Both the Dolphins and the Cobras have been starved of a championship success in recent seasons and they’ll be desperate to change that course of events by starting off with a win in tonight’s Pro20 semifinal third leg in Durban.
The “hit and giggle” version of the game has lived up to its reputation as a lottery and the most recent results in Port Elizabeth and Durban have clearly underlined that notion.
The two semifinal legs of the Dolphins and Cobras match-ups have been won by decisive margins and perhaps the hugely unpredictable nature of Pro20 cricket could result in a far more evenly contested third leg as teams make one last push for a final berth and its massive financial offerings, given the advent of the Twenty20 Champions League, which gets under way in India, in September.
The must-win nature of the game is such that the Cobras will be backing themselves to beat the Dolphins as they have emerged victorious in very tight games this season.
Cobras coach Shukri Conrad feels his team thrives in the “pressure situations” and he’s confident there are any number of players in his ranks who can play a match-winning role.
If indeed the result is going to hinge on the role of one match-winning performance, most pundits would rather be looking at the Dolphins’ opening batsman, Sanath Jayasuriya.
He is arguably the world’s most combustible batsmen, even at the ripe old age of 39 years.
The Sri Lankan legend, who has broken more one-day batting records than any other cricketer, revolutionised one-day international cricket with his explosive batting at the 1996 Cricket World Cup.
He failed to score in the second leg in Durban and he’s too good to fail again and if he does produce a decisive knock today, he’ll be repaying the Dolphins his R1-million Pro20 appearance fee with a single innings.
Jayasuriya gave Pro20 fans a taste of his explosive batting when he posted 41 runs off 24 balls, including six boundaries, three of which cleared the ropes at Newlands, last Friday.
That contribution, as well as his two wickets courtesy of his left-arm spin, wasn’t seen in its full context because his team-mate, Yusuf Abdullah (3/13) ripped out the heart of the Cobras batting, even before their chase got under way. He claimed his first two wickets before the Cobras had even managed to score one run on home turf.
Even in defeat the Cobras drew one consolation from their Friday the 13th defeat and it was their most lethal batter, Herschelle Gibbs, would not fail again.
And how right they, the Cobras, were. The “Hurricane Herschelle” innings clubbed the Dolphins attack for 92 runs off 57 balls.
There must be a similar feeling in the Dolphins camp ahead of today’s clash since Jayasuriya failed with both bat and ball (nought and 0/29 off 3 overs) in the last outing.
Jayasuriya would no doubt have noted that the most telling all-rounder Pro20 contribution yet this season was recorded in Port Elizabeth on Monday night where the Warriors’ Robin Peterson returned 49 not out and 3/24 with bat and ball respectively.