Town – Another franchise cricket competition … beginning in April, as leaves
turn from golden to brown and in many cases already flutter to the ground.
South Africa’s T20 Challenge may well prove exactly what its last name implies,
a situation not assisted by the fact that it remained stubbornly sans headline
sponsor at the time of writing and game one between defending champions the Titans
and Warriors due to take place on Friday evening at Centurion (18:00).
decidedly autumnal scheduling (the final is earmarked for May 5) it is probably
matched in reasonably modern times only by South Africa agreeing at short
notice to host the second edition of the Indian Premier League (IPL) from
mid-April to an especiallywinter-nudging May 24 almost exactly 10 years ago in
managed to be a success, despite the tiredness of many end-of-season pitches
around the country and a few frigid experiences for spectators, especially at
some of the interior venues.
the time, though, the IPL was in its novel infancy and a strong curiosity
factor lured local enthusiasts to matches, joining the generous entourages of
travelling Indian fans and celebrities/VIPs.
time around, the eternally gaudy, glitzy Indian tournament serves as a
potentially hazardous distraction to the more humble, local T20 jamboree, as
they will overlap to a major degree – IPL continues to May 12 – and many of the
cream of South Africa’s white-ball stars are locked into lucrative employment
there rather than bolstering the domestic event.
names include the especially blue-chip AB de Villiers, but also anticipated,
Proteas World Cup-bound popular figures like Quinton de Kock, Kagiso Rabada,
David Miller, Faf du Plessis and Imran Tahir.
absences will do little to help seduce cash-strapped South Africans to the T20
Challenge, which also takes place with devotees of other sporting attractions
like Super Rugby – in full swing for weeks already and nearing its midway stage
of ordinary season – mulling over their choices of loyalties.
was difficult not to detect a waning of public interest (at least in stadium
attendance terms) even as the just-completed Momentum One-Day Cup got to its
three-game knockout section.
semi-finals had poor, atmosphere-inhibiting gates although the consistently
trophy-hogging Titans, in fairness, did manage to get a reasonable number of
bums on seats for Sunday’s showpiece of the 50-overs competition.
Markram was again a shining light with his century, marked by the sort of rasping
stroke-play to rival anything in the IPL for “ooh and aah” factor, and his
continued quest to justify a CWC passage – many will say it should already be a
done deal – is at least one good reason to monitor the T20 tournament with some
degree of devotion.
it will hopefully be the device by which Hashim Amla, assuming he finds his way
clear to represent the Cape Cobras after a period of necessary family time for
health-related reasons, recaptures his best touch (though it is not his most
suitable format) in the interests of his own World Cup plans – he has not
played a competitive match since March 1 and turned 36 in the interim.
judging by responses on social media when certain domestic limited-overs
matches aren’t screened, television interest in the local game remains stronger
than some cynics may appreciate, and the next few weeks will be an opportunity
for SuperSport to fill some all-important live space on their many channels.
that they missed out on the inaugural Mzansi Super League much earlier in the
season when national broadcaster the SABC controversially landed the rights to
of the MSL, it was understandably touted – for all the immense difficulties of
its own – as the headline T20 attraction of the 2018/19 SA season, which was
always going to leave the T20 Challenge as some sort of tired afterthought in
the minds of many … and even a good case, frankly, for not being staged at all.
it is virtually upon us now, warts and all, and to be played over a full double
round, into the bargain.
means that most of the six franchises will be playing each other for what will
seem the umpteenth times this season, which brings marketing/promotional
in mind that there has already been a double-round 4-Day Franchise Series and a
similar structure to the One-Day Cup, so teams having met in any “KO” fixtures
already are probably additionally sick of the sight of each other by now.
much remaining appetite, more crucially, do the public have as the days begin
to shorten noticeably for winter?
will find out, soon enough …
Titans v Warriors, SuperSport Park, 18:00; Saturday: Dolphins v Knights,
Kingsmead, 18:00; Sunday: Lions v Cobras, Wanderers, 14:30.
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