Richard Levi does not subscribe to the theory that the Cape Cobra’s middle-order might fire blanks in the final of the Ram Slam T20 Challenge on Friday due to a lack of game time. The Cobras and the Chevrolet Knights will meet at the Newlands Cricket Stadium on Friday in the final of the domestic T20-showpiece. Levi, the leading run-scorer in the T20 Challenge with 391 runs at an average of 143.22, said the top-order is supposed to score the most runs in the domestic showpiece.
But the middle-order of the Nashua Cape Cobras have served them well, as Kieron Pollard and Dane Vilas have been on song and have played superbly when given opportunities. Pollard is at the summit of the Cobras batting averages with 200 runs at an average of 66.66. Vilas has struck 153 runs in the competition, including 51 in a bonus-point win against the bizhub Highveld Lions.
Levi said he had a lean season in 2013/2014 following back injury. Upon his return, he was dropped after two consecutive ducks. The time in the wilderness gave him opportunities to reflect.
As a senior professional in the English county series, he thrived in the role of taking responsibility at the top of the order. Subsequently, in the T20 Challenge, he was able to adapt to different conditions and still score half-centuries, even if the pitch was slow, as was the case at St. George’s Park when he scored 76 off 53 balls and featured in a 140-run partnership for the first wicket. Two days later, Levi hit a sedate 64 off 61 balls on a big ground, Chevrolet Park, but his approach proved to be a master stroke as the Cobras finished as winners by eight runs against the Knights.
Levi was able to bat in second and fifth gear the past season, bludgeoning and caressing, blasting and manoeuvring, muscling and manipulating while playing a high-risk game only when the line of the bowling was too straight. “Speaking to other professionals has been important while side-lined,” he said. Levi smashed 117 off 52 balls in February 2012 in what was the fastest century in a T20-international at the time.
Asked if he has become a meaner, leaner and better run-scoring machine, Levi’s answer was blunt, “No, but I have a better understanding of my own game now.” Part of that understanding is to bat well in tandem with other top-order players like Andrew Puttick, Omphile Ramela, and Hashim Amla. Asked about the final on Friday and whether the Cobras are carrying emotional scars of that 2-run defeat in the final of the T20 Challenge in February, Levi said the Cobras have hardly spoken about that game in training, and are only focusing on the final.
“We have a second opportunity in two seasons to win it,” he added.