show their mettle and character under pressure.

“There are two types of centuries that count – those who win you games and those that draw you matches and all three of our centurions – Hashim, Aviwe Mgijima and Justin Ontong – helped us to achieve that draw,” Prince, the WSB Cape Cobras coach, said.

Ontong struck 16 fours and two sixes in his 128 off 193 balls. Amla blasted 22 fours and three sixes in his 189 while spending eight hours and two minutes in the middle. It was the perfect preparation for the first Test against Bangladesh at Senwes Park.

Mgijima toiled for 238 minutes in compiling 112 which included 13 fours and a six.

Prince said Ontong was very disappointed at holing out at cover in the first innings and was determined to set the record straight. He came to the crease after the fall of two quick wickets and showed his experience in a match-saving partnership of 251 with Amla. “You cannot defend, defend, defend for two days. And that is what Justin and Hashim knew. They rotated the strike so well and demonstrated how experienced they are,” he remarked.

The coach applauded Amla for his composure and how he controlled the tempo of the innings. He said he turned half decent deliveries into scoring opportunities and also underlined why he is rated one of the best players of spin in the world.

“You know how it is with test players. They are not happy with getting out for half-centuries. And after his 50 in the first innings, Hashim wanted to make a big one. It was the Amla of old.

“He was relaxed at the crease. There was no stress and no anxiety,” he said.

Prince applauded Mgijima as a supreme team man and one of the most popular players in the dressing room.

His first first-class century was the result of two winters of extremely hard work, Prince said.

“Last season he batted at number seven, and when you are playing with the lower order, you might manufacture shots here and there. But this time he was playing at number six and knew there were still players below him who can perform with the bat,” Prince added.

Mgijima was understandably elated about his first first-class ton, but chose to congratulate the team rather than reflect too extensively on his century.

“We showed a lot of character today (Friday), something we discussed at length before the season started.

“We wanted to bat for the full day, and I was determined to stay there until we had saved the day.

“When I was on 96, I struck the ball past cover off Werner Coetsee to get to 100. I was not that demonstrative. I was batting with Kyle Verreynne at the time. I went back into my shell, because I did not want to lose my wicket and allow them to skittle us out,” Mgijima said.

“The whole team must be commended for the way we showed character after the first day. We came back nicely with the ball and the batsmen showed they can push on and do big things when required,” the centurion and WSB Cape Cobras’ player of 2016/2017 added.

“The batting performance in the second innings will boost our confidence ahead of our next match against the Warriors in Port Elizabeth,” an upbeat Prince said.

Rudi Second, Werner Coetsee, Hashim Amla and Justin Ontong all scored unbeaten centuries on day three of the Sunfoil Series clash between the VKB Knights and WSB Cape Cobras at the Mangaung Oval in Bloemfontein where the hosts closed in a strong position on Thursday.

Standard Bank Proteas star Amla was still batting at stumps on 121 (207 balls, 13 fours, 2 sixes), while Ontong was with him at the other end on 124 (181 balls, 15 fours, 2 sixes) – but their side was still trailing by 160 with a day to play after ending on 304 for three.

This after Coetsee and Second had earlier joined team-mates Theunis de Bruyn (195) and Keegan Petersen (141) with three figure scores of their own, making it the first time in the history of franchise cricket that four players on one side had hit tons in the same innings.

However, it was the fourth instance that this had happened in South African cricket.

All-rounder Coetsee made 105 (135 balls, 10 fours, 2 sixes), his ninth career century, and wicketkeeper Second completed his 16th ton when he reached 101 (176 balls, 11 fours). The pair put on 210 together for the fifth wicket.

The declaration then followed on a massive 623 for four, the second highest team total overall and biggest for the Knights in franchise history.

The Cobras, who made a paltry 159 in the first innings, needed some inspiration to get going in what is the first match of the season and it came through veteran duo Amla and Ontong after they added a Cobras record 246 for the fourth wicket that was still going with a day to go.

It was the 48th time Amla scored a hundred in his career and the 26th time for Ontong. Both will need to bat on to give their side a chance of salvaging something from the opening game of the season.


His skills to rotate the strike, shepherd the middle-order and keep a calm head under pressure, were some of the reasons behind the decision by the Stellenbosch Monarchs to select the 37-year-old Justin Ontong for the T20 Global League, said Eric Simons, a former South African coach.

Simons is an admirer of the ageless performer and World Sports Betting (WSB) Cape Cobras’ player.

“People don’t always understand T20 cricket. If the required rate is 9 runs per over, you need only one boundary and five singles. You can score 30 off eight balls, or you can do it off 20 balls. Justin Ontong is not a Chris Gayle, but Gayle is not an Ontong,” he added.

Simons said Ontong thinks like a batsman. That is why he is also an asset as an off-spinner, because he plans his overs well and his astute thinking leads to the downfall of the batsmen.

The vast experience of Ontong to organize the middle-order is an important factor for the Monarchs, he added.

Simons was one of the leading figures in directing the drafting process at the Stellenbosch Monarch’s table at the Westin Hotel in Cape Town on Sunday.

He shared the table with a planning team including the captain, Faf du Plessis, and Paul Adams, head of the Western Province Academy and U19 team and a former match-winning wrist spinner for South Africa.

Ontong was selected in round eight on Sunday at the T20 Global League at a prize of $50 000.

Ashwell Prince, head coach of the WSB Cape Cobras, says it is wonderful how Ontong has looked after his own body over a period of almost two decades in domestic cricket.

“He is one of the fittest and one of the fastest players in the WSB Cape Cobras squad (at age 37).

“I think he might still have two or three seasons left. In fact, if you look at some of the players in the Big Bash who is still plying their trade at age 42 or 43, Justin might still have four seasons left,” he added.

Prince says if you have a long and distinguished career like Ontong, who will enter his 20th first-class season in 2017/2018, you must possess the ability to deal effectively with defeat and setbacks and you must pick yourself up after disappointment.

Ontong clearly has the ability to bounce back and that is one of the reasons for his longevity.

Prince’s superb assessment is backed up by the statistics. Ontong had a frustrating Sunfoil Series in 2015/2016 by his lofty standards, having scored 527 runs at an average of 37.64 with a highest score of 98.

Ontong was blunt in his self-assessment and said he wanted to set the record straight. He was true to his promise. The stylish right-handed batsman averaged 53.90 in the 2016/2017-season with a best score of 225. He was named the WSB Cape Cobras four-day player of the season.

The Cobras lost by six runs in the semi-final play-off match of the Ram Slam T20 Challenge in 2015/2016 and Ontong was frustrated by his own form in that domestic T20 show piece.

But he bounced back in magnificent style in the Momentum One Day Cup series, striking 439 runs at an average of 54.87 and propelling the WSB Cape Cobras to the final.

“That is such an important ingredient in a player’s career – to regroup after disappointment – and that is what Ontong has done,” said Prince.

Ontong has represented South Africa in 44 matches in three formats.

He has long been one of the consistent top performers at domestic level for Boland, Western Province, the Lions and the WSB Cape Cobras.

In fact, his first-class record speaks volumes He has struck 11 569 runs at an average of 41.59 while also taking 135 wickets.

Like his fellow WSB Cape Cobras player JP Duminy, Ontong offers the full package. Like Duminy he has a so-called “golden arm”. Differently stated, he can take wickets to break stubborn partnerships.

As a fielder, he has set and maintained high standards for the Cobras and during the past 20 years, he has been one of South Africa’s premier performers at domestic level.

His uncanny ability to hit the wickets from cover, gully or point, has endeared him to a legion of South African fans.

“I think one of the things a batsman like Justin has done, was and is to re-invent himself and to turn weaknesses into strengths,” said Prince.

“Justin has added new shots to his repertoire. So fielding teams who studied his strengths and weaknesses were caught unawares when they played against him on a next occasion,” Prince said.

Rory Kleinveldt bowled excellently for the Buildnat Cape Cobras in the 148-run defeat, but the support crew was just not good enough against the VKB Knights, while the Cobras simply did not possess the heavy artillery with the bat to chase big totals in the absence of Richard Levi.

That was the verdict of Justin Ontong, senior player of the hosts who saw the team implode to 40 for five in chasing 301 for victory in their penultimate Momentum One Day Cup clash on Sunday at the scenic PPC Newlands.

The defeat by 148 runs saw the Buildnat Cape Cobras’ Momentum One Day Cup campaign come to a stuttering halt. They were still languishing at the bottom of the log on 12 points after 9 matches.

It could have been so much different.

“If we had taken our catches, we could have and should have beaten both the bizhub Highveld Lions and the Hollywoodbets Dolphins in closely contested matches at Boland Park,” Ontong added.

“This was a very different tournament to others in the past in which we reached the final in 2013, 2014, 2015 and 2016,” Ontong explained.

“The wickets were very flat because it was so late in the season, and it was not uncommon for teams to reach 300 runs or even 400. We required bowlers to take early wickets, but our ground fielding was very poor, and today underlined that as we were clumsy in the field although we did not drop any chances.

“The ground fielding and catching throughout the Momentum One Day Cup series were poor when you look at all the teams.

“But we needed somebody to step up when other teams achieved 300 or more against us. Apart from Richard (who struck 412 runs), there was nobody else who did it.

“Today was an excellent example,” Ontong said.

Kleinveldt captured 3-41 and was one of few Cobras that caught the eye at PPC Newlands on Sunday.

With Levi injured and Lizaad Williams also not declared fit, the Cobras slipped to 40 for five and they lacked the firepower in the lower middle-order to scrap and share in substantial partnerships.

For the first time in five years, the Buildnat Cape Cobras did not reach the finals.

The Cobras hosted the finals the past three years and also reached the finals in 2012/2013 when the bizhub Highveld Lions and the Cobras shared the winning spoils after the elements prevented play in the final and on the reserve-day.

The Cobras will tackle the second-placed Multiply Titans on Thursday 23rd March at 14:00 at SuperSport Park in Centurion in the final round of group matches of the 50-over domestic showpiece.

Commendable focus and intensity contributed richly to the resurrection of the Buildnat Cape Cobras, who finished third on the Sunfoil Series log with 94.76 points and won three of their final five matches in the 2016/2017-competition.

They were also denied a possible win against the Warriors at Buffalo Park when the elements thwarted their pursuit of an extra ten points.

Ashwell Prince, the Buildnat Cape Cobras’ coach, saluted the back-to-back centuries by Stiaan van Zyl, who slammed 108 and an unbeaten 101 in the final Sunfoil Series match of the season against the Hollywoodbets Dolphins at Kingsmead. The clash ended in a stalemate as the Cobras struck 291 for seven.

“We tried to secure five bonus points with the bat and four with the ball to ensure that the VKB Knights and the Multiply Titans had to win their matches to prevent us from clinching the title. When the Knights secured the Sunfoil Series title on Saturday, it was all over for us. The wicket was just too placid and my bowling attack had gone through a lot the last few weeks,” said Prince.

Prince did not mince his words about the wicket. “It was a slightly disappointing track. I thought it could have been more of a result-wicket,” he added.

The former South Africa batsman had high praise for Van Zyl. “It is an enormous pity that Stiaan would be remembered for his failure as a South African opener in India, where, frankly, all the other South African batsmen and the Indian stars also did not score runs.

“I would rather remember him for the century he scored on debut for South Africa,” he said.

“I played 66 tests for South Africa, and I would have rather paid money to see Stiaan bat than to see myself bat.

“I believe he and Andrew Puttick have the credentials to play international cricket, not for South Africa, but anywhere in the world.

“In fact, guys like Andrew, Stiaan and Justin Ontong can play for the Buildnat Cape Cobras as long as they have the hunger and the will to perform. They are that good,” he said.

Puttick struck a 26th first-class ton, a solid 116 in the final match of the season and added 55 in the second innings.

Prince said Jason Smith is a genuine all-rounder who can swing the ball both ways and also play the holding role.

“You don’t need to bowl 150 km/h to be effective. Look at Vernon Philander. But it is not that I compare Jason with Vernon. It is just that Jason is really a very skilled bowler,” he added.

“Aviwe Mgijima performed very, very well for us, by scoring five fifties in the season. And we must remember that he batted at number seven. Mostly, you bat with the number six and you have to shepherd the tail.

“He has established himself very well in the team,” he added.

Prince said the main reason why the Cobras transformed the season from a bottom-of-the-log position to third on the log, was that they secured better focus on and off the field.

During training, he also asked the players to give 100% and to focus on batting for those 45 minutes as if they are emulating a match situation.

That intense focus in the training to emulate the match situation, was an important factor.

“One thing I was proud of, was that the players left everything out on the field.

“I have told the team that what separated them from international players is not skill or ability, but confidence.

“Somebody like a Puttick and a Van Zyl can do what international players can achieve,” he added.

Another positive factor of the Cobras revival which contributed to wins against the VKG Knights and the Multiply Titans, was the superb bowling by the support staff.

When Rory Kleinveldt did not take 5-45, it was Dane Piedt who captured 6-87 or the new kid on the block, Kyle Simmonds. And don’t forget about the aggressive spell by Dane Paterson at Paarl when he took 3-39 to restrict the Knights to 153, a solitary first-innings run lead against the Buildnat Cape Cobras.

Piedt finished the campaign with 28 wickets, Paterson nipped out 23 batsmen and Smith captured 20 scalps.

Ontong, with 595 runs at an average of 53.90, was a standout-batsman, while Van Zyl finished with 709 runs at an average of 47.26 which included three centuries to finish the campaign as the top run scorer for the Cobras.

Puttick struck 477 runs and blasted two tons.

The Cobras will start the Momentum One Day Cup competition with some confidence, and will be bolstered by the return of Richard Levi.

Van Zyl and Ontong have shown with their recent form that they are attacking one-day options and can easily bat at a strike-rate of 90 or more.

Justin Ontong’s 25th first-class century was amongst the three best tons he has ever produced, he admitted, but it meant much, much more because it contributed to the Buildnat Cape Cobras’ emphatic nine wicket win against the defending champions, the Multiply Titans, at SuperSport Park in Centurion in the Sunfoil Series match.

“If we drew this match, our Sunfoil Series campaign was over, but because of this win, we are still in the run. Our next game is against the log leaders, the VKB Knights, and we are eager to make a statement in that four day match too,” Ontong said.

Ontong spent 342 minutes at the crease, faced 206 balls and struck 13 fours in his excellent 110. He also was the mainstay in what turned out to be a match-winning partnership with Jason Smith which yielded 148 runs in the first innings, as the Cobras finished with 326 for nine and created a first innings lead of 131 runs.

The Multiply Titans managed 168 in the second innings and the Buildnat Cape Cobras cantered to 41 for one and a comprehensive nine wicket victory.

“It was really a tricky wicket to bat on, because there was some grass on it, the ball was nipping off the seam and also swinging in overcast conditions. It was extremely important for me to leave very, very well, even if that meant that a few deliveries just missed the off stump.

“Jason and I played and missed, but I spoke to him and encouraged him. I told him that it is a pivotal partnership and he maybe had to curb his natural instinctive aggression, but it was a very important knock by Smith,” Ontong said.

“I decided that I would force the attack to bowl at me, instead of playing outside the off stump and get nicked off. I tried to play with the full face of the blade and hit it between mid-off and mid-on or through mid-wicket,” Ontong said.

Rory Kleinveldt, who captured 5-45 in the second innings, was the spearhead in the bowling attack. “He kept the ball in the right areas and knew that there would be nip off the seam. His experience was a key factor.

“It was important for us that the senior players stood up and that was what Rory and I did.

“The support bowling by the younger bowlers like Tshepo Moreki, Jason and Lizaad Williams was absolutely outstanding. They just followed Rory’s example,” he said.

Ontong is firm in his belief that the Buildnat Cape Cobras are not out of the title hunt, and that victories against the VKB Knights and the Hollywoodbets Dolphins could get them close to the summit of the log.