The new domestic season will finally kick off on Monday with the 4-Day Franchise Series restarting cricket on South African soil. ANDRE HUISAMEN previews the six teams in action.
It’s been a long wait since the Lions and Dolphins were somewhat prematurely crowned franchise winners for the 2019-20 season, following the abrupt Covid-19 halt in the 4-Day Franchise Series and Momentum One-Day Cup.
But, November brings a new dawn with three matches offering an exciting start to the season, a couple of Proteas also in action across the country.
Knights vs Warriors – Bloemfontein
Allan Donald returns to his hometown as new head coach of the Free State outfit for the season and will be eager to see the Knights return to the competitive side they once were. Pite van Biljon will skipper the team once again and will hope the addition of former Titans all-rounder Farhaan Behardien will bolster the Knights’ experience and quality. With Gerald Coetzee leading the attack, the Knights’ bowling department could also be an interesting watch over the season with bowler Migael Pretorius also joining from the Lions.
The Warriors, on the other hand, will have to fill crucial gaps in their bowling unit with Lutho Sipamla and Sisanda Magala departing to Johannesburg to join the Lions. Last week, Yaseen Vallie was named as the Eastern Cape team’s new captain for the four-day competition due to Jon-Jon Smuts’ more regular involvement with the Proteas. Eddie Moore and Rudi Second will anchor the batting lineup, while Wihan Lubbe and Anrich Nortje will be of huge value with ball in hand.
Cape Cobras vs Titans – Cape Town
The men from the Cape will no doubt be looking for a much more consistent performance throughout this campaign after failing to register a single victory last season. Coach Ashwell Prince will be optimistic about the additions of Tony de Zorzi, Corbin Bosch, Imran Manack, Calvin Savage and Onke Nyaku, while Zubayr Hamza captains the team. The influence of brothers Pieter and Janneman Malan at the top of the order will also be key for the team.
The Titans, however, will be looking to match that batting strength with their own top-order unit, consisting of Aiden Markram, Dean Elgar and Theunis de Bruyn. Markram, in particular, could be in the spotlight as the Proteas continue their search for a permanent opening partner for Elgar. Other national players include Heinrich Klaasen and Lungi Ngidi, who will return to the country following his IPL stint, while bowler Dayyaan Galiem will try to kick on from his impressive start in Pretoria.
Dolphins vs Lions – Durban
The Dolphins head into the new season as Momentum One-Day Cup champions hoping to be just as competitive this year with the red ball. The Durban team boast the talented spin trio of Keshav Maharaj, Senuran Muthusamy and Prenelan Subrayen, with Daryn Dupavillon adding the pace factor. David Miller will be eager to get some regular game time after spending almost the whole IPL campaign on the sidelines with the Rajasthan Royals team, while Keegan Petersen is set to continue his rise up the ranks.
The Lions, though, will likely be favourites to defend their crown in the 4-Day Franchise Series due to the vast experience they have but also their clever recruitment ahead of this season. Temba Bavuma leads the team into battle with Rassie van der Dussen and Reeza Hendricks familiar performers in this competition. The arrivals of Sipamla and Magala will only boost the strong attack of Beuran Hendricks, Dwaine Pretorius and Kagiso Rabada, who will no doubt be asked to join the Proteas camp ahead of their international schedule. The depth in the Lions squad could have them remaining a competitive outfit throughout the season.