Maritzburg Oval to test Dolphins in opener of four-day series

2014-12-18 00:00

WEATHER permitting, the Dolphins start their four-day series campaign against the Warriors in Pietermaritzburg today, keen to get out of the blocks early and make a statement.

It’s been many a season since the Dolphins had their hands on a four-day trophy — 2005/06 the last time — and they will want to make an impact from ball one in the longer version of the game.

That’s easier said than done as — besides the seasonal rain often stealing tons of valuable time during the matches and thus preventing a decent scrap and a result — the Pietermaritzburg Oval is not the friendliest of venues for the Dolphins.

Whether it be four-day or one-day fixtures, the Dolphins invariably come out on the wrong side of the result and captain Morné van Wyk believes this is as good a time as any to stop the rot.

“It’s a ground where you have to fight hard to finish on top.

“Matches here are always a genuine scrap and the players have to bring all their skills to the table, especially in the four-day format,” said the captain.

Ironically though, Van Wyk admitted he enjoyed playing at the venue, having a preference for what he called “the country grounds.”

He smashed a run-a-ball undefeated 100 at the ground last season against the Knights in a drawn fixture after rain curtailed much of the four days and added another three-figure score in a one-day clash, also against the Knights, in Kimberley, another country facility.

“We were disappointed with our domestic T20 campaign and owe it to our fans to produce the goods early in the four-day format,” said Van Wyk.

“We have practised hard and addressed the dynamics we need to approach the competition.

“Four-day cricket is rewarding. It ebbs and flows, calling on all disciplines to be managed and used effectively.”

While wanting to put the Pietermaritzburg hoodoo to rest, Van Wyk knows it will take some effort.

“I’m not sure why we have never dominated as such in Maritzburg, but we have to be smart and know what to expect. All the players have played here before and have the experience and maturity to adapt to whatever situation and play accordingly. There can be no excuses,” he added.

Meanwhile, KZN Inland have prepared a pitch as they would for their normal three-day contests, one which will assist the seamers first up, but bring the spinners into contention on the last two days.

There has been rain, but the strip has been able to bask in the sun during the day, with the covers on from 5 pm through the night.

Former Kingsmead groundsman Phil Russell had a look at the wicket on Monday and was satisfied with what he saw.

It looks a result pitch and much depends on the toss, the players and how they play.

The side who have their wits about them should stay ahead and glean the points if the match runs its course.

A squad of 15 have been named by the Dolphins selectors which sees Divan van Wyk, Imraan Khan, David Miller, Ryan McLaren, Robbie Frylinck, Thandi Tshabalala, Imran Tahir, Darrun Dupavillon and Daniel Sincuba in the mix.

One glaring omission is Daryn Smit, captain from two seasons back.

“Smitty [Daryn Smit] is a valuable servant for us but there is just no room for him at this stage,” said Van Wyk.

“He misses out here, but will surely be back as the competition goes on. We have a big squad and I am glad I am not a selector.”

Today’s match starts at 9 am and entrance is free.

In other matches starting today, the Cobras host the Lions in Cape Town and the Knights welcome the Titans to Bloemfontein.

Dolphins Squad: Divan van Wyk, Imraan Khan, Khaya Zondo, Cody Chetty, Vaughn van Jaarsveld, David Miller, Morné van Wyk (capt), Ryan McLaren, Robbie Frylinck, Thandi Tshabalala, Craig Alexander, Daryn Dupavillon, Keshav Maharaj, Imran Tahir, Daniel Sincuba.

Dolphins in PMB last season (4-day)

Dolphins 88 & 212

Cobras 398

Cobras won by an innings and 98 runs

Dolphins 366-6 (dec) v Knights - Match Drawn.

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