Dolphins captain Ahmed Amla in doubt for Lions clash

2007-12-06 00:00

KZN Dolphins captain Ahmed Amla is in serious doubt for the sixth-round SuperSport Series match against the Highveld Lions at Kingsmead from today.

Convenor of selectors Jay Naidoo told The Witness yesterday evening that “Ahmed has a bad bout of flu and is taking medication”.

The Dolphins selection chief said a decision on whether Amla will play is only likely to be made this morning.

The anxiety over the Dolphins captain has opened up a myriad of possibilities. If he does play, Amla will bat in his customary number four spot, preceded by openers Doug Watson and vice captain Imraan Khan. Younger brother Hashim Amla will be at three with one of Wayne Madsen or Jonathan Vandiar dropping out of the middle-order for Shaun Pollock — and business as usual from seven to 11.

However, should the skipper not be fit, Naidoo said his deputy, Khan, would take over the leadership reins. In that case, Watson might be moved to four with Rivash Gobind slotting into the opener’s berth. Then it would be a question of one of the middle-order pairing of Madsen and Vandiar dropping out for Polly.

This sort of situation is not what the doctor ordered for Dolphins coach Yashin Ebrahim, who must have got ulcers during the extraordinary match at the Maritzburg Oval last weekend. A better batting performance is surely top of his wish list this time around.

The Lions, meanwhile, are certainly a talented bunch of cricketers. Justin Ontong is their heaviest scorer in the SuperSport Series, lying fifth in the batting averages with 446 runs from nine innings at 49.55 while skipper Neil McKenzie is in eighth spot with 418 runs at 46.44 and wicketkeeper/batsman Matthew Harris is in ninth place.

Also in the SS Series top 20 are opener Alviro Petersen and first-wicket Werner Coetsee.

Lions coach Gordon Parsons is more worried about his bowlers, however, as they have been unable to take 20 wickets in a match. An attack that did include the very successful England paceman Steve Harmison for two matches, nevertheless still has the likes of Garnett Kruger (ninth in the averages) and Craig Alexander (10th) plus the considerable quality in spinner Claude Henderson.

As individuals they have been firing just fine, says Parsons, but in stark contrast to the highly successful Dolphins attack it’s been a case of lone-ranger stuff rather than hunting in packs. That’s why, at the halfway stage, they haven’t won a match and have four depressing defeats, a draw and fifth place in the six-team competition to show for their efforts. For all this, Parsons is still keeping the faith with the XI from last time out.

One can’t help thinking once again that a side with this much to offer has to fire on all cylinders sooner rather than later. That’s why the Dolphins need to be vigilant and right on top of their game.

In the other SS Series matches, reigning champions the North-East Titans — languishing in a desperate fourth place this season — host log leaders the Free State/Griquas Eagles in what should be a cracking encounter at SuperSport Park in Centurion, while the third-placed Eastern Cape Warriors travel to Paarl for their date with basement dwellers the Western Cape Cobras.

TEAMS

KZN Dolphins (from): Doug Watson, Imraan Khan, Hashim Amla, Ahmed Amla (capt), Wayne Madsen, Shaun Pollock, Johann Louw, Liam Plunkett, Daryn Smit, Quinton Friend, Saidi Mlongo, Yusuf Abdullah, Jonathan Vandiar, Rivash Gobind.

Highveld Lions: Alviro Petersen, Blake Snijman, Werner Coetsee, Justin Ontong, Neil McKenzie (capt), Heinrich le Roux, Matthew Harris, Claude Henderson, Garnett Kruger, Friedel de Wet, Craig Alexander.

•In what is a remarkable statistic, Dolphins wicketkeeper Daryn Smit — he who bowls leg-spinners on the side — is 17th in the SuperSport Series bowling averages with eight wickets at 28.37 and is joint third with Harris in the glove-man stakes.

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