Ontong “stood aside” for the last two games against the Warriors and Lions to provide further opportunities for young all-rounder Jason Smith, following Wayne Parnell’s return to the side from injury.
The Cobras beat the Warriors by 12 runs last Friday at Newlands to record their first victory this season, but were a bit unfortunate in going down by three runs to the Lions on the Duckworth-Lewis method in Potchefstroom on Sunday following a rain delay, which saw them having to chase 70 to win off six overs after the hosts scored 165/5 in 19.1 overs.
But Smith has garnered just 12, 38 and 8 in three innings while batting in the top four, and Paul Adams told Independent Media on Tuesday that the time has come to bring Ontong back, with Kieron Pollard holding on to the captaincy. “This is a big week for us, and there’s a need to bring in experience. Kieron will captain again to keep the consistency going,” Adams said.
It is make-or-break for the Cape side, as the Dolphins game is followed by a trip to Centurion to take on the unbeaten Titans on Friday (6pm).
If the Cobras win both, they could be back in a playoff spot among the top three, but defeats are likely to see them knocked out with four games left in December, when the Proteas players will be back.
Ontong’s value could be in rotating the strike, which is what Smith battled with in particular. The 36-year-old is likely to bat at No 4, and if Richard Levi – who gets another chance despite a lean run of scores (25, 5, 8 and 10) - and Parnell can bat for most of the six powerplay overs, it would allow Ontong to dovetail with big-hitters such as Kieron Pollard, George Linde and Rory Kleinveldt in the middle-order.
On the bowling front, Adams said that Parnell will bowl at full throttle again, which can solve the Cobras’ “death-bowling” issues.
The Proteas left-arm quick, who only recently made his return to the Cobras side from a rib injury, scored 61 and 22 not out as an opening batsman, bowled just two overs as the fifth bowler against the Warriors and 2.1 overs in the same role in the Lions game.
That has resulted in Pollard bowling at the death, and the West Indian star has struggled to keep the runs down – going for 30 and 43 in the last two matches.
Levi, though, will be feeling the pressure, especially as an extra batsman has been added to the Cobras squad. Andrea Agathangelou, who was born in Rustenburg and has a South African mother and Cypriot father, has hit a rich vein of form for South Western Districts.
The 27-year-old right-hander has previously played for Lancashire and Leicestershire in England, and made his provincial debut for North West. Agathangelou has produced scores of 109, 199 not out, 90, 115 not out, 2, 125 not out and 6 in his last seven innings across all formats.
He is also a former SA Under-19 player, who featured in the junior side alongside Proteas batsmen Temba Bavuma and Rilee Rossouw in the 2008/09 season.
Original source: Cobras call on Ontong for must-win game