THERE’S a mixture of youth and experience in the Dolphins squad who have travelled to the Wanderers for the first four-day series clash of the season against the Lions starting today.
Buoyed by their Ram Slam T20 success where they lost to the Titans in last weekend’s final at Centurion, the Dolphins will want to maintain that momentum in the longest and purest form of the game at domestic level. Last season, they were always in the top half of the season and at times, could see the trophy in the distance but a sluggish finish to their campaign saw them finish third, a credible effort nonetheless.Meeting last season’s runaway champions the Lions first up could be just what the doctor ordered for the Dolphins to launch their campaign and show their intent.
In the domestic three-day competition, the KZN and KZN Inland sides have been in outstanding form and are strong contenders in their respective pools, allowing Dolphins coach Lance Klusener to call on a wealth of talent and give other players a run after the One-Day Cup and T20 formats of the game.
Regular captain Morné van Wyk is rested for this game but the captaincy remains in the family with brother Divan taking the wheel. “With both KZN sides producing the goods in the three-day competition, it allows those players to bring their confidence into the longer format,” said Van Wyk. “With myself, Imraan Khan and Daniel Sincuba returning for this clash, the Dolphins have a new look about them.”
With Khaya Zondo and Keshav Maharaj with the SA A side and all-rounder Andile Phehlukwayo playing in the SA Invitation side against England in Potchefstroom, the opportunity is there for some of the players who have been out of the mix in the shorter games to be noticed. Among these are quick bowlers Daryn Dupavillon, Mat Pillans, Calvin Savage and spinner Thandi Tshabalala.
Also in the squad is former Dolphins captain and keeper Daryn Smit who is currently enjoying a rich harvest with the bat in the KZN side having knocked off two successive centuries and missing a third by a handful of runs in his last innings. His mature head and leadership experience should blend well with Van Wyk’s gameplan and looking at what the Dolphins have in their camp, this could be the match to follow in the opening rounds of the competition.
Sibs Makhanya, who had some games in the One-Day and T20 rounds is also in the mix, fresh from his outstanding 192 runs from 199 balls in his last innings for the KZN side and with David Miller playing in whites for the first time in nearly a year and Cody Chetty back in favour, the Dolphins middle-order looks formidable and needs to let the willow do the talking.
Ayavuya Myoli who played in the Ram Slam and made his debut in the KZN side at the start of the season with a five-wicket haul, has been rewarded for his toils with his debut four-day call-up.
There’s all to play for with the announcement earlier this week that the prize money for this season’s winners had been doubled to R2 million. Such a carrot will only lead to strong performances and bold decisions from team captains in what could be an exciting campaign. Perhaps commentator HD Ackerman put it best when he said this week, “At all the four-day matches, it’s literally a man and his dog who are watching and a hard fought century or inspired bowling performance gets sporadic applause [if that] and slips by unnoticed. But, it’s noticed by the player and players involved in the game and these landmarks are the stepping stones to greatness.
“First class cricket is vitally important. Ask any batsman or bowler his career stats and he automatically gives his first class stats, not the One-Day or T20 stuff. These guys are the core of our Test team and the increased prize money for them is richly deserved.”
Today’s Four-Day fixtures
Lions v Dolphins, Wanderers
Cobras v Knights, Newlands
Titans v Warriors, Centurion
Dolphins fquad: Divan van Wyk (captain), Imraan Khan, Daniel Sincuba, Cody Chetty, David Miller, Daryn Smit, Sibonelo Makhanya, Calvin Savage, Matthew Pillans, Daryn Dupavillon, Ayavuya Myoli, Mthandeki Tshabalala.