THE Sunfoil Series – Cricket South Africa’s (CSA) professional four-day domestic competition – is both the conveyor belt that carries the best cricketers forward to international recognition and the litmus test by which players are measured.
The latter point applies equally to those players on the upwardly mobile path and to those who have already scaled the highest heights.
When CSA’s nationally contracted players are released from international duty to their franchises they are expected to set the standard in the domestic game to which others can aspire.
Prime examples of that are Hashim Amla who made what was then his career-best score of 249 in the 2004/05 Series final for the Sunfoil Dolphins against the Chevrolet Knights at Chevrolet Park and Dale Steyn who also made the trip to Bloemfontein during the 2007/08 season and took 14 wickets in his only match in the domestic competition at the remarkable average of 7.85. Morne Morkel also had two 10-wicket hauls for the Nashua Titans in the 2008/09 season that played a major part in enabling that franchise to regain the four-day title.
It is performances on this scale that serve to inspire emerging players to achieve the standard that international competition requires. Success in the Sunfoil Series does not automatically mean elevation to the Proteas’ squad. Zander de Bruyn of the bizhub Highveld Lions and Andrew Puttick of the Nashua Cape Cobras are good examples of players who have performed well season after season but have earned relatively little international recognition.
But they are very much the exception.
If you want to predict which of the emerging talents are going to be next in line for Proteas’ selection in any format of the game, then the Sunfoil Series statistics over a couple of seasons are going to be the right starting point.
This is true of all the most recent first-time selections for the Proteas such as Dean Elgar, Vernon Philander, Alviro Petersen, Faf du Plessis and Imran Tahir.
This also applied to players who have been recalled such as Justin Ontong and Jacques Rudolph.
The Sunfoil Series is modelled on the same playing conditions as for the five-day Sunfoil Test matches. The six franchises play a double round of home and away fixtures with the trophy going to the team that tops the log. There is no final for this competition as the winning franchise is rewarded for playing consistently good cricket over the entire season.
The Nashua Titans are the current champions.