Bringing the Curtain Down on Local Cricket
As the curtain closed on yet another season of local cricket, players, both experienced and emerging, will look back on a season of heralded firsts, and record-breaking feats. From the pinnacle of Cricket South Africa’s First-Class competitions, to the uncharted waters of the Standard Bank Schools Pro20 Challenge, the contests have been fierce, a healthy advert for South African cricket.
Eastern Province’s maiden triumph in the CSA Provincial three-day competition capped off a brilliant year for cricket in the Eastern Cape. Apart from the Chevrolet Warriors’ success in the MTN40 and the Standard Bank Pro20 Series, the province also completed a superb haul of titles in competitions below franchise cricket.
Nelson Mandela Metropolitan University (NMMU), under the guidance of Shafiek Abrahams scooped two premier titles when they won the National Club Championship’s in September and the University Sports South Africa (USSA) A week in December. NMMU have kept the conveyor belt of players running smoothly from their development hub and their players have been the significant feature behind Eastern Province’s success in the CSA First-Class competition.
“We lost big names in Chad Baxter, and Jon Jon Smuts this season but the youngsters that have pulled through have been amazing. Michael Price, and Kelly Smuts have been lethal with the bat.
Reece Williams, Corbyn Dolley and Simon Harmer have been phenomenal this season. Reece was part of the EP academy programme over the winter and has been a cog in our bowling attack,” said Abrahams.
William’s, a former SA U19 player, was the second highest wicket-taker in the CSA First-Class Three-Day Competition, and has settled comfortably in his new surroundings, since making the trek from Kimberly to Port Elizabeth. Surprisingly, the 21-year old is the only fast bowler to have impressed in the wickets column, where he ended joint second with 50 wickets.
Imran Tahir’s brilliance in the competition cannot be ignored. The spin maestro grabbed 67 wickets in all first-class competitions, 60 of those wickets were for Easterns in the three-day competition. Interestingly, the player preferred ahead of Tahir at the Nashua Titans, legbreak bowler Shaun von Berg, finished the season with an overall tally of 49 wickets, putting him in fourth place.
The most promising bowler to rise through the ranks this season, is Gauteng’s left arm spinner, Tabraiz Shamsi. In his debut season of first-class cricket, Shamsi broke the record for the most number of wickets by a player in their first season (50) and capped it off with his debut for the bizhub Highveld Lions in the Supersport Series. To further highlight his potential, the 20 year-old has been offered a contract by the Nashua Dolphins for the 2010/2011 season.
Stephen Cook’s batting prowess dominated the headlines in both franchise and amateur cricket this past season, but there were unsung heroes slogging away behind the scenes. Free State batsman Divan van Wyk may wonder how many more runs he has to score to get his big break, after finishing as the leading scorer for the second consecutive season. He scored four centuries and four fifties, a record only equalled by Andrea Agathagelou from North West.
Agathagelou has left a trail of massive scores along his cricket career, with a personal best of 292 and more than 40 centuries to his name. Yaseen Vallie, a Standard Bank National Cricket Academy Graduate also followed in similar fashion, scoring the most runs by a player in their first season of first-class cricket (865). He was followed by EP’s Kelly Smuts with 816 runs and Boland’s Uwe Birkenstock with 774 runs.
The trend throughout the season in the men’s game has been clear; youngsters rise to the occasion, while seasoned campaigners pull through with consistent performances. This has also been the feature in the women’s game. Chloe Tryon and Trisha Chetty were the shining examples in the Women’s Provincial League (WPL). Chetty, South Africa’s wicket-keeper batsman led with experience, and came to the fore for KwaZulu-Natal in the WPL, scoring 467 valuable runs for her province. Her teammate 16 year-old Tryon, was on the warpath with the ball and finished with 24 wickets at an average of 5.79. The high school student from Amanzimtoti was rewarded with a place in the National Women’s squad travelling to the ICC World Twenty20 in the Caribbean early next month, an achievement that comes close to a fairytale.
“It is a dream come true for me, I never would have thought that I would be playing for my country at such a young age. I am going to give it my best shot and hopefully I can do my teammates and country proud. It will be difficult to catch up with school when I come back from the ICC World Twenty20 in the Caribbean but this is an opportunity of a lifetime and it will be my first trip overseas,” said an overwhelmed Tryon.
Keeping in tune with the theme of high school cricketers, the Standard Bank Schools Pro20 challenge stepped onto the scene in its inaugural year and has given schools cricket a competitive spark. Hoerskoool Menlo Park from Pretoria won the title, after beating Maritzburg College in the final.
As far as individual performances go, the most impressive element was the consistent performances from players that are already in CSA’s database. The majority of the top performers took part in the CSA Franchise CUBS week in January, and once again stood out for their respective schools. King Edward School VII wicket-keeper batsman, Quinton de Kock led the runs tally, smashing 155 in four matches with a high score of 65. Fast bowler, Calvin Savage led from the front with the ball for Maritzburg College taking nine wickets at an average of 7.11. Savage made his debut for KwaZulu-Natal at the Coca-Cola Khaya Majola U19 week at the age of 16, and will definitely be knocking on doors in the future with his raw pace and swing.
Eighteen players made their Franchise debuts this season, a positive target of turnover successes from the Provinces. Every debut is one rung up the ladder towards National colours, the dream that every player holds close to their heart. For some, the cricket bats go into storage for the winter and for others the winter training programmes start, but for every single player out there the dream never dies and come spring time they will be ready to give their aspirations another chance.