THE Chevrolet Warriors will be looking to maintain their unbeaten start to the season when they meet the Cape Cobras in a top-of-the-table Sunfoil Series clash in Paarl today.
The Warriors have enjoyed their best start to a four-day campaign in many seasons. An opening round win over the defending champion Titans and a gutsy draw against the Dolphins in East London at the weekend means Davy Jacobs's side find themselves well-placed in second position, less than a point behind the Cobras.
The match in Paarl this weekend against a strong Western Cape franchise side will be another test in judging whether they will seriously challenge for a title they have never won as a franchise.
Some spice has been added to the fixture with three national players – Wayne Parnell, Vernon Philander and Justin Ontong – making a return to first-class domestic cricket with their franchises after periods on duty with the Proteas.
Allrounder Parnell slots into the Warriors' pace attack and will add some welcome variety. Unfortunately for fast bowler Gurshwin Rabie, someone had to make way for the leftarmer. Warriors management has decided Lyall Meyer is better suited to the low, slow conditions in Paarl so he was retained ahead of Rabie, who has taken eight wickets in his two matches.
"It's always tough when those guys come back but international experience is a big thing," Jacobs said.
"Gurshwin's very unlucky to miss out but we've taken Lyall with us because the wicket may suit him. Gurshwin also has a new-born baby, so it will give him some time at home as well."
One Warriors player who will be champing at the bit to have another run in Paarl is the spinning allrounder Simon Harmer.
In the corresponding fixture last season, Harmer destroyed the Cobras in their second innings with career best figures of eight for 72. His match haul of 11 wickets resulted in a victory for the Warriors and also dented the Cobras' chances of retaining the SuperSport Series title.
The Cobras, who won convincingly against the Lions in their season opener, and had their match against the Knights washed out, will be chasing a measure of revenge.
Ontong reclaims the captaincy from Rory Kleinveldt while South Africa's Cricketer of the Year Philander makes his first appearance since helping South Africa to number one in the world and a 2-0 test series victory over England in August.
The Proteas leave for Australia at the end of the month for their three-match test series against the No2 ranked team and, apart from continuing his phenomenal form of the past two seasons in South Africa's four-day competition, he will be looking to fine-tune all aspects of his game.
In the other match starting today, the Dolphins will host the Knights in Maritzburg. The Dolphins will be without Proteas players Hashim Amla and Lonwabo Tsotsobe who were unavailable for selection.
The squads for Paarl are:
Warriors: Michael Price, Davy Jacobs (capt), Jon-Jon Smuts, Ashwell Prince, Colin Ingram, Kelly Smuts, Athi Dyili, Simon Harmer, Andrew Birch, Wayne Parnell, Lyall Meyer, Basheer Walters
Cobras: Justin Ontong (capt), Alistair Gray, Beuran Hendricks, Justin Kemp, Rory Kleinveldt, Johann Louw, Vernon Philander, Dane Piedt, Andrew Puttick, Siyabulela Simetu, Mohammed Vallie, Stiaan Van Zyl, Dane Vilas