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WITH a short break looming in the SuperSport Series cricket competition, several teams will be keen to lay down a marker for the rest of the programme when the next round of matches starts today.
This weekend's matches involve two of the competition's top sides, log leaders the Warriors and the Titans, but they can expect stiff resistance when they host the Highveld Lions and the Dolphins respectively.
The Warriors jumped to the top of the log with a hard-earned win over the Dolphins last weekend, but they have been hit by setbacks this week. First, skipper Davy Jacobs pulled out for the birth of his first child, while young fast bowler Wayne Parnell was suspended for a match for staying out too late one evening.
The Warriors have moved Arno Jacobs to take his namesake's spot behind the stumps and brought in Michael Smith as a batsman, while Darryl Brown has come in for Parnell. Paceman Garnett Kruger, who joined the squad last week, has a calf strain.
Warriors coach Russell Domingo said they were confident Jacobs could do the job as a stand-in wicketkeeper.
"Arno's done it for us before and he's a skilful player so he should be fine," Domingo said. "Obviously not having Davy is a big blow, but I believe we can handle it."
Arno Jacobs is again proving to be the Warriors' leading batsman this season, but Domingo will be asking for greater support from the other batsmen this weekend.
"Although we won last weekend, we didn't bat that well in either innings," he said. "There was a bit in the wicket, but it wasn't a 174 (Warriors' first innings) wicket and we'll be looking to improve on that.
"We also want a bit more consistency with the ball, especially up front with the new ball where we bowled a bit too short last weekend. The Lions have a really strong batting line-up so it will be a big challenge for our bowlers."
Domingo's view is reflected in the fact the Lions can find no place for Vaughn van Jaarsveld, one of their top batsmen in recent years.
The Lions also look strong in the bowling department with England left-arm spinner Monty Panesar making his debut and former national fast bowler Andre Nel making a return after injury.
In Centurion, the Titans will be looking to put the debacle of their previous match behind them when they face the Dolphins. The match against the Warriors in Benoni a fortnight ago was abandoned after seven overs because of a sub-standard pitch . The game will be replayed in Port Elizabeth from November 12-15.
The Titans will be pleased to have national fast bowler Dale Steyn back in the squad and he will add depth and penetration to a formidable attack.
The Dolphins will be smarting at failing to nail down the Warriors last weekend and coach Graham Ford will be looking for a big improvement, especially from the batsmen.
But it won't get any easier in Centurion. - Sapa