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Ken Borland



Smith has reason to smile as 2nd season of SA20 takes cricket further from ugly place 0

Posted on March 04, 2024 by Ken

South African cricket was in an ugly place before the arrival of the SA20, and now that the second season has proven to be just as exciting as the first, commissioner Graeme Smith has reason to smile.

The former Proteas captain was certainly a happy man this last week as he got stuck into the post-mortems of the event that once again enjoyed tremendous crowd support, threw up more fantastic cricket, and was once again won by the Sunrisers Eastern Cape.

“In two years we have built something South African cricket can be really proud of. At the end of 2022, we were all looking for something positive. Now people are raving about the SA20,” Smith told Rapport.

“The feedback from the players, the teams and the fans has been extremely positive. The actual cricket played was probably the greatest strength of the tournament, teams and individuals really came to the fore and it was very exciting. And we will never take for granted the number of people who came to the grounds and turned on their tellies to watch.

“Mondays and Tuesdays are the toughest days to get a crowd, but to see the people come and support was fantastic, we were still 65% full on those days. And then from Wednesday to Sunday the crowds were incredible. The final weekend of league action was probably my favourite time because the crowds were amazing and it was tense cricket,” Smith said.

The success of the SA20 has certainly disturbed the cricketing landscape. Australia’s Big Bash League, which this year overlapped with the SA20 because it finished on January 24, is apparently feeling the heat. There has been talk of them bringing their auction forward to try and get the cream of the cop and making players sign guarantees that they will be available for the complete tournament. Smith has heard other rumours, but is not flustered by the competition.

“I hear rumours that the Big Bash will move to December. But those players who sign for them will still have options; those players who initially backed us I will always be grateful to.

“We will look at things like pre-signings and our auctions, but the timing of the auction will depend on what we deicide about pre-signings.”

But it is the International League T20 in the United Arab Emirates, which had its final on Saturday, which is causing the greatest ruction when it comes to these rapidly-spreading franchise leagues.

“We’ve built up our SA20 against the Big Bash and the ILT20 sitting right on top of us, so there are a thousand more positives for us than negatives. We obviously want some high-quality overseas players, but our tournament definitely has a local player base.

“But the ILT20 consumes too many overseas players; they require nine foreign players in an XI. So it’s not really an investment in UAE cricket. That also puts them up against the ICC, who passed a ruling that franchise T20 leagues are only allowed up to five overseas players. They gave the ILT20 an extended time to sort it out because they said they had existing broadcast deals,” Smith said.

With the Sunrisers Eastern Cape once again dominating the SA20, questions were asked as to why they don’t get home ground advantage in the playoffs. But the nature of the tournament, with this season’s qualifiers only decided after the last round-robin match, means it is logistically near-impossible to give the top two teams home fixtures.

A short, one-month tournament is what the SA20 is all about, and only deciding who will host the final at the end of the event would require nearly a week to be added to the schedule in order to satisfy the logistics of making the last game a real extravaganza and fitting finale.

“We’re trying to keep the tournament short and exciting, four or five weeks maximum. The SA20 is a massive ship to move logistically and it’s very difficult to do that in one day. We have to sell tickets for the final and brand the stadium properly …

“The final was sold out two weeks before the game, which is a real sign of success. We understand the fans want to see their team play in the final at home, but the format will probably stay the same. The IPL have a very similar set-up with neutral venues for the final, it’s like Champions League football as well. Like this year, we’ll probably give the winners the opening game next season,” Smith said.

Apart from stimulating the economy – Smith pointed out how airports around the country have been full of SA20-connected people for the last month – the successful league has also planted the first seeds of what will hopefully be a hugely successful 2027 World Cup in South Africa.

“The SA20 means that there should be a lot of high-quality people who have worked on an event of similar level to the 2027 World Cup. We’ve given them incredible experience of working under high pressure to very high standards, it’s a really high-performance environment. Our staff have made me proud and I want to see an outstanding World Cup here in 2027,” Smith said.

Given his success in setting up and driving the SA20, what chance Smith for the tournament director role in the new organising company CSA have just registered?

Buccaneering SA20 trio return to 4-day action for Lions 0

Posted on February 21, 2024 by Ken

Ryan Rickelton, Wiaan Mulder and Mitchell van Buuren will all return to four-day action for the DP World Lions on Wednesday, fresh from their buccaneering batting exploits in the SA20, but the Pride will also welcome back two vital backroom members of the triumphant Sunrisers Eastern Cape to the team for their meeting with the Gbets Rocks in Johannesburg.

DP World Lions head coach Russell Domingo played a key role, as batting coach, in the Sunrisers claiming back-to-back SA20 titles at the weekend, and now he is eager for our Pride to seal a place in the four-day final.

Also returning to the DP World Wanderers Stadium is national Test captain Temba Bavuma, who is over his injury problems and, even though he played just the one game for the Sunrisers, scoring 33, he had an important effect on the happy mood and outstanding culture of the champions’ camp.

Bavuma’s addition nicely makes up for the absence of our Lions’ leading run-scorer in the four-day competition this season, Zubayr Hamza, who is with the Proteas in New Zealand.

The Lions’ two strike bowlers, Tshepo Moreki and Duanne Olivier, are also involved in that Test series.

With Rickelton, Mulder and Van Buuren all consistently amongst the runs in the SA20, it is an in-form and confident home batting line-up that will take the field at the DP World Wanderers.

Rickelton was the leading run-scorer in the SA20 with 530 in just 10 innings for MI Cape Town, who were eliminated before the playoffs. The left-hander was at his best as he scored at a phenomenal strike-rate of 173.77.

Mulder was one of the main reasons the Durban Super Giants reached the final, his 297 runs putting him in the top-10. His tally included three half-centuries, while he scored at a blazing strike-rate of 157.14.

Van Buuren had a solid campaign with the Paarl Royals, making 221 runs at 31.57.

The DP World Lions go into the penultimate CSA 4-Day Series match in third place on the log, but they are just 0.12 points behind the second-placed Warriors and 11.48 points adrift of the leaders, the Titans. So a place in the final and even hosting that five-day match is well on the cards for our Pride.

“It was a great time with the Sunrisers and obviously wonderful to win the trophy again, but now my full attention is on the four-day prize,” Domingo said. “There are two big games ahead for the Lions and we’re obviously missing a few players in New Zealand.

“But it’s very lucky for us to have Temba back, he’s fit and ready to play again and very keen to score lots of runs. Wiaan Mulder is also back after he missed our last game. Both he and Ryan Rickelton had fantastic SA20 tournaments, Mitchell van Buuren did really well and Codi Yusuf bowled nicely too.

“Any cricket played ahead of the four-day restart is good and we’re lucky that we have a few players who have been involved in very intense cricket. They will certainly come in match-ready and I’m really pleased that the Lions guys mostly played very well in the SA20,” Domingo said.

Although the Boland team will be without key players in Shaun von Berg, Clyde Fortuin and Keegan Petersen, who are in New Zealand with the Proteas, most of the rest of their squad would have been able to plan with much forethought ahead of their trip to Johannesburg for the return of red-ball cricket. Fast bowler Hardus Viljoen is the only member of their squad who saw much SA20 action.

“The Malan brothers [Janneman and Pieter], Stiaan van Zyl and Hardus Viljoen – those are all players with international experience and we know the Rocks are a tough unit. They would have worked hard on their skills these last few weeks and they have a lot to play for too, it’s a big game for them as well,” Domingo said, referring to their log-position of sixth, which could leave them flirting with the relegation zone.

Paceman Lutho Sipamla, who has not played a four-day game for the Lions this season due to injury, has been named in the squad and seems almost ready to play, pending the outcome of nets and a fitness test on Tuesday.

DP World Lions squad – Dominic Hendricks (capt), Josh Richards, Temba Bavuma, Ryan Rickelton, Wiaan Mulder, Mitchell van Buuren, Wandile Makwetu, Bjorn Fortuin, Delano Potgieter, Malusi Siboto, Codi Yusuf, Muhammad Manack, Connor Esterhuizen, Lutho Sipamla.

‘We are not a 1-man show’, Mulder says after he & Klaasen destroy JSK 0

Posted on February 08, 2024 by Ken

MAGNIFICENT – Heinrich Klaasen in full flow at the Wanderers.
Photo: Richard Huggard (Sportzpics)

“We are not a one-man show,” Wiaan Mulder said when asked why the Durban Super Giants have made it all the way to the SA20 final following their 69-run demolition of the Joburg Super Kings in the last Qualifier at the Wanderers on Thursday evening.

But if truth be told, their emphatic victory was at most a two-man show as a scintillating partnership between Mulder and Heinrich Klaasen carried the game well out of the Super Kings’ reach.

Klaasen and Mulder added 101 for the fifth wicket off just 38 balls, transforming a match in which Joburg seemed to have the upper hand for the first dozen overs. They lashed 112 runs in the last seven overs, including 29 runs being plundered off both the 15th over bowled by Imran Tahir and the 18th bowled by Sam Cook.

The incredible onslaught carried the Super Giants to 211 for six after they had been sent in to bat. The stand between Klaasen and Mulder was the best ever for Durban’s fifth wicket, beating the unbeaten 84 Klaasen and Matthew Breetzke put on against the Pretoria Capitals at SuperSport Park last season.

The Super Giants then kept chipping away with the ball, dismissing Joburg Super Kings for 142 in the 18th over.

The Durbanites did not have a great start, being 52 for three after seven overs, but Sri Lankan Bhanuka Rajapaksa, making his SA20 debut, helped Klaasen stabilise matters with his composed 35 off 23 balls as 43 was added for the fourth wicket. They then had the breathing space to launch the most stunning assault in the closing overs.

“We kinda knew the pitch had something in it and it was important to have a partnership,” Mulder said. “It’s not like we said we were going to pull the trigger, but we had a couple of match-ups, one thing led to the next and it just happened.

“A couple of soft balls got me going, then Klaasie got going and we all know how devastating he is when he’s firing. He’s arguably the best T20 batsman in the world at the moment. He’s a superstar and to score 74 off 30 on that pitch is a joke.

“I don’t think over 200 was par, maybe 180. It was really hard to score when they bowled into the pitch, but we had a couple of opportunities when they went full. And the way Klaasie was striking it, he turned 180 into more than 200. If the bowlers missed by a foot, they were in the stands, and maybe there were a few execution errors,” Mulder said.

The all-rounder will surely have changed some perceptions about him as a T20 player as his superb, vital 50 not out off just 23 balls continued his strong form this season.

While Klaasen will undoubtedly be the key man when DSG take on the Sunrisers at Newlands on Saturday, the defending champions will know their opponents have in-form, contributing players right through their line-up.

Breetzke and Jon-Jon Smuts have both made consistent runs and five DSG bowlers have taken more than 10 wickets.

“We are very similar to the Sunrisers in that we’ve had consistent performances from different people and that’s what wins competitions,” Mulder said. “To win competitions doesn’t take one person, it’s about how the players and management look after each other. In any successful team, the people play for the team.

“The most important thing is the environment and trying to create a good culture. There’s no unnecessary pressure put on us and there’s no nitpicking from anyone. That’s a big part of why we will be playing in the final,” Mulder said.

JSK overwhelm Paarl, need 1 more win to book place in SA20 final 0

Posted on February 08, 2024 by Ken

Sam Cook of Joburg Super Kings celebrates one of his four wickets at the Wanderers during his record spell for an SA20 debutant.
Photo: Shaun Roy (Sportzpics)

The Joburg Super Kings just need to win one more game to book their place in the SA20 final after they threw everything at the deflated Paarl Royals and hammered them by nine wickets with 40 balls to spare in their Eliminator at the Wanderers on Wednesday evening.

Having just scraped into the playoffs with victory in their last round-robin game, the Super Kings will now face the Durban Super Giants in Qualifier 2 at the Wanderers on Thursday, the winner going on to play defending champions Sunrisers Eastern Cape in the final at Newlands on Saturday.

Before their almost complete victory over the Royals, Joburg’s best showing in the tournament had been in the previous game when they registered a rousing win in the final over against the selfsame Super Giants last weekend.

Wednesday was a night when just about everything went according to plan for the Super Kings, starting with winning the toss and sending Paarl in to bat first, which has generally been tougher this season at the Wanderers.

And then Sam Cook, making his SA20 debut because strike bowler Lizaad Williams picked up an injury, struck twice in his second over, removing Paarl’s two leading run-scorers going into the game, Jos Buttler (10) and Mitchell van Buuren (0).

Van Buuren’s dismissal was courtesy of a sensational catch by Imran Tahir, who showed that age is just a number by racing back from short fine-leg and diving to take a catch over his shoulder. At 44 years old, Tahir has been “poor in the field” this season, JSK coach Stephen Fleming admitted, but he took a second fantastic catch when he intercepted Dane Vilas’s sweep that was looking like being a low, flat six, at fine leg off Nandre Burger.

Burger also dismissed Jason Roy (24) and Wihan Lubbe (4), finally getting the wickets his excellent bowling this season has deserved.

While fast bowlers Cook, whose four for 24 in 3.5 overs were the best ever figures by an SA20 debutant, and Burger (4-0-26-3) shared most of the wickets, spinners Moeen Ali (4-0-26-1) and Tahir (4-0-33-2) were able to tie the batsmen down and strike, while seamer Dayyaan Galiem bowled two tidy overs for 11 runs.

From 43 for four, Vilas (21) and David Miller were able to double the total with their stand of 44 off 34 deliveries, and the Royals were relying on captain Miller for a big finish to give them a competitive score. But Miller was caught behind off a Tahir googly at the end of the 17th over with the total on 126.

Eventually Paarl finished on 138, bowled out in 19 overs, setting them on track for their fifth successive defeat.

Joburg Super Kings coach Stephen Fleming.
Photo: Shaun Roy (Sportzpics)

“We weren’t 100% with the ball, but we were on the right areas for long enough and we had a bit of luck,” a smiling Fleming said after the triumph. “It’s a very fine line, on certain days you can do everything right but it just doesn’t work.

“The word momentum is over-used, sometimes it’s just slightly different training or words beforehand that can turn things around, and we were nicely in the moment this evening.

“Imran has been poor in the field for us this season, and then he takes a couple of catches like that! That’s when you know it’s your day,” Fleming said.

Faced with a potentially tricky target if they lost early wickets, the Super Kings were on fire from the start of their chase.

In the briefing before their innings, the importance of a good start would have been emphasised, and once Leus du Plooy had lashed 68 off 43 balls, JSK were always going to make short work of the chase.

Du Plooy’s innings, laced with seven fours and two sixes, was a fine example of dominant strokeplay and clever shot options.

With Faf du Plessis giving perfect, sensible support at the other end, they raised their century partnership for the first wicket in the 10th over, Du Plooy falling soon after, stumped off Tabraiz Shamsi.

But by then Du Plessis was giving the Royals bowlers a battering as well, and he finished with 55 not out off 34 deliveries.

When your best performance of the season comes at the start of the knockout rounds, your coach is going to be well-pleased, and Fleming was certainly chuffed.

“That was right up there as one of our most complete performances, and also with the status of the game. It’s a great time to have the sort of performance we aim for.

“The start of the chase was so good, it just killed the game, we polished off that target. It was a really good win,” Fleming said.

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