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Knights and Dolphins gunning for final

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The Dolphins and Knights will be keeping a beady eye on each other’s progress as they each chase a spot in the final Four-Day series.

Shaun Von Berg of Knights celebrates a wicket with teammates during the CSA 4-Day 2020/21 cricket match against the Titans. File picture: Sydney Mahlangu, BackpagePix

JOHANNESBURG – The Dolphins and Knights will be keeping a beady eye on each other’s progress as they each chase a spot in the final of the Four-Day series.

The KwaZulu Natal franchise will be in Gqeberha to face the Warriors, while Knights will be in Cape Town taking on the Cobras. It is the central franchise that has a very narrow advantage – just over a point more than the Dolphins – heading into their respective clashes at the coast, which will make for a nerve-wracking last round of fixtures in Pool A.

The competition has had several problems this season because of Covid-19, but a dramatic conclusion is in the offing, which could lead to some creative play. The Dolphins are fresh off a Keshav Maharaj masterclass at the Wanderers last week, where he picked up 13 wickets and scored 101 runs in a crucial victory against the Lions.

The Knights and Titans – the log leaders in Pool B – played out a hard-fought draw in Centurion which has created the opportunity for a virtual play-off, even though the Knights and Dolphins aren’t actually facing each other.

“Obviously as you get deeper into the contest then I guess it becomes natural to cast your eye towards the Knights fixture, but before that not too much of focus on them. We just need to focus on the job we need to do,” said Dolphins coach Imraan Khan.

A win for the Dolphins and a loss for the Knights at Newlands, would see the former make the final, and the reverse will hold true should the Knights win, and Dolphins lose at St George’s Park.

“The equation is very clear for us, we know where we’re at and what needs to be done,” said Knights coach Allan Donald. “We need to win here because the Dolphins are going to push very hard, they’re playing well, so we have no room to relax. It all makes for a really exciting climax.”

What had the potential of being the most mouthwatering clash of the round, between provincial neighbours, the Lions and Titans at the Wanderers, has been robbed of some of its luster after the Lions’ defeat last week, that essentially knocked them out of the running for a spot in the final.

The Titans, meanwhile, have a big enough lead over the second placed Warriors in Pool B, that just a handful of bonus points should be sufficient to confirm their spot in the final, that will take place in the last week of March.

Most intriguingly that match could see the return of Quinton de Kock to the playing arena. Now a former Proteas captain, De Kock took an enforced break after South Africa’s tour to Pakistan.

He trained with the Titans in the last few days, and back at his old provincial home ground, he’d want to push the restart button after what has been a difficult season.