Neil Johnson looks ahead to an exciting summer

2008-10-01 00:00

Pre-season training has drawn to a close and it’s time to look forward to what promises to be an exciting summer of domestic cricket.

It’s always refreshing to hear the pre-season banter from players and coaches alike as they look ahead to the new season and have the chance to either build on last season’s performances or put the disappointments behind them and start afresh.

The first round of SuperSport matches gets under way today around the country and the KZN Dolphins will square up against the Northern Titans at Kingsmead.

Players in the Durban franchise, from all accounts, have had an excellent off-season with at least eight of them in action over the winter. A number of their players represented the South African A side against the Sri-Lankans, others did duty in the English County Championship and, of course, Hashim Amla represented the Proteas in England. A pity he has had to withdraw from the Dolphins’ season-opener because of injury.

It will be interesting to see how all the players gel. With promising youngsters in Abdullah, Khan, Louw, Ahmed Amla and Smit having represented South Africa A, the Dolphins certainly have plenty of potential. HD Ackerman’s wealth of experience is a real trump card as is the signing of Sanath Jayasuriya who will give the Dolphins a huge boost.

Jay Naidoo, manager of playing affairs at Kingsmead, has said that the selectors have not included a spinner for today’s match, but that they will make use of wicket-keeper Daryn Smit should they need to. Spinners have played an important role at Kingsmead in the past and the pitch traditionally provides good bounce for them.

I find the omission of a spinner disappointing as their inclusion gives much needed balance to the attack, but we may well see Smit doing more bowling than ’keeping. He is a talented player and could South Africa not do with the services of a top class leg spinner?

The Titans selectors have included two specialist spinners, Paul Harris and leg spinner Imran Tahir, so it is going to be interesting to see who selected more sensibly and will have the upperhand.

The weather forecast for this weekend is not encouraging, but the possible inclement weather could give assistance to the Dolphins quick bowlers.

David Miller, who was not offered a contract last season until the departure of Jonathan Vandiar, has now been rewarded for his strong pre-season performance and will have the chance to pay the selectors back for the faith they have showed in him. He has a marvellous opportunity to bat with the likes of the Amlas and Ackerman and there is no doubt he will learn a great deal from them this season.

The Inland team begin their campaign against Western Province in Belville today in the three-day competition. Under Doug Watson, they look professional and determined to put last season’s disappointments behind them. I had the opportunity of watching them train recently and they look a rejuvenated unit. A few of the Inland players are certainly good enough to push for places in the KZN Dolphins line-up and one hopes they make the most of every opportunity to catch the eye of the selectors. The season should prove an exciting one — both at Dolphin and Inland level.

• Neil Johnson, a former provincial and international cricketer, lives and coaches in Pietermaritzburg.

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