The South African domestic cricket season kicked off with the Highveld Lions beating the Titans in the eKasi Challenge in Soweto on Friday.
The eKasi Challenge is the pre-season warm-up match between the close rivals, which sees professional cricket being brought to local township ovals. The matches alternate between being hosted on either team’s home turf. This year the eKasi Challenge was held in Soweto at the Dobsonville Cricket Oval in Soweto at the Bramfischerville Sports Complex.
This year was the second edition, and the game saw the Lions triumph by four runs after posting 258-7 and then restricting the Titans to 254-7 in their 50 overs.
At the very heart of the eKasi Challenge is the intention of developing the sport at a grassroots level and using sports as a tool for initiating life-skills training, and to inspire township youth. As with last year, this year’s eKasi Challenge includes several events and meaningful engagement opportunities with the local community prior to the match.
‘It is very exciting for us to be competing in the second edition of the eKasi Challenge especially as the team will be able to play in Dobsonville with a view to growing the game in another emerging market area. Last year’s game was a massive success in Mamelodi with great support and energy throughout the day. Hopefully we can return the favour and beat the Lions in their back garden this year,’ Titans coach Rob Walter said before the game .
To prepare the grounds for professional play, team members from the Lions and volunteers from the Mighty Hearts, Momentum’s staff volunteers’ programme, repainted and refurbished the clubhouse at the Dobsonville Oval on Mandela Day.
The upgrade of the clubhouses will make a meaningful impact as the facilities are utilised by the local community and schools in the area. The Lions event management staff will be working closely with the members of the Dobsonville Cricket Club so that this can also be a growth experience that, among other things, will see skills transfer, as Chris Scott, head groundsman at the Wanderers, prepared the playing facilities for the match, alongside the ground staff at Dobsonville Cricket Oval.
‘The mighty-hearted Lions’ players see this as an opportunity to promote cricket in the area and stimulate an interest in the sport,’ says Stephen Cook, captain of the Lions on the eve of the 2014 clash. ‘And ultimately we want to share our love of the game with those who may not have been exposed it to previously.’
Momentum’s sponsorship meant that entrance on match day was free.