South Africa seamer Vernon Philander will make his return from injury for the Cape Cobras in their four-day clash against the Dolphins in Oudtshoorn starting on Monday.
The 32-year-old, who has not played any cricket since the Test series in England, has completed his rehabilitation after a back scare kept him out of the two Tests against Bangladesh.
Another former Proteas seam bowler, Rory Kleinveldt, who is also still out injured, will join the Cobras squad as bowling consultant. It is seen as an important step to guide a largely inexperienced attack.
Zubayr Hamza, incumbent number-three batsman of the Cobras, has been an immovable object since answering an SOS call to replace the injured Simon Khomari in Port Elizabeth against the Warriors this season.
He has struck 111, 41, 29 and 34 in the past three games. In the previous clash, against the Warriors at Newlands, he scored 34.
Hamza added 70 for the second wicket with Pieter Malan off 85 balls to blunt the new-ball attack and stabilize the innings. Consequently, the Cobras struck 530 for eight (declared).
“I have had three starts since my century in Port Elizabeth. I feel my gameplan at the start of my innings is solid and I won’t change the mental space I am in”, Hamza remarked.
“But I must push on. I need to play the ball, not the player,” he said about his intention to strike more big centuries.
Hamza said the batting has been the Cobras’ strongest suit. “One of our bonuses is that we bat quite deep,” he said.
The young bowling line-up performed admirably in the first innings against the Warriors, said Hamza.
Lizaad Williams was five-star in several spells without reward. Michael Cohen is a very good bowler, he said.
“What we need to do as an attack, is to stick to our gameplans that we discussed for each individual batsman and execute it. But we must do it from ball one.
“The past four games, our fielding has not been up to scratch. We needed to be ruthless in the second innings against the Warriors in the field, and we were not.
“Dane (Piedt, the skipper) had the plan to declare with the Cobras 180 runs ahead against the Warriors so that their top-six batsmen could be under pressure while still having a deficit. We created opportunities, but we did not take it in their second innings.
“We must be focused for each ball, and take every half chance in the field, even if it comes every 30 overs. If we back the attack and take those opportunities, it will also bolster the bowlers’ confidence.”