Josh Cobb. (Photo by David Rogers/Getty Images)
- Confronted with an absent Rilee Rossouw, the Free State Knights immediately got to work to find a proven if somewhat obscure match-winner, interestingly, in England: Josh Cobb.
- Coach JP Triegaardt says he did a lot of research on the Northamptonshire stalwart and is already raving over his impact.
- Cobb is the first Englishman to play domestic cricket in Bloemfontein again since Matthew Hoggard way back in 1998/1999.
When it became obvious to JP Triegaardt that the Knights weren’t going to have Rilee Rossouw in harness for the CSA T20 Challenge, he didn’t bother searching for a locally-based hitter to fill the sizeable void.
Instead, he reasoned – so simply really – that there would surely be a English county cricket stalwart keen on keeping himself busy in the off-season.
Triegaardt pored over a lot of footage and data to find his preferred candidate.
The answer was soon apparent: Josh Cobb.
The 32-year-old, a homegrown Leicestershire product but now plying his trade for Northamptonshire, has for years boasted a reputation as a dangerous hitter and useful off-spinner in the T20 format.
Most recently, Cobb was skipper of the Welsh Fire in The Hundred.
185 runs at strike rate of 165
2022 – T20 Blast
318 runs at strike rate of 154
12 wickets at economy of 6.9 and strike rate of 14.8
“Obviously, losing Rilee to the Proteas was a massive setback for us. Pite’s Covid-related blood clot when he was in the Netherlands was also a bit of a shock, so we realised from there that we needed some experience in our squad,” Triegaardt told News24 Sport.
“I did some research about guys on the county circuit who play the type of game I want this team to play, guys who embody my philosophy.
“And I came up with Josh, he fits our profile.”
Almost refreshingly, there was no calling in favours or working through a contact of a contact.
“I did the research, particularly checking out his output in England’s T20 Blast editions from the last two years and I wanted him in the setup, even just from a cricketing point of view in terms of experience.”
Except for the fact that Cobb boasts a strike-rate of 134 and takes a wicket at least once in every four-over spell, he’s marked himself as a special leader, particularly in the shortest form of the game.
“Josh captained Northants and in The Hundred and I liked the way he led his teams. He’s an instinctive, out-of-the-box thinker. I just appreciated those qualities,” said Triegaardt.
“He’s a balanced player. It doesn’t mean he’s going to play. It’s all about him putting his hand up when he gets an opportunity to play. Off-field conduct is also a massive priority for me, the type of messages we convey and how we engage when we’re under pressure as well.
“That’s what you need in a T20 setup, guys who can assist with that.”
Interestingly, Cobb – rather belatedly – continues a tradition of the Free State dabbling in English overseas pros.
The last time they did so was in 1998, when they recruited a then 22-year-old Matthew Hoggard, the bustling seamer who would go on to take 248 Test wickets for England.
That stint was an interesting one – he ended top of the Free State’s bowling averages in the four-day stuff and produced a memorable spell on a later summer night in Centurion to topple the much-fancied Northerns, but his impact actually felt a tad limited.
A second season was cut short.
The hope is Cobb’s impact is more sustained.
“When Pite handed him his cap, he reminded Josh that he’s the first Englishman in Bloem since Matthew. He’s following in that legacy,” said Triegaardt.
“Getting overseas guys, particularly the right ones into your setup is so valuable. Long may this relationship grow. He can always identify players from our system who might go to The Hundred.
“More immediately, the reality is that we’re at the bottom of the log [in terms of promotion-relegation], but it’s also a nice opportunity for us. We have nothing to lose. We’re here to compete. We have to win a trophy.
“Josh’s value off the field has been massive in this short time he’s been with us. He’ll definitely help us.”