What makes the SA20 different? Did South Africa really give up ODIs to join the new league?
South Africa has finally started a franchise T20 tournament after three tries. The SA20 starts on Tuesday. It is not the Global League T20 or the Mzansi Super League. Here’s what you need to know about the new league.
If it doesn’t have a T, is it still a T20 tournament?
Aha, so you’ve noticed this odd thing. Well, this T20 tournament doesn’t have a T, and it also doesn’t say “Premier League” or “League.” So it’s really becoming a naming trend all by itself. In fact, Graeme Smith, the SA20 commissioner, said that they left out the T to show that they wanted to be different.
So what makes it different?
There is one big thing, though. Before the toss, captains will be able to choose 13 players for their teams. After the toss, they will choose the final XI. So, once they know whether they’ll bat or bowl first, they can make decisions about how to play as a team. But other than that, it’s still a T20 tournament, even without the T, and it’s pretty similar to one you may have heard of. There are a total of six teams, and they will play a round-robin phase where each team plays the other team both at home and away. After that, there will be semi-finals and a final. There was an auction before the tournament, and each team can have up to 18 players. Most of these players are from South Africa. On game days, they will be able to put four foreign players in each starting lineup.
This reminds us the a little of the IPL…
Ka-ching! All six teams are owned by IPL franchises, and their cutesy names have even been given to cities in South Africa. We have the Joburg Super Kings, the Pretoria Capitals, the Durban Super Giants, the Sunrisers Eastern Cape, the Paarl Royals, and everyone’s favorite reinterpretation, MI Cape Town (pronounced MY Cape Town).
This must mean a lot of money is at stake, right?
You’re right about that. IPL teams’ high bids are one reason why no South African business was able to join the league. Even though the prices haven’t been made public, it’s been said that each franchise cost more than a million dollars, with Johannesburg and Cape Town being the most expensive at USD 28 million each. The good news is that these investors will get their money back as soon as the first year is over. Even though CSA said it would take five years, the league is expected to make money as early as the first year, thanks to a good broadcast deal in India and then with other global TV providers.
There are prizes worth more than $4 million. At the auction, mega bucks were also thrown around. Tristan Stubbs was the most expensive buy at USD 520,000, which is worth a whopping R9.2 million. Other Rand millionaires include Rilee Rossouw, Donovan Ferreira, Marco and Duan Jansen, Lungi Ngidi, Wayne Parnell, Sisanda Magala, George Linde, Heinrich Klaasen, Reeza Hendricks, Tabraiz Shamsi, Rassie van der Dussen, Daryn Dupavillon.
You’ve said a lot of names, but what about Temba Bavuma, who is the captain of South Africa’s white-ball team?
Bavuma, who had a base price of R850,000 (USD 50,000), did not sell at the auction because he had been hurt for a long time and was not in good shape. At the time of the auction on September 19, Bavuma had not played competitive cricket in more than three months due to an elbow injury that kept him out of South Africa’s entire tour of England. His T20I record was also not very good. He had played 25 games with an average score of 26.86 and a strike rate of 120.60, which was the most worrying number. Still, he said that he was sad that he wasn’t picked for the tournament. Then things went from bad to worse. Bavuma had a hard time getting back into the game. In a series against India, he was out for two ducks and three runs, and in five T20 World Cup games, he scored 70 runs at a strike rate of less than 100.
Since then, there have been questions about whether he should even be on South Africa’s T20 team as a batter, let alone be the captain. When you think about the fact that Bavuma is South Africa’s first black African captain and has led the team through some of its hardest times, the whole thing is just a mess.
But he wasn’t the only one who was forgotten. Some of the better-known South African players who will not play are Dean Elgar and Keegan Petersen. Andile Phehlukwayo, a South African all-rounder, also didn’t sell at the auction, but Paarl Royals picked him up as a “wild card” player.
And the slights didn’t just happen to players, did they?
That is correct. A whole part of South Africa was left out of the SA20, and it is getting less and less important in high-profile cricket. The central area, which includes the province of Free State and the cities of Bloemfontein and Kimberley, does not have a SA20 team, so it will not host any games or take part in the event. The Bloemfontein-Kimberley team, called the Knights, was one of the six teams in South Africa’s former top tier, and the Free State provincial team plays in Division 1 of the current domestic structure. This is a pretty cold shoulder.
Even though the central region isn’t the most attractive part of the country, it has produced some of the best cricket players, like Allan Donald, and is home to some of the best cricket schools, like Grey College. We don’t know if that talent is being used in other ways or if it’s just being ignored. For now, the 3 million people who live in the Free State won’t get to see any of the glitz and glamour of the SA20, but they will get three World Cup Super League ODIs against England from January 27 to February 1.
Wait, there are ODIs in the middle of the SA20?
There are, and it couldn’t be helped. These are the games that were put off in November 2020, when Covid-19 broke out in both the South African and English camps and the beta variant was found. This caused England to leave the tournament early. South Africa has to win at least one of these games if they want to automatically qualify for the 2023 World Cup. This is because the broadcast rights for these games are worth a lot of money. South Africa is currently 11th in the table. They have only five matches left after giving up three ODIs in Australia to make room for…you guessed it…the SA20. To move up to eighth place, they have to win at least three of those five, and if they don’t, they’ll have to go to Zimbabwe in June for a qualifying event.
Wow, this is all getting pretty sad pretty fast. Can we talk about David Miller’s pink plasters on his nose?
If you haven’t seen it yet, you have no choice but to. The ads are nothing less than incredible. They show Quinton de Kock wearing a jeweled hat and wings, Shamsi making a phone call from a neon pink platform shoe, Parnell snorkeling in a bathtub, women’s captain Dane van Niekerk jamming in some glittery clothes, and David Miller’s unique nipple covers, which Janneman Malan, dressed as gold dust, calls “silly.” They are all set to Pharrell Williams’ “Happy.” What more could you want?
We’ll tell you! Like the Hundred, the SA20 will have some of South Africa’s best musicians performing on the grounds. Master KG (not KG Rabada), who is known for his hit song Jerusalema (you have to know the dance), and Sho Majozi, who performed her song John Cena on the Ellen show, will be the headliners. Get with the program. You already know you do.
And in the end, all of this is good for South African cricket, right?
We certainly hope so, because Cricket South Africa needs it like hell. The organization is in a lot of financial trouble, which is in part because Thabang Moroe was a wasteful CEO from 2017 to 2019. During that time, they also lost almost all of their sponsors. The national men’s team and all three domestic competitions still don’t have corporate sponsorship, and CSA has lost money for the last two years and will lose money again this year. Their cash reserves are so low (down from over a billion rand a few years ago to just tens of millions now) that some insiders say they won’t be able to last more than a year or two unless something fills the coffers soon, and this is supposed to be it.
But money isn’t the only reason. The South African cricket team’s morale is at an all-time low because the Test team did so badly in Australia and the white-ball teams are so far from winning the World Cup. The country needs a shot of fun and a place where players can move away from the boring style of play that has come to dominate the game and toward a more active and fun way of being.
How will we keep track of this tournament when the ILT20, BPL, and BBL are also going on?
We’re being asked! The only thing we can tell you will make your schedule even messier. The first Under-19 Women’s T20 World Cup is also going on at the same time as the New Zealand men’s series in India, the Ireland men’s series in Zimbabwe, the Pakistan women’s series in Australia and India, and the West Indies women’s series in South Africa. Enjoy.
De Zorzi now has a chance to become the star he has always wanted to be.
Tony de Zorzi returned to the Wanderers eight years after he was captain of King Edwards VII, one of Johannesburg’s best schools, and seven years after he led South Africa’s Under-19 team to a World Cup where they were the defending champions but finished in 11th place. He found friends he didn’t know he had.
There were a few of my friends here, and it’s always nice to have my mum watching,” de Zorzi said. “Some people said they were my friends, but I’ve never met them.”
Natasha raised de Zorzi on her own, and he has always wanted to be the best he could be for her. She doesn’t watch him play much anymore because he took the long way to become an international cricket player. He went to the same school as Neil McKenzie and Graeme Smith, then to Pretoria, and finally to Cape Town, which is 1400 kilometres away from where he grew up. In a way, it was good for de Zorzi to play his first Test match on the Highveld and get his first fifty while Natasha was watching.
He said, “She always sits in the same spot, so I knew where she was.” “Since I’m in Cape Town, she hasn’t been able to watch many games. I hope I can get three figures the next time she comes.”
De Zorzi has set high goals for himself. In the last two years, only one of his teammates has scored a hundred at home, and only two others (Sarel Erwee and Kyle Verreynne, neither of whom is playing in this series) have reached 100. But because he has let people down in the past, he knows this is his chance to step up.
“My life has changed a lot since I played for SA under-19,” de Zorzi said. “I was captain, but I wasn’t the star of that side,” he said.
Because Wiaan Mulder did it. When De Zorzi came back from the World Cup for his age group, he had to go back to club cricket and “start over.” He played for the University of Pretoria team, which was led by Kruger van Wyk, who is now the fielding coach. Then he got a job with Northerns, where he kept getting better and better and averaged almost 80 for the second-tier provincial team in the summer of 2016–17. In the summer of 2020, he moved to Western Province, where Ashwell Prince was the head coach. Since then, he has been made captain.
This summer, he is averaging over 100, mostly because of his unbeaten 304 against the Knights, when Gerald Coetzee was part of his attack (though admittedly not many other big names).
“It’s been a long process, and I’m glad it’s come to this,” said de Zorzi. “It also reminds me of where I came from and to not get too far ahead of myself because I had to do a lot of dirty work to get there. Some guys start getting it a little bit earlier. Mine is starting to come true right now.”
After averaging over 48 in three of the last four seasons, de Zorzi was hard to ignore in this Test squad, but it took a change in leadership for that to happen. He got his chance because the new red-ball coach, Shukri Conrad, also acts as a selector when there isn’t a panel. “We knew it would be a new start when the coaches changed,” de Zorzi said. “If everyone took a chance and did well, you knew there would be a new set of eyes and maybe even more chances. That was a lot of fun. Dean Elgar, who was captain at the time, used to say that the number of runs you scored would get you into the team. Guys knew that they had to have a good season if they wanted to move up. There was nothing else to do.”
But now that it has, players like de Zorzi need to take control of their space. He showed West Indies’ attack what he was made of in the first Test, and Kyle Mayers saw it. “This guy seems to have everything together,” he said. “He is square of the wicket and strong.”
De Zorzi is very good at the cut shot. In this innings, he got almost a third of his runs with the cut shot. However, the West Indies had already figured him out from the first Test. At the SuperSport Park, they tried to give him less space. De Zorzi said, “They stick to the basics a little bit longer.” “You might get a few less bad balls, but international cricketers who do their homework are going to do it. I could tell they had different plans based on how they bowled to me today compared to how they did it at SuperSport Park. They can make it harder for you to score. And, of course, the intensity is a little bit higher. When I got out, I was really tired. It is not easy.”
But so was de Zorzi. During the free-flowing afternoon session in South Africa, he played well. Natasha sat still in the Memorial Stand the whole time. De Zorzi made his first sign to her when he hit Alzarri Joseph out of the ground with the 82nd ball he faced. She would have been incredibly proud, no doubt. As the pitch got faster and West Indies made a comeback, De Zorzi faced 73 more balls and scored 35 more runs.
They lost five wickets for 64 runs after tea, so the game is now tied. If South Africa can’t score more than 350, West Indies might be able to fight back. If you give up on that, on a pitch that is already starting to turn, the game might be over. Either way, it’s set up to bring in people who didn’t know they liked cricket, especially during a mid-week Test match when only a small part of the stadium is filled. But it’s important. And de Zorzi knows that better than anyone else.
The collapse that never came at Hagley Oval involving Sri Lanka
The skies are gray and heavy, like a wet blanket that will soon be thrown over the whole series. The field is so full of plants that animals that live in the woods have moved in. The outfield is wet, and sometimes a cold drizzle falls on biting winds. And while the local bowlers, who are all big and tall, are nimble and strong in their warm-up overs on the practice pitches, the Sri Lankan batters, who are covered in wool sweaters, face throwdowns and look like they are about to be sacrificed on an altar of seam bowling.
Get the coin. Put Sri Lanka in. Watch the ball jump gleefully off the edges of the bats and into the hands of the slip cordon as batter after batter falls like marionettes, the scoreboard showing 45-3, then 67-5, and a few swipes at the end pushing the total just over 100. Here are the usual parts of Sri Lanka’s day one story on a ground like Hagley Oval.
When they were here before, they didn’t have to bat first, but they were still out after 138 runs. The last time, they had players like Kumar Sangakkara on their team, but they still lost by 104 runs. Unless Sri Lanka pulls off a near-miracle in the second innings, which they do from time to time, these are game-changing messes. (Then New Zealand will go up to bat and put on half a million for six while smiling politely, which will only show how bad they were before.)
Then this happened. Four years after the last time they played a Test in New Zealand, where they were beaten by 423 runs at this same site, they had an amazing day of batting. Of defensive play that was mostly okay and technique that was pretty good. Had Sri Lanka’s batters done the work to figure out where their off stump was before they started a Test on foreign soil? Any Sri Lanka fan should feel a tear of pure pride just thinking about it.
Kusal Mendis, who may have been the best player in the XI, took the lead. The most important part of his 87 out of 83 was how he judged length on a surface that was a bit bumpy. When it was on a good length, he defended close to his body, almost always with soft hands, so that when the ball came in and took the edge, it bounced short of the slips. Most of the time, though, he defended inside the line, mostly using his bat to block balls that could hit him in front of the wickets or get past him to the wickets.
When New Zealand’s bowlers bowled fuller and tried hard to get an edge that could be caught, Mendis gave his all to his front-foot strokes, sometimes driving it with authority, other times sending it squirting off the face of the bat through backward point, and other times flicking it deliciously off his pads.
He got 50 runs off of 40 balls, but New Zealand’s bowlers didn’t have a great morning. 44 of those runs came from fours. He and Dimuth Karunaratne, who was just as steady but less aggressive against balls that could be hit, put together a 137-run partnership at the second wicket that was the key to Sri Lanka’s progress on day one. They would get out in consecutive overs, but when they did, they were often replaced by better batsmen.
Angelo Mathews waited for the shorter balls and scored 38 of his 47 runs through the leg side. He also hit a couple of fours off his pads when the ball was close to him. Dinesh Chandimal liked to hit the ball to the off side, and he did so six times. As Dhananjaya de Silva batted with Kasun Rajitha near the end of the day, he made boundaries whenever he could.
Their scoring areas were different, but almost all of Sri Lanka’s top seven batters covered the stumps, didn’t rush at balls until they were set, didn’t mind when deliveries beat their bats, and didn’t chase seaming balls outside their stumps. Even when bowled at (mostly by Tim Southee and Matt Henry), they didn’t give up, which is something they often do when the ball is turning.
Given Sri Lanka’s long tail and lack of experience in the field, which New Zealand can easily take advantage of, 305 for 6 is not a great first-day score. It is possible that New Zealand will win the match. But given the situation, Sri Lanka were good enough. And it’s not often that you can say that about Sri Lanka on the first day of a match in New Zealand.
India’s trust is rewarded by Bharat’s skill behind the stumps.
Sometimes almost everything that makes up a Test match is found in a single ball. One of those balls was the one that knocked Pat Cummins out of the game on the third morning in Delhi. It had the blunt precision of the Indian spinners, the deadly glide that made this pitch so hard to play on, and the sweep, a high-risk, high-reward shot so controversial that a thousand autopsies were written about it.
And there was one more thing. After the ball slipped under Cummins‘ bat, it hit the inside edge of the outside stump, bounced off the side of the middle stump and landed in KS Bharat’s gloves.
The ball didn’t spin sharply, but it didn’t go all the way with the arm either. After it was thrown, it straightened just a little. It also stayed low before bouncing off the stumps twice. Bharat had followed the ball all the way, even as Cummins took a wild swing, and he had collected it cleanly.
It didn’t matter because the ball was dead by the time he reached it, but he did a good job with his glove.
Later that day, when India had lost four wickets and were 27 runs away from their target, Bharat was moved up the order and scored a brilliant unbeaten 23 off 22 balls, including three perfectly timed fours to cover and a solid knock with a slog-swept six.
In his first two Test innings, Bharat had scored 8 and 6 in the first two games of this series. He must have felt much better after that start because he played on Sunday. Some watching from the outside might have even thought he was trying to save his career with that performance.
But India probably wouldn’t have seriously considered taking Bharat out of the game after Delhi, even if he had done nothing in the second innings. They probably know that anyone can score a number of low scores on difficult pitches, and they may have seen glimpses of Bharat’s counter-attacking potential during his brief stint with the Indian national team
It took a long time for these things to happen.
In May 2018, Indian senior team officials selected Bharat as the goalkeeper for the four-day tour and Rishabh Pant as the goalkeeper for the 50-over tour. The Indian senior team was also touring England that summer, so the A tour was a shadow tour. At the time, officials felt that Bharat was India’s best pure goalkeeper and Pant was an exciting batsman whose glovework needed work.
When Wriddhiman Saha got injured and could not join the England tour, India included Pant in its Test team in place of Bharat. The genius is going in his own direction.
But Bharat remained an important player in India’s second team. Since the beginning of 2018, he has played 19 first-class matches for the India A team, which is more than any other player except Abhimanyu Easwaran, who bats first. In those India A matches, he has scored 971 runs at a rate of 48.55, including three hundreds.
Last year, when India took Saha out of its test team, Bharat took his place. So it made sense that Bharat made his debut when Pant was injured. The Indian team management may have been tempted by Ishan Kishan’s competing claims, but they chose Bharat at the start of this Border-Gavaskar series.
At the start of the 2019-20 home season, India dropped Pant from the Test programme XI and brought back Saha for a series against South Africa. Virat Kohli described Saha as the best goalkeeper in the world and they felt his good glove work was important on India’s winding tracks. They felt that Pant still needed to work on his goalkeeping. Pant worked on it and became a world-class goalkeeper when India played England in early 2021. Until then, however, Saha was still the first choice for home games.
At the start of this series between India and Australia, the same idea was in play. India appreciates how good Bharat is with the bat, but they know he is their best goalkeeper when Pant is not around.