The team was hard at work at the nets trying to figure out how to deal with the anticipated Free State bowling attack
The chips are down as central region neighbours Free State and Northern Cape face off in this weekend’s CSA Provincial Three-Day Challenge, starting today, and the CSA Provincial One-Day Challenge scheduled for Sunday at the Diamond Oval.
What makes these matches so important for the teams is that in some ways the performance and outcome could go a long way in determining which is the best feeder team to the VKB Knights franchise.
Added to this incentive the local lads know that they will need to pull up their socks and improve on their victory rate both at home but especially on the road so as to pick up on their overall standings on the log.
Northern Cape Cricket (NCC) coach Loots Bosman readily agrees that improvement on the log is certainly achievable within the stroke of a single match. The team is currently in sixth place out of seven teams on the CSA Three-Day Challenge log, and fifth out of seven on the One-Day table.
Bosman had been proactive after the festive break, making an early start and had taken the trouble of letting the team run off some of the Christmas pudding and other indulgences with a brisk run around the park on the first day back at the office.
By Tuesday this week the team was hard at work at the nets trying to figure out how to deal with the anticipated Free State bowling attack. They were back for some more intense sessions yesterday ahead of today’s match start.
What will give NCC confidence is the fact that to date the Diamond Oval has been their happy hunting ground. Their record elsewhere is cringeworthy which begged the question of the coach as to why the team’s performance away from home was so below par?
“I think it’s just a matter of conditions. You go to a venue you don’t know what to expect . You assume you will be playing on a flat wicket or that it will be a green wicket.
“So in terms of preparations here at home you find something is very different to what you actually play on when you are away.
“But still as a cricketer you must adapt to all those conditions. It’s part of the game.
“Sometimes it’s also that the other team also wants to do well and that their skill set is sometimes better.”
Bosman cautioned, however, that despite the home advantage the team cannot afford to be too chilled against Free State.
NCC will have to do without the services of key players. Among those absent are Keagan Petersen who top scored with an excellent 161 and 165 not out in the two innings of the Knights’ game against the Cape Cobras recently.
The other members not in the provincial team because of call ups to the Knights franchise side are Grant Mokoena, Zakhele Qwabe and Neil Baartman. The team has replaced those missing in action with three new acquisitions in Luthando Mnyanda a right hand batsman and right hand off break specialist, as well as Patrick Kruger who boasts a one time “Player of the Tournament” award when he earlier turned out for the erstwhile Griqualand West side. The third is Mbulelo Budaza a left arm speed merchant.
Yet despite what seems an almost alarming gutting of the side Bosman said they have retained quite a brilliant pick of players at home who they will rely on to pile on the runs and get the critical wickets.
Bosman believes the team as is has a good balance of veteran players with experience as well as some relatively new members who are at least familiar with the team’s set-up.
The coach has his sights set on the next season so doing well in this series is an absolute imperative. He plans to lead a strong side into the next round of competitive provincial cricket. So doing well this weekend is a must.