The Momentum 1-Day Cup final falls in an ideal window in a cricket calendar that at this time of year is normally packed with international fixtures.
Usually around this time of December we’d be building up to the opening Test of the South African summer. Domestic cricket would take a backseat – heck, it was shunted into the boot – as the international stars grab the spotlight.
Neil McKenzie (right) and Zander de Bruyn in training with Highveld Lions at the Wanderers Stadium. Credit: Gallo Images
This season is peculiar in that regard as Cricket South Africa have done away with the usual Boxing Day Test, turned three Tests with New Zealand into two and opted for a trio of T20 Internationals to rake in some cash.
So with the national side not in action for another week, the domestic scene will garner attention it doesn’t normally get in the shape of Wednesday evening’s final at the Wanderers between the Highveld Lions and the Cape Cobras.
“It’s almost like a mini-World Cup for us,” was how Justin Ontong described it this week. And for the players who have never experienced the high-octane international scene that is exactly the case.
Domestic cricket since the advent of the franchise system in 2003/04 has been extremely robust. There are high standards across the three formats and the play itself is tough and demanding – which is exactly as it should be.
The success of Vernon Phi-lander is the best indicator of how well the local competitions prepare players for the rigours of international cricket.
Friday’s match will pit players of varying degrees of experience and fame against each other for a prestigious prize. The likes of Stephen Cook, Zander de Bruyn, Chris Morris, Yaseen Vallie and Stiaan van Zyl don’t always have the spotlight on them.
We all know SA’s notorious history at international events when it comes to knockout cricket, and you can be sure that Gary Kirsten will pay close attention to how players – especially the younger brigade like Vallie, Van Zyl, Quinton de Kock and Jean Symes deal with the pressure that comes when so much is at stake.
Next February will signal two years to the next Cricket World Cup and this is usually the period when a new cycle begins as selectors and coaches begin putting together the parts that will form the squad for that event.
The players who perform on Friday – especially the newer ones – can put themselves in the frame for that event if they show some fortitude when times get tough. – The Star