Squeaky bum time in the Sunfoil Series
When most of the attention at this time of the cricket season falls on the national team and what they are about to embark on in terms of touring New Zealand‚ the exciting Sunfoil Series has gone under the radar.
Not since the formation of the franchise era in the 2003-04 season has the four-day competition gone down to the wire. This especially after the removal of the final at the end of the 2005-06 season after two turgid finals in the 2004-05 and 2005-06 seasons‚ when play-it-safe draws punctuated the four-day game.
This is about as close to squeaky bum as first-class cricket without a final can be‚ following closely on what transpired in the first division of England's county championships where Somerset‚ Yorkshire and Middlesex were all in with a shout.
The Lord's-based county prevailed with a win over the defending champions Yorkshire in a pulsating final session.
Provided the weather plays ball‚ the two Highveld encounters and the coastal clash should provide a fitting conclusion to what has been an exciting season.
Titans (94.62 points) - 1st v Warriors (78.66) - 6th in Benoni
Theoretically‚ this should be the easiest game of the lot with Mark Boucher's side odds-on to beat the bottom-placed side. The only reason the Warriors are bottom of the log is because they've lost the most matches (four) but they've run teams very close‚ hence the points they have accumulated. Capitulation has not been the theme of Malibongwe Maketa's side even though they haven't been the best of chasers. However‚ they have it in them to draw out the game and potentially cause heart palpitations for the hosts.
Highveld Lions (83.34) - 5th v Knights (92.24) - 2nd in Johannesburg
Logic should dictate a win for the Knights but the Lions have conjured up wins when it has been least expected of them. The Lions will have to play out of their skins like they did in East London to beat the Warriors to have a remote chance of reclaiming the title they won in the 2014-15 season. The Knights have been a consistent bunch but their defeat to the Cape Cobras in Paarl has set them back. They would have been in pole position if their batsmen had not squandered the hard work their bowlers put in.
Dolphins (84.67) - 4th v Cape Cobras (85.74) - 3rd in Durban
The Dolphins will rue the fact they let the Titans sneak away in Pietermaritzburg but one has to stop and marvel at the Cape Cobras' resurgence. Clearly a refreshed and energised side under Ashwell Prince's stewardship‚ they have found a way to be in contention after being down and out after the first round where they lost three and drew two. Their three wins have come in the New Year and there's an element of potency in all the facets of their game. They will need Durban's notoriously fickle weather to behave if both sides are to have a chance.
- TMG Digital/TMG Sport