The Momentum One-Day Cup gets underway in a bio-bubble in Potchefstroom on Saturday with the Dolphins taking on the Titans in the opening match, and while on paper it would be obvious to view the defending champions as the favourites, the Titans will be fielding a much stronger attack than last season when they finished a lowly fifth in the 50-overs competition.
Last season the Titans failed to defend sizeable totals in three key matches – 307 against the Knights, 275 in 39 overs versus the Dolphins, and 331 against the Warriors – but on Saturday they will unveil a new-look attack featuring ace wrist-spinner Tabraiz Shamsi, who played only once last season, prolific wicket-taker Junior Dala, who could make only three appearances in 2020, and new signing Kyle Abbott, one of South Africa’s leading limited-overs bowlers.
It would be silly to write off the impact that trio will have and Titans coach Mandla Mashimbyi is hoping for much smarter bowling from his attack this season.
“We just couldn’t defend scores in the last campaign and we need to be a lot smarter when we bowl, making sure we stick to our plans, especially against particular batsmen,” Mashimbyi said.
“Those three guys are all really good at white-ball cricket – some of the best in the country – but it’s also going to take a team effort and we don’t want to put all the pressure on those three. It’s important that we identify the moments to take the game away and put our feet on the pedal when its needed.”
The Dolphins boast top-class stars of their own in Proteas stalwarts David Miller and Andile Phehlukwayo, last season’s leading run-scorer Grant Roelofsen, and exciting pacemen in Ottneil Baartman, Kerwin Mungroo and Robbie Frylinck.
The Dolphins will no longer have an advantage, however, of playing half their matches in KwaZulu-Natal, where they have used almost sub-continental conditions to create a home fortress.
Potchefstroom has a reputation for high-scoring matches so their slow bowlers may have a harder time spinning their webs this season.
And it’s a big opening weekend for the Dolphins as they also play a highly competitive Knights team on Sunday at the same venue.