Some TV cheer for local cricket
Sport24 chief writer Rob Houwing (File)
If I may steal an expression from rugby pundit Naas Botha, domestic first-class cricket is “sorrof” making a return to television screens this season.
No, we are not going to reprise the halcyon days of live coverage of matches in the fiercely competitive isolation-era Currie Cup on SABC-TV or, when SuperSport entered the landscape and even nabbed naming rights to the four-day competition for many years subsequently, occasional ball-by-ball screening of finals.
But for the 2012/13 competition, now rebranded the Sunfoil Series, SuperSport are a little ironically redoubling their quest to at least provide newsy sort of updates from games throughout the campaign – it began with the first round of matches this very weekend.
A Cricket South Africa press release earlier this week announced that the broadcaster had agreed to provide “regular live updates, including close-of-play interviews” during the summer.
When I sought some elaboration from SuperSport, communications chief Clinton van der Berg confirmed that it would be a “bits and bobs” sort of approach, rather than actual live coverage.
In other words, reporters will be sent to Sunfoil Series matches, and provide snippets while standing in front of hand-held cameras.
For remaining followers of first-class cricket (to brand them anoraks might be just a little unfair!) this is better than the proverbial kick in the teeth, isn’t it?
After all, you can’t even rely on newspapers consistently for full scoreboard any more – at least one major Sunday national paper I know of doesn’t even know how to assemble abbreviated scorecards properly.
The Internet (quickly think Cricinfo, of course) has become the best medium for keeping up to date with the game at and just below international level, but it’s a pleasing development nevertheless that if you flick to SS Blitz (channel 200) on DStv you are now assured of occasional snippets from the “forgotten” first-class environment.
Perhaps if the season is headed for a grand climax, SuperSport might even be persuaded to consider rumbling out a few trucks for fuller coverage, say, of one of the last-round games?
Say what you like about the “three men and a dog” atmosphere at these matches in the modern era, first-class cricket remains the priceless feeder device for Test players ...
*A reminder to local soccer lovers that the 2012 MTN8 final between Moroka Swallows and SuperSport United will be screened live on both terrestrial (SABC1) and satellite (SS4, SHD4) television on Saturday, with a 20:15 kick-off.Rob’s Awesome Foursome
1. South Africa v Sri Lanka, ICC World Twenty20 cricket
Hambantota, Saturday 12:00, SS2, CSN & SHD2
It’s a weakness of the tournament format that this potentially very appealing encounter is a little diluted now by the knowledge that both teams are already through to the Super Eights, with group colleagues Zimbabwe homeward-bound. Still, it’s a great opportunity for both teams to only sharpen their acts even further for the business end of the competition – the Proteas could do with the kind of game where they come under pressure at various times, considering how easily they blew away their African neighbours. It also wouldn’t be the worst thing if more than just Hashim Amla and Richard Levi get to bat ... and with a certain Ajantha Mendis and company lurking in the opposition bowling ranks, expect that to happen?2. Lions v Sharks, Currie Cup rugby
Johannesburg, Saturday 19:10, M-Net, SS1 & SHD
This is the first Currie Cup meeting between these foes at Coca-Cola Park since the Lions rather unexpectedly whipped the Sharks’ butts in the 2011 final (42-16). It’s also a tasty top-of-the-log affair; the combatants are level-pegging on 20 points. There are a fair number of personnel changes on both sides for this particular encounter, with the Lions fretting over some late injury snags but the visitors buoyed by the presence of returning Springbok squad members like Lwazi Mvovo and Craig Burden. The Sharks won the first-round meeting comfortably enough in Durban, 30-14, and with their XV boasting several more internationals than the Lions do, could fancy completing the round-robin double.
3. India v England, ICC World Twenty20 cricket
Colombo, Sunday 16:00, SS2 & SHD2
The T20 jamboree has got off to a rather tame start, with neutral games not really capturing the imagination of the Sri Lankan public ... they can’t even seem to muster an “ole!” after the trumpeter’s trademark invitation to do so! It could do with a rousing strength-versus-strength contest or two, and perhaps we’ll get one here as Subcontinental giants India rumble into action against their former colonial rulers. It’s the absent Kevin Pietersen who continues to virtually earn more headlines than incumbent English squad members, but we learnt during the Proteas’ recent tour that there are some decent Young Turks in their T20 outfit, too. From an Indian perspective, it’s another chance to cheer returned cancer survivor Yuvraj Singh, who scored 18 in the victory over a gutsy Afghanistan.4. Manchester City v Arsenal, English Premiership soccer
Manchester, Sunday 17:00, SS3, Maximo & SHD3
After a couple of weeks in which the Premiership fixtures didn’t really get pulses racing, stand by now for a veritable Super Sunday: what better way to spend the “middle” day of an early-spring long weekend in South Africa than by tuning in for a mouth-watering double header? First up is the traditionally acrimonious, crackling north-west derby between Liverpool and Manchester United (14:30) but then comes an even better – on mutual current form, anyway – main event: champions Man City at home to an in-form Arsenal outfit who are slowly proving there can be life in the wake of Robin van Persie and other big-name departures. The Gunners currently lie one slot ahead of City, in third, and this could be a free-flowing feast for the football purist. The home team won the corresponding game last season 1-0, courtesy of David Silva’s 52nd-minute strike.