The Cobras announced on their Facebook page on Wednesday that Levi will return to the longer format for the game in Thursday’s Sunfoil Series clash against the Warriors at St George’s Park in Port Elizabeth.
And Levi – a master-blaster opener in limited-overs cricket – will bat at No 5 instead of upfront against the Warriors, as he will replace JP Duminy in the middle-order. Duminy scored a terrific career-best 260 not out against the Lions in Paarl last weekend, and is back in the Proteas squad for the third Test against England at the Wanderers in Johannesburg, which also starts on Thursday.
Levi has always been regarded as mainly a limited-overs player following his exploits for the Proteas in T20 cricket and the Cobras in the 1-Day Cup and RamSlam T20 Challenge over the last few years.
But the big-hitting 27-year-old boasts a first-class average of 39.12, including six hundreds, in 64 matches. He has scored 25 half-centuries as well, so perhaps it is his penchant to get a start and then lose his wicket when he reaches 50 that has seen him miss out in the Cobras four-day team.
The decision to bring Levi back and position him in the middle-order this week, after he recovered from an ankle injury, was inspired by his performances for Northamptonshire in county cricket last year. He averaged 44.20 in scoring 663 runs in 18 innings during the 2015 season. Levi produced his career highest first-class score of 168 batting in the middle-order for Northants.
“I played at the top of the order (in England), and then dislocated a finger. Upon my return, I was slotted in the middle-order because the guy who replaced me had done well. I scored 168 in the middle-order in my first game,” Levi said.
“They want to give the player at the top (new Cobras opener Simon Khomari) a decent run, so I’m happy to bat in the middle-order. In four-day cricket you have some time to establish yourself, and then cash in when bowlers return for the third and fourth spells.
“I nursed an ankle injury, and now I’m returning following the Ram Slam, and I am moved down, so it is similar to what happened in England.”
Cobras selection chief Omar Henry said: “We also trust that he (Levi) can play a role in the middle-order with the arrival of the second new ball.”
Coach Paul Adams will hope that his team can go one step further than they did against the Lions last week, where they had to settle for a draw as the Gauteng side held on as last batting pair Aaron Phangiso and Eddie Leie survived the last 14 overs.
So, the Cobras are still winless after three matches and are second-last on the Sunfoil Series log, with the Warriors rock bottom. The Titans lead the Knights by just over two points at the top.
“We had to work very hard during that game,” Adams said in a statement on Wednesday. “The bowlers were quite short and it’s something we’ve had to work on afterwards.
“For us, it’s mainly been about recovering since then. We know we’re on the right track, and it’s about following those same processes going forward, making sure we’re fresh and ready come Thursday.
“A draw in the game was as good as a loss – we get the same amount of points. It’s important for me that we can pick it up from here and continue with that momentum.”
Cape Cobras squad:
Simon Khomari, Andrew Puttick, Omphile Ramela (captain), Justin Ontong, Richard Levi, Dane Vilas, Robin Peterson, Rory Kleinveldt, Dane Paterson, Lizaad Williams, Tshepo Moreki, Keegan Petersen.
Original source: Levi boost for Cobras