Cape Town - Cape Cobras captain Justin Ontong wants his team to continue on their current path to secure a playoff spot in this year’s One-Day Cup.
“I am happy with the way we’re playing at the moment,” Ontong said in Cape Town this week ahead of Wednesday’s day/night, penultimate league clash against the Warriors at Boland Park in Paarl.
“Everything is not exactly 100 percent - like we saw in the Knights match where we were not clinical with the ball at the death - but our batting is coming along nicely, and I hope we can continue this momentum into the playoff stages.”
The Cobras batting unit had lifted its performances recently after a mediocre start to the season. Ontong was the catalyst for this improvement, with his 97 off just 66 balls against the Titans a couple of rounds ago, showing the way for the younger batsmen in the team. He produced another cameo last Friday against the Knights with a seven-ball 24 at Newlands.
Young left-hander Stiaan van Zyl seemed to have taken his skipper’s lead, although with a lot more circumspection. Making gradual progress through the league stages, Van Zyl compiled a match-winning 113 against the Knights.
Another youngster, Yaseen Vallie, had also showed composure in the same game with his second half-century of the campaign.
“I am happy with the way I am playing at the moment,” Ontong said.
“My role here at the Cobras is to sum up the situation of the game quickly and play accordingly. However, what has made me even happier is the entire batting unit’s contribution as the tournament has progressed.
“We’ve had long chats as a batting unit, about taking responsibility, and the top order batting deep into the innings. I am glad with the way Stiaan and Mo Vallie have responded. Stiaan is really batting well at the moment. He is a class player and hope we can continue in this way.”
The Warriors would certainly be another test for the Cobras top six, especially with bowling being their strongest suit. They would be without Wayne Parnell, who was sensational at the start of the campaign, who was doing duty with the national team, but they would still be led by the impressive Andrew Birch.
The former Capetonian was second in the national averages - behind Parnell - with 10 wickets for 15.90 and had a miserly economy rate of 4.39.
Birch was not just dangerous with the ball, but also very destructive with the bat, scoring a blazing 45 off 38 balls against the Dolphins on Sunday to lead the Warriors to a two-wicket win.
“Birchie is a quality cricketer. He always gives 150 percent and we know the threat he poses, especially with the new ball," Ontong said of the stocky new-ball bowler.
“We don’t want to focus too much on the individual because the Warriors have a host of dangerous players. A guy like Simon Harmer can also be very dangerous with bat and ball, so we choose instead to focus on our preparations and get our skills to the level required.”
The Cobras were sitting at the top of the log, equal on points with the Warriors. The first-round match between the two teams was abandoned without a ball being bowled in East London a fortnight ago.
The other fixture on Wednesday has the Knights hosting the Titans in Bloemfontein. The central franchise had little but pride to play for after tasting victory on only two occasions in their eight matches.
The Titans, though, still had ambitions of reaching the playoff stages and would hope to achieve a bonus-point victory to keep the pressure on the three teams - Cobras, Warriors, Dolphins - above them, heading into the final round of league matches scheduled for Friday.