IT would take an extraordinary set of results for Eastern Province to snatch the title, but that will not stop Lee-Roy Walters’s side from aiming for a strong finish to the cricket season when they entertain log leaders Western Province at Axxess St George’s, starting today.
EP have threatened all season and five victories in their 12 matches have seen them stay in touch with the leading teams for most of the summer.
However, their failure to clinch a sixth outright in their most recent clash against KwaZulu-Natal Inland has left them trailing front-runners WP and North West by a substantial number of points.
EP go into the final round of three-day on 129.7 points and even a victory against WP (146.58) would probably not be enough to overhaul the leaders.
Furthermore, North West are on 145.9 points so the weekend will develop into a fascinating race between WP and the Potch team as they vie for the three-day title.
North West are at home in their final game against Northerns, who have not had a bad season either. They are in fifth place, but should end ahead of KZN Inland, who have completed their programme.
EP, therefore, have an important role to play in the destiny of the trophy and there will be plenty of pressure around for the next three days.
Walters leads the side in place of Colin Ackermann, who has secured a spot in the Warriors lineup after establishing himself as the leading batsman in the three-day competition (856 runs at an average of 61.14).
The skipper will be calling on another top performer in Eddie Moore (632 runs, average 48.61) to lead the way at the crease, while Kelly Smuts had an encouraging knock of 92 not out against KZN Inland and will be looking to finish the season well.
Among the bowlers, Warren Bell (52 wickets) and Sisanda Magala (45) have excelled all season and will clearly be the key players, but the quality of support they get from the rest of the attack will be equally important if they hope to contain the WP side. With the title at stake, WP are sure to come out firing.
The EP squad is:
Lee-Roy Walters (captain), Akhona Kula, Eddie Moore, James Price, Johan Smit, Kelly Smuts, Kirwin Christoffels, Lionel Vaaltyn, Onke Nyaku, Sinethembiso Ndwandwa, Sisanda Magala, Solomzi Nqweni, Tladi Bokako, Warren Bell. – Neale Emslie