South African cricket fans can look forward to a bumper season of international and domestic cricket, with a particular highlight the inaugural T20 Global League (T20GL).
The season has already officially started, albeit rather low key, with the third edition of the Africa T20 Cup. The first round of the competition, won by Namibia, was somewhat overshadowed by the T20GL draft but hopefully the competition will heat up over the final two weekends. The previous two seasons were the launch pad for the careers of Lungi Ngidi (who has since gone on to represent South Africa) and Patrick Kruger.
The domestic 4-day competition, the Sunfoil Series, starts on 19 September. Cricket South Africa (CSA) has broken with the tradition of having these games played from a Thursday to a Sunday. First-class was traditionally played over weekends, but that came from an era when it still attracted good crowds. As a crowd-puller, the first-class game in South Africa is long dead and there is no need to still be playing it over a weekend. Dispensing with the old format has allowed CSA some flexibility in drawing up the first-class fixtures.
The franchises will play each play five matches before the competition takes a break and resumes with another round of five matches in February and March 2018.
The international season starts on the 28th of this month with the first Test match against Bangladesh in Potchefstroom. It will be followed by one more Test match, three ODI’s and two T20I’s. The Proteas will be expected to win the two Test matches but Bangladesh could provide stiffer opposition in the white-ball matches. None of the matches will be walk-overs, though, as the Bangladeshis are certainly on an upward curve, as their recent success against Australia has shown.
CSA’s two provincial competitions, the 3-day Sunfoil Cup and One Day Cup, start on the weekend of 5 – 8 October. Contested by the thirteen provinces and Namibia, the competitions run uninterrupted the whole season simultaneously with all international and domestic cricket. The winners of both tournaments will be decided by finals in early April 2018.
At the end of October, all international and franchise cricket will come to a halt for the first T20GL. The tournament is CSA’s first foray into the burgeoning professional T20 market. No doubt South African cricket fans are particularly looking forward to this new event on the cricket menu! The tournament starts on 3 November with a clash at Newlands between the Cape Town Knight Riders and the Pretoria Mavericks. The final will be on 16 December at the Wanderers.
At this stage the only missing piece in the cricket calendar is the Indian tour, pencilled in from around mid-December until the end of January 2018. CSA and the Board of Control for Cricket in India (BCCI) have had an uneasy relationship ever since Haroon Lorgat took over the reins in 2011. Let’s hope their differences can be sorted out soon and the tour itinerary confirmed. A South Africa/India series is always a bit cricket event and it would be a pity if it is spoiled by cricket politics.
On 20 December CSA’s premier domestic one-day competition, the Momentum One Day Cup kicks off with a clash between the Lions and Warriors at the Wanderers. The final is on 3 February.
Finally, to cap off the international season, the men from Down Under start a four-match Test series on 22 February with a warm-up game in Benoni against a CSA Invitation XI. Five days later the first Test will be played in Durban, followed by Test matches during March in Port Elizabeth, Cape Town and Johannesburg.
The franchise season will be rounded off by the inaugural CSA T20 Challenge. This competition starts on 14 March and culminates in a final on 14 April. Whether it is really necessary to have a third T20 competition is debatable and makes for a really long domestic season. In theory, a cricketer who played his first game during the first round of the Africa T20 Cup in August could still be playing until the second weekend in April – a season of almost eight months!
All in all there will be enough cricket to satisfy all tastes – from the purists and those seeking the short thrills. Enjoy!