Duanne Olivier has made himself available for an international comeback but is not allowing himself to think too far ahead. Olivier, who returned to South African cricket following the end of the Kolpak system earlier this year, is the leading wicket-taker in the domestic first-class competition and has had contact from the national selectors but wants to focus on the Lions, who are the top of the points table.
"I am open to everything but I am trying to think of the present and not the future at the moment. Victor Mpitsang (convener of selectors) phoned me and asked me if I was open to playing for South Africa again and I said of course I am. It's up to the selectors if they want to include me," Olivier told ESPNcricinfo.
Olivier's eight wickets in their match against the Knights included his second five-for of the season and second in successive matches as he bowled the Lions to a big win after a brave declaration. After knocking the Knights out for 124, the Lions declared on 193 for 3, 69 runs ahead and then dismissed the Knights for 103, leaving themselves a small target of 35 to win. "There was loads of rain around in this match and we thought it was going to be quite difficult to get a result. We made a risky declaration and luckily it paid off," Olivier said.
The Lions, led by Olivier, are the only team to have dismissed all their opposition twice so far, taking 80 wickets from four matches. Although he credited the whole attack for their efforts, he also indicated his time in the county circuit had made him a more skilful seamer. Specifically, Olivier has adjusted his length in order to challenge batters more. "I am bowling a bit fuller here in South Africa, which is something I worked on in the UK. At the Wanderers, you can easily bowl a touch shorter, that normal South African length but that may not be that effective and I really believe you should make the new ball count," he said. "It's a bit of a risk and reward playoff. If you bowl a bit fuller you might get hit for a few boundaries but you're testing the batter's technique. You're not just allowing him to leave and get himself in."
Olivier has also had the opportunity to perfect the fuller length on his new home ground, the Wanderers, where, if all goes well, India will play the first of their three Tests from mid-December. With Lungi Ngidi severely lacking match practice after missing the white-ball tour of Sri Lanka for personal reasons, not playing during the T20 World Cup and contracting Covid-19 ahead of the matches against the Netherlands, Olivier is the favourite to join Kagiso Rabada, Anrich Nortje in the Test squad.
But at the moment, he is not setting his sights that far. "For now, I am enjoying being back, enjoying the warmer weather and playing cricket in South Africa again. The quality and standard of the cricket has been very good and it's nice to be back."
In other results
The Warriors beat Western Province inside two days to remain in second place on the points table and leave the Cape Town based side winless after four matches. Matthew Breetzke scored a century and Rudi Second 76 as Warriors totalled 366. Then, they bowled Western Province out for 79 to force the follow-on and bowled them out again for 173. Left-arm spinner Tsepo Ndwandwa finished with 5 for 46.
With the third day lost to rain in Potchefstroom, the Dolphins and North West played out a draw. Honours were shared between several players. Marques Ackerman scored 123 and Delano Potgieter took 5 for 85 in the first innings, which the Dolphins declared closed on 400 for 9. In response, North West had a second-wicket stand of 169 with Lesego Senokwane scoring 91 and Shaylen Pillay an unbeaten 156. They were 313 for 2 when no further play was possible. The big runs allowed North West to sneak above Western Province on the table, with a 0.78 point advantage.
An exciting clash between Boland and the Titans was also curtailed early, with no play on the fourth day. The Titans were well placed after captain Neil Brand's 111 helped them to 308 in their first innings and he was unbeaten on 32 as they reached 96 for 3 in their second. That gave them a 170-run lead after they bowled Boland out for 234 with Isma-eel Gafieldien top-scoring with 97. Simon Harmer and Ayabulela Gqamane claimed three wickets each. The match also marked a return for allrounder Chris Morris to the domestic set up. He played his first red-ball match for the Titans since October 2019, scored 36 in the first innings and bowled 17 overs with a return of 0 for 40.
Knights vs LIONS
Dolphins vs North West
Warriors vs W Province
Titans vs Boland
4-Day Franchise Series
Firdose Moonda is ESPNcricinfo's South Africa correspondent