Champions League T20

Cobras catch an old virus

2009-10-23 07:37
Justin Ontong (Gallo Images)
Comment: Rob Houwing, Sport24 chief writer

Cape Town - For so adamantly backing the wrong Champions League T20 semi-final horse, I find myself the owner of an anorexic wallet, as it were, today.

I had predicted - unusually brashly, I like to think -- that the Cape Cobras would “whip the butts” of Trinidad and Tobago at Hyderabad.

Instead they are the ones to have slithered disconsolately out of the tournament, leaving the wonderfully happy-go-lucky (and certainly far from talentless, either) Caribbean outfit to fight out the tantalising US$2.5-million first prize with a seasoned New South Wales side on Friday.

My pro-Cobras conviction had been based not so much on parochial grounds as in the not unreasonable - or so I thought - belief that a strong South African franchise really should be good enough, based on contrasting current international reputations, to take out West Indian counterparts in a crunch cricket encounter.

Instead I under-estimated both the enterprise and pluckiness of the T & T side, and was also fatally suckered into believing the Cobras would be less likely to succumb to our national team’s penchant for making a pig’s ear of key moments in global-flavoured events.

Yet “choke” in certain respects they did, a plethora of lapses in the field and fits of similarly untimely bowling waywardness accounting for the end of what had been - and let’s give them some kudos for that - a spirited adventure by the Newlands-based crew at the maiden Champions League.

They may have succumbed by seven wickets, which can sometimes seem a deceptively wide margin, but the fact remains that there were only four balls to spare in an enthralling, ding-dong match: if the Cobras had simply maintained their more customary catching and ground-fielding standards, they might well have advanced themselves to the showpiece fixture at the same venue.

Poor Henry Davids will have wanted to creep into a hole after spilling two chances - one undoubtedly routine - in the deep in the space of barely a minute, midway through the T & T assault on a “par” target of 176. He was also responsible for one or two along-the-carpet bloopers, though hardly alone in that respect.

And then Justin Ontong, who would normally grasp elementary skiers in his deepest sleep, turned even more damaging villain by grassing a Dwayne Bravo near-dolly offering to long-on, shortly before the all-rounder unleashed a barrage of sixes and fours around the park to begin to tilt the scales irreversibly.

I think there will be some more traditionalist-minded South African cricket enthusiasts scratching their heads in disbelief, too, that captain Daren Ganga, no less, was Bravo’s partner in the crucial, unbeaten fourth wicket stand of 93 which ferried T & T joyously home.

Was this really the same Ganga whose stodginess at the Test crease used to earn him the unenviable nickname of Daren Gangrene? And who was so often Shaun Pollock’s “bunny” during one especially bankrupt West Indies summer in South Africa?

That is most certainly was, only highlighted why the Champions League, in overall terms, has passed its maiden examination - it has been full of beautifully unscripted twists and turns and heralded the “arrival” of many previously journeyman, honest-pro players or even unlikely rebirth of others.

The likes of butterfingered Davids and Ontong must not be isolated for Cobras’ brickbat treatment on the night: inconsistency crept all too frequently into the bowling battle-plan as well.

It was apparent right from the start, when the trusty Charl Langeveldt, despite probably not being fully fit, built up precious pressure upfront in the Trinidadian knock, only to be let down at the other end by Monde Zondeki, who started with two wides and more or less self-destructed (2-0-30-0) thereafter.

Meek body language, for me, has always been a bugbear of this otherwise talented but highly injury-prone fast bowler, and I find it increasingly hard to see Zondeki adding greatly to his six-Test and 13-ODI Proteas career.

Similarly Rory Kleinveldt just could not get his attempted yorker length right, and the seamer paid a hefty price.

The one really shining light from a Cobras perspective, not for the first time in this tournament, was JP Duminy, whose unbeaten 61 off 40 balls took him to the top of the all-star team runs-scorers’ list.

His four sixes in the semi took him to a personal 10 for the tourney, and for so diminutive a “boxer” he certainly packs a haymaker punch. There was not a great deal wrong with his resourceful off-spin contribution, either.

Is the T & T fairytale going to end against a NSW Blues side truly littered with players capped aplenty at Aussie one-day and Test level?
I suspect most Capetonians, and South Africans generally, will shift allegiance pretty rapidly to the Caribbean team, lest a bunch of gallingly cool, calm and collected Australian cricketers get to whoop it up once again against a backdrop of champagne showers and fireworks.

My fear is that T & T are badly disadvantaged now by having to compose themselves anew for the final challenge with only 24 hours to do it in, against a NSW team having benefited from a rather more realistic 48.

But I also pooh-poohed the Trinidadians’ chances against the Cobras, and look what a pauper that turned me into …


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