SA20: A new era as the T20 tournament begins in South Africa

Newlands Stadium in Cape Town with Table Mountain in the background
Cape Town’s iconic Newlands Stadium will host the opening SA20 match

A sell-out crowd, a forecast promising a balmy summer evening and a palpable sense of anticipation around Newlands, Cape Town’s famously picturesque cricket ground with Table Mountain as a backdrop.

For the organizers of the eagerly awaited SA20, which starts on January 10, the omens look good.

The opening match (1630 GMT) between near neighbors Mumbai Indians Cape Town and Paarl Royals, located just 40km (25 miles) east of the city, promises to be enthralling, especially as both sides feature some of the best exponents of the international game. T20 plays in its ranks.

Big names and big hits

The home team, led by Afghanistan T20 captain Rashid Khan, can call on English pair Sam Curran and Liam Livingstone, fresh from last month’s World Cup success in Australia.

There will also be plenty of interest in the performance of their compatriot Jofra Archer, who returns to action after a 10-month layoff due to injury.

In a formidable pace attack, the 27-year-old will team up with South Africa international Kagisa Rabada.

However, much of the interest will also focus on promising 19-year-old Dewald Brevis who smashed South Africa’s T20 record 162 off just 57 balls for his local franchise team in November.

The 19-year-old, who is nicknamed Baby AB due to his striking resemblance in appearance and batting style to AB de Villiers, has been singled out by the former Proteas captain as one of the players to watch.

“I think there are a lot of young players who have come up in the last few years and one of the first on my list: Dewald Brevis,” explained de Villiers, who will be part of the commentary team.

“I’m looking forward to watching him play, as well as a few other lads who have played really well.

“I think the SA20 comes at a really good time for South African cricket.

“We’ve seen the amazing things these leagues have done to cricket in certain nations. Giving our youngsters this base and foundation to perform at the highest level against the best players in the world, that’s what it’s all about.”

“Great place to play cricket”

The Paarl Royals batting line-up includes captain David Miller, a regular in the South African T20 team for over a decade.

The left-hander, who helped Gujurat Titans to Indian Premier League (IPL) 2022 title in their first season, they will be joined by the likes of England white-ball captain Jos Buttler and his predecessor Eoin Morgan, both World Cup winners in the 50-over and T20 formats.

“The advantage of South Africa is that the weather is always good, the time zones are great and overseas players like to be here because it’s cheap with their pounds and dollars,” said Miller, who is confident the SA20 has all the ingredients to become a viable part of the international menu. T20 offered to the fans – and the players.

“It’s a great place to play cricket so I’m really hoping for a successful first year.

“I’m hoping we can get a lot more overseas attractions to lock in here so they want to be a part of it,” Miller said.

Six attackers

The first SA20 season will feature six sides – all bought by IPL franchise owners:

  • Durban’s Super Giants (Captain: Quinton de Kock / Head Coach: Lance Klusener)
  • Joburg Super Kings (captain: Faf du Plessis / head coach: Stephen Fleming)
  • Mumbai Indians Cape Town (Captain: Rashid Khan / Head Coach: Simon Katich)
  • Paarl Royals (Captain: David Miller / Head Coach: JP Duminy)
  • Pretoria Capitals (captain: Rilee Rossouw / head coach: Graham Ford)
  • Sunrisers Eastern Cape (Captain: Aiden Markram / Head Coach: Adrian Birrell)

Each side is allowed eight foreign signings on the 17-man roster, although a maximum of four can be used in a single game.

Six captains of SA20 teams
The inaugural SA20 consists of six teams based in Tshwane, Johannesburg, Durban, Gqeberhi, Cape Town and Paarl

For South African cricket fans, the much-hyped new competition is expected to be a welcome distraction from following the fortunes of the beleaguered men’s national team.

Dean Elgar’s Test side were outclassed by Australia in the recent three-match series where only persistent rain during the final Test in Sydney helped avoid the embarrassment of a victory.

“People feel it’s a dark time at the moment, but we know the sport can change so quickly, so we hope this competition will make people very optimistic about the future of South African cricket,” said former Proteas captain Faf du Plessis, who will lead the Joburg Super Kings.

The Wanderers-based outfit includes West Indian bowler Alzarri Joseph and Sri Lankan off-spinner Maheesh Theekshana, as well as promising local fast bowler George Coetzee.

Other globally renowned star names to have entered the SA20 include former West Indies captain Jason Holder, New Zealand’s Jimmy Neesham and Sri Lankan wicketkeeper-batsman Kusal Mendis.

How does it work

Before it even starts, the tournament will have to take a break between January 25 and February 1 to accommodate the postponed one-day international series between South Africa and England that was postponed in December 2020 due to the coronavirus pandemic.

Eight of England’s 14-man squad will feature in the SA20, as will almost all of the unnamed Proteas squad, with the exception of captain Temba Bavuma, who has not been picked up by any franchise in pre-tournament auction.

After the opener in Cape Town, there are 32 more games on the schedule.

The teams will play each other home and away in the group stage followed by two semi-finals and the final on February 11 at the Wanderers Stadium in Johannesburg.

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