Stiaan van Zyl and Dane Piedt led the charts in the Sunfoil Series last season, and with that came Proteas call-ups.
This is clearly the platform to impress, and throughout the 2014/15 campaign, there were plenty who laid claims. We take a look at five of the stand-out performers.
Stephen Cook had a tendency to play the big knocks but not consistently enough. This season, however, he played the big knocks regularly. He led the Lions to their first title in 15 years, and his performances with the bat were just as influential as his leadership. He topped the run-scoring charts, thanks to five centuries, at an average of 63. He even had to retire not out on 147 against the Cape Cobras due to the birth of his child. It is some improvement from a two-year spell that saw him average just over 30. He is 32, but he appears to be getting better with age.
It wasn’t just the batsmen who got the Lions over the line. You need 20 wickets to win, and their bowling attack was something to behold this season. The pace trio of Chris Morris, Kagiso Rabada and Hardus Viljoen proved a fearsome unit, but in his first full season, it was Rabada who stood out. He missed two matches due to being thrust on to the international stage, but he exploded upon his return in record-breaking style. His match figures of 14-105 broke Dale Steyn’s previous first-class record. He boasted an economy rate of under three an over throughout, proving he has good control in his weaponry. The signs are there that he could be the Proteas next great fast bowler.
Another fast bowler who might not be too far away from knocking on the national selectors’ door is Dane Paterson. What he lacks in height and bounce he makes up for with his pace and persistent lines, and his stats prove happy reading – averaging 21 in every format of the game. Some of that might have come from his form with Western Province, but he topped the wicket-taking charts this season with 42 scalps at an average of 22, proving he is no pushover. It may not have been the Cobras’ best season, but it will go down as his best yet. He is also handy with the bat; he has a tendency to frustrate bowlers as he hit nine sixes throughout, second only to Morne van Wyk.
Roelof van der Merwe
Once a bowling all-rounder – now a batting all-rounder, thanks to ever-improving displays with the willow. He’s been the resident No 7 in recent years for the Titans. Now he’s made No 5 his own, and he justified that this season as he finished third on the run-scoring charts. It is remarkable to think that the 30-year-old went into the season without a first-class century to his name. Now he has three, which included an unbeaten 205 at the beginning of the season. He also took nine wickets and nine catches in a fantastic season all-round for the former one-day specialist.
Morne van Wyk
What a year it’s been for Morne van Wyk. He’s been in devastating form since he moved up the coast to the Dolphins, and despite his age he forced his way back into the T20 national side at the expense of the injured Quinton de Kock, blasting an unbeaten century in the Proteas 39-run victory over West Indies. He scored runs for fun once again in the Sunfoil Series this season. Just as oppositions thought they were working their way through the order, Van Wyk would come in and stop the rot with regular contributions. He didn’t just average 80 with the bat – his runs came at a strike rate of nearly 70, too.
Warriors skipper Colin Ingram deserves a mention for his solid displays in a an underachieving side. The team won only twice this season, but Ingram came second on the run-scoring charts and made telling contributions in both of the victories. He had the added burden of taking the gloves throughout too. Hardus Viljoen was invaluable with the ball for the Lions, and was three wickets short of Paterson’s tally despite playing three matches less. He took four 5-fers – the most of any bowler this season.