Dolphins’ big night out

2010-01-29 00:00

TONIGHT is the night for Imraan Khan’s side to put behind them years of mediocrity and claim a major scalp in domestic cricket.

Tonight’s MTN40 Championship decider pits a largely youthful KZN outfit against a Protea-packed Port Elizabeth unit seeking their first piece of silverware.

So the stakes could hardly be stacked any higher, because the Dolphins are desperate to deliver a trophy to their long-suffering followers.

Intriguingly, the Dolphins could face two vastly different teams if the match is not decided tonight.

With the Proteas jetting off to India, any weather delays tonight will force the Warriors into a major overhaul of their playing eleven.

Dolphins coach Graham Ford was quick to dispel any mischievous rumours of rain-dances being performed in the visitors’ hotel through the night.

“We are obviously aware of that possibility, but that is not something we can control. And I also think the guys would want to put up a performance against the best available side,” he explained.

Ford’s return to Kingsmead has coincided with a lot of other changes within the franchise, so reaching the final has been as unlikely as it is welcome.

“I am very proud of the progress made, but I certainly don’t think any of the guys would go out there already thinking they have done enough by getting to the final.

“We are ambitious, and having been in a few finals, I know that it is a hell of a lot nicer to be in a winning change room than in a losing one.”

The Dolphins, with a youthful core but also a strong shell of experience, may have snuck into the final, but they have taken a lot of heart from the last two weeks.

Their stumbles just after their extended Christmas break almost derailed their MTN40 campaign, but Ford is hopeful that the team has a strong finish in them.

“How we got here is irrelevant now, and we just have to go out there and play like we did against the Titans,” he added.

Ford also underlined the importance of their big-name players playing a big part in tonight’s showdown.

The likes of Dale Benkenstein, Andrew Hall and Alfonso Thomas are highly respected in England for their nerve-less abilities in key moments, and the Dolphins will expect a similar degree of control in the heat of the fierce furnace this evening.

“It was heartening to see the senior pros deliver in the manner they did at Centurion, and we would obviously like a similar return against a very strong Warriors line-up.”

Certainly, the Warriors’ team sheet reads like a who’s who of current Proteas.

Jacques Kallis and Mark Boucher stand out, but the trio of Wayne Parnell, Lonwabo Tsotsobe and Makhaya Ntini will give the Dolphins top-order the stiffest of new-ball examinations.

Loots Bosman and Hashim Amla did ever so well against Morné Morkel last week, but they will have to do it all over again.

If they pass that test, the wily off-spin of Johan Botha will lie in wait.

The mountain that faces the Durban franchise is unenviable, but it is certainly not impossible.

One only needs to look at last week’s results to realise how little reputations stand for in crunch games.

Half the country had already pencilled in a final in Pretoria between the Titans and the Cobras.

Instead, the camera focus is on Buffalo Park, and the cast list is no less impressive.

“We are playing a team of superstars, but we were in the same position last week,” Ford quipped.

In a week where local cricket has been in the headlines for sensationalism and farce, it will be a welcome change to see a deluge of sixes and fours tonight.

Let’s hope the weather plays along.

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