Dolphins looking for final flourish

2008-04-24 00:00

WHEN the KZN Dolphins and the Titans of Pretoria take to the field in tonight’s Standard Bank Pro20 Series cricket final, there will be a keen sense of anticipation in the air.

Both sides have gone from the sublime to the ridiculous and then back again during the competition, and there is no way any sane person could feel confident in predicting the outcome of this last hurrah of the South African season.

Dolphins captain Ahmed Amla was in cheerful mood, but guarded in his thoughts about the final, which starts at 6 pm. “As usual we have been working hard this week in preparation for the final, but at the same time we haven’t done anything different,” he told The Witness.

“It is important not to change your routine just because it is a final, and we have tried to maintain our focus during practice, but at the same time the occasion is always lurking in the back of your mind.”

Amla is pleased with the way the batting, bowling and fielding has generally come together in the team’s unprecedented five-match unbeaten Pro20 run that included last Friday’s semi-final defeat of the Eagles.

“Yusuf [Abdullah] is steadily becoming one of South Africa’s finest limited-over bowlers in domestic cricket, while Hottie [Johan Louw] has just continued with the great form he has shown in all competitions this season,” Amla said.

Proteas players in AB de Villiers, Dale Steyn and Morne Morkel bring a lot to the final, as does the presence of Hashim Amla for the home side, but it is in the relatively raw youngsters — Roelof van der Merwe, Faf du Plessis and wicketkeeper-cum-leggie Daryn Smit, who has been the Dolphins’ third-best bowler with his wrist spin — where much of the interest lies.

Another who has surprised many is former Titan Pierre de Bruyn — a jack-of-all-trades cricketer who has answered the Dolphins’ call for just about anything in some of the tensest phases of their matches.

But as much as the Dolphins bowlers have impressed, the no doubt plentiful supporters will battle to quiet the butterflies in their stomachs on behalf of top-order batsmen Imraan Khan, brothers Hashim and Ahmed Amla, Grant Rowley and Jon Kent, when contemplating the Titans frontline quartet of Steyn, Morne and Albie Morkel, and Ethy Mbhalati.

The Titans have already won the 45-over MTN Domestic Championship this year, so have final success fresh in their memories. And with Steyn still hurting after the pasting he got from his new domestic team the Cobras in the semi-final, plus the emotion of playing his last match for the franchise that made him famous, he doesn’t need any help getting fired up for his four overs tonight.

Still, be it sitting in front of the telly for three hours or watching from the banks of Castle Corner, home fans can take comfort in the knowledge that the Dolphins will be going all-out to end what has been an up-and-down season on a high.

SQUADS

Dolphins: Imraan Khan, Grant Rowley, Hashim Amla, Ahmed Amla (capt), Jon Kent, Pierre de Bruyn, Daryn Smit, Morne van Vuuren, Johann Louw, Alfonso Thomas, Yusuf Abdullah, Saidi Mhlongo, David Miller.

Titans: Gulam Bodi, Faf du Plessis, Roelof van der Merwe, AB de Villiers, Albie Morkel, Farhaan Behardien, Pierre Joubert (capt), Morne Morkel, Aaron Phangiso, Dale Steyn, Ethy Mbhalati, Brendon Reddy, Heino Kuhn.

Umpires: Brian Jerling, Karl Hurter. TV umpire: Shaun George. Match referee: Devdas Govindjee.

Start: 6 pm, gates open 3.30 pm.

TV: CSN and SS2 from 5.30 pm.

* The weather forecast for Durban is apparently fine and warm with a gentle-to-moderate breeze, while tickets can be bought at Computicket: www.computicket.com and at Kingsmead.

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