Johannesburg - George Linde is fast becoming a stand-out performer in a season that started poorly for the Cobras, but now they are peaking at just the right time.
He was instrumental on Friday night at Newlands in restricting the visiting Titans to 132 all out in their 20 overs, snuffling Henry Davids down the leg side and then accounting for kingpin Albie Morkel.
He bowled the Titans skipper in taking two for 28 in his four, and finished the night with a priceless 16 not out as he and Ferisco Adams sneaked over the line to give the Cobras a nail-biting three-wicket victory.
The victory, the Titans’ first loss of the competition, means the Cobras have qualified for a semifinal and are almost assured of doing it at home. The only rider to hosting a Newlands semi is if the Dolphins and the Warriors burgle an unlikely victory against them in East London in the Cobras’ last game.
Speaking before the Titans match, Robbie Peterson, the former Proteas left-arm spinner, said he wouldn’t put it past the Cobras to now snuffle the trophy.
“They seem to have sorted out selection and Ashwell [Prince, the coach] has the right blend. I do think they need to find a place in the side for Richard Levi. He’s different, yes, but he can be so destructive,” he said.
Peterson likes what he sees with Linde.
“He bowled at a pace that was natural for him as a younger bowler,” he said. “I now see that he’s slowing down and varying that pace and getting some stumpings [like the Lions’ Reeza Hendricks earlier in the tournament], which is always great for a left-arm spinner.
“I remember coming back from the Caribbean Premier League and suggesting in the Cobras’ nets that he didn’t bowl too straight to big-hitting right-handers because those guys drag you through cow-corner and deep mid-wicket. You need to be bowling a little bit outside of the right-handers’ off-stump to players like Dwayne Smith and Kieron Pollard and it’s good to see his game developing and maturing".
As for Linde himself, he’s a Cobra through and through. He’s received the odd offer from other provinces, he says, but such is the thrill of pulling the blue jersey over his head that he hasn’t been tempted to move inland.
“It’s just a dream come true, to be honest. It’s been amazing to play against the national players like AB de Villiers. I was so in the moment that I didn’t even realise I was bowling to him. I only realised it afterwards,” said Linde.
He has certainly taken the path less travelled.
“My dad grew up on a farm in Frankfort in the Free State and played rugby and athletics and he didn’t even know what a cricket bat was,” said Linde.
“They farmed cattle and mealies. He and my mother, Rosanda, are my biggest fans. They come to all my home matches. They’re always there".
The folks might need to start squirrelling money away in the travel budget because you rather feel that bigger things lie ahead.
Linde’s batting has come along – promoted up the order he scored 50 against the Warriors earlier this season – and he’s a good fielder, which makes him a rarity in a competition in which the fielding and catching has been diabolical.
Indeed, it’s his love of the game in a jaundiced season that somehow sets Linde apart. You fancy it will serve him well in the years to come.