Quinton de Kock’s five weeks away from cricket – during which time he was relieved of the national captaincy – will come to an end at the Wanderers on Tuesday.
And both the Proteas and the Titans will be hoping wicketkeeper-batsman burns brightly in the final round of Four-Day Franchise Series matches against the Lions.
De Kock looked in desperate need of a break when he was dismissed for duck in the second innings of the second Test in Pakistan on February 8, and he no doubt enjoyed all the fresh air and the miles of beaches near his George home when he returned.
But it has not been all easy living for the 28-year-old since then, with Titans coach Mandla Mashimbyi revealing on Monday that De Kock has been working hard in the nets as he prepares to return to action as the Titans look to nail down their place in the four-day final.
The Proteas coaching staff will also be watching because Pakistan will be back here next month for ODI and T20 series’.
“Quinny has been lively and he looks happy to be back. He’s been working hard in the nets and has been hitting balls for days. He looks very hungry to do something for the team,” Mashimbyi told The Citizen.
The presence of De Kock, as well as another international wicketkeeper-batsman in Heinrich Klaasen, significantly boosts the Titans batting line-up and there will be white-hot action in store as Kagiso Rabada spearheads the Lions attack.
Lungi Ngidi is not quite over the knee niggle he picked up in the closing stages of the T20 competition in Durban, so the Titans attack should be much the same to the one that played against the Knights last week.
The Wanderers pitch was the subject of much debate last week as Dolphins left-arm spinner Keshav Maharaj took 13 wickets, but Wandile Gwavu, the Lions coach, said the wicket was a good one and he expects the same sort of surface for this game.
“It offered a little bit of turn but it also offered a lot for the seamers and was good for batting once you got in, and there was a bit of rough on the fourth day,” Gwavu said.
“This pitch looks very similar, so it should be an evenly-balanced game, although there is a crack or two that could open up in the heat.”
While the Titans, who are 14.16 points ahead of the Warriors, are the favourites to win Pool B, the other pool is coming down to the most thrilling of conclusions with the Knights, who visit the Cobras, just 1.16 points ahead of the Dolphins, who travel to play the Warriors.
The two pool winners will contest the final from March 25.