AB de Villiers is set to return to cricket, boosting the Titans’ chances of clinching a final at home © AFP
South Africa’s T20 competition enters the final week with all six franchises still in contention for the playoffs. With eight matches left, here’s how things stack up for each team.
Eight matches, 24 points
The defending champions are sitting comfortably at the top of the table and only need one win to secure a playoff spot. Two could give them a home final, provided they are not leapfrogged by the Warriors. They will be mindful of being pipped at the post after tailing off in their last two games. The Titans won their first five completed matches but have since been defeated twice.
Tabraiz Shamsi has already been put back in the squad and they also have Dean Elgar and Quinton de Kock – although he is suffering from a virus – in their ranks. AB de Villiers is in contention to play in their final league match on Sunday but Morne Morkel, who was due to get a game in a bid to prove his fitness ahead of the Sri Lanka series, is unlikely to feature as he continues to nurse a back niggle.
Seven matches, 23 points
The Warriors put in dominant performances through the mid-section of the league phase – winning four matches in a row – and are a win away from guaranteeing themselves progression. They could go ahead of the Titans and slip straight into the final with three wins and some help from other results.
Without many big names in their ranks, the Warriors have relied on team efforts. But one man, Andrew Birch, has stood out. He leads the wicket charts with 17 scalps at 9.23 and will likely keep Kyle Abbott on the sidelines. Sisanda Magala and JJ Smuts have also put in prominent performances so far.
Seven matches, 16 points
A stop-start campaign from the Lions could have finally taken off after they surged back into contention for the playoffs with a five-run win over the Warriors at the weekend. They need to win all three remaining games to be assured of a playoff place but can get there with two if other results go their way.
They will have to do so without Kagiso Rabada, who is being given some time off in the middle of a busy season, but in his absence Hardus Viljoen has lead the attack impeccably. He is second on the wicket-takers’ charts currently. Consistency in their batting is the Lions’ main issue; they’ll be hopeful Temba Bavuma’s return does the trick for them.
Eight matches, 15 points
Kevin Pietersen’s return did not inspire the Dolphins to a victory that would have left them well-placed for the qualifiers. Instead, they now need to win both their remaining matches, preferably with bonus points, to get into the semi-final. However, their fate is no longer in their hands.
Keshav Maharaj is back for them but they will want more from the likes of Cameron Delport and Robbie Frylinck, especially after their attack was depleted by Andile Phehlukwayo‘s injury. They will remain hopeful of their chances, especially because Morne van Wyk has been in good form with the bat.
Seven matches, 12 points
A season marred by off-field drama sparked to life when the Cobras beat the Dolphins to keep their trophy hopes alive. They need three bonus-point wins to qualify for the semi-final but could get there with three ordinary wins, provided other results go their way.
They have already welcomed back Dane Vilas and will be boosted by the inclusion of JP Duminy. Even without their other national stars – Vernon Philander (rested) and Hashim Amla (neck injury) – the Cobras have a formidable XI, with Kieron Pollard and Wayne Parnell forming a powerful middle order.
Seven matches, five points
After storming to second on the first-class log earlier in the season, the Knights have hit a snag and sit bottom of the T20 competition. They will need to win all three of their remaining fixtures and hope for plenty of favours to qualify.
Both David Miller and Rilee Rossouw are injured, which has left it to Theunis de Bruyn to carry the batting without too much support. Marchant de Lange has continued his fine first-class form but they need a few more wicket-takers.
With inputs from Shiva Jayaraman
Firdose Moonda is ESPNcricinfo’s South Africa correspondent
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Source: ESPN Crickinfo