The Cobras installed Omphile Ramela as their Sunfoil Series skipper at the beginning of the season, and he will now be joined in the middle at Kingsmead on Thursday for the toss by Khaya Zondo, the middle-order batsman who originally hails from Lindelani, 20 kilometres outside Durban.
Zondo is also the first black African to lead the Dolphins as he replaces stand-in skipper Divan van Wyk, who has been dropped.
Both captains find their teams closer to the bottom of the Sunfoil Series table than the top, with the fourth-placed Cobras just ahead of the Dolphins (fifth) by 0.12 of a log point.
However, a victory for either team could propel them right back into the mix among the log-leaders as the Highveld Lions (first) and Titans (second) are involved in the top-of-the-table derby this weekend.
The Cobras and Dolphins have suffered similar problems in terms of their batting unit not always performing to their ability, although the Western Cape franchise have improved in their two most recent outings against the Lions and Warriors.
“We were simply not scoring enough runs previously,” Ramela said. “We’ve gone back to the basics of four-day cricket, and that is to put teams under pressure with decent first-innings totals.
“Obviously having JP (Duminy) back in the Paarl game helped us to get going again, and then Ontas (Justin Ontong) played a sweet innings in PE that set up a good score there.
“When you’re losing, people stand around and look for excuses and see things that aren’t there. We’ve needed to buckle down and work hard, and that’s what we have done and the results have been forthcoming.”
There is certainly an extra responsibility on Ramela to lead from the front with the bat this weekend due to the inclusion of youngsters Matthew Kleinveldt, Zubayr Hamza and Jason Smith.
Kleinveldt, who will open the batting in the absence of Andrew Puttick, who is on paternity leave, has played just one Sunfoil Series game for the Cobras, while Hamza (20) and Smith (21) will be making their franchise debuts.
The skipper has had a slow season thus far, but there have been signs in two of his three most recent innings that he could be rediscovering his form.
“I feel that I am finding my rhythm again. I just need to kick that bad habit of getting out in the 30s and 40s. I am feeling good at the crease, and hopefully I can soon start contributing with big scores of my own,” Ramela said.
Similarly, Dolphins coach Lance Klusener has been left frustrated with his batsmen’s failure to capitalise once well set at the crease.
With Divan van Wyk dropping out of the squad and his older brother Morné still out injured, Klusener has been forced to turn to KwaZulu-Natal Inland left-hander Sarel Erwee.
“I’m certainly not happy with the way we’ve batted,” Klusener said. “I don’t think we’ve been hard enough on ourselves when we’ve got in, and that’s been a little frustrating.
“We haven’t scored enough runs in the first innings to get sufficient bonus points and that’s probably why we are fifth.”
The Dolphins’ seam bowling department, though, has been boosted for this fixture through the Cobras’ generosity in allowing left-arm swing bowler Mthokozisi Shezi to join his former team on a one-match loan.
Shezi played for Western Province alongside Kleinveldt, Hamza and Smith last week at Newlands against South Western Districts in the Sunfoil Cup. He will return to the Cobras for the resumption of the One-Day Cup next week.
Original source: Cobras, Dolphins skippers make history