AB de Villiers’ Tshwane Spartans are coming to town … and they’re going to stamp out the Cape Town Blitz’s fire as they rain sixes into the crowd on Friday night, writes SIMON LEWIS.
I had a dream two nights ago. I was standing by the players’ enclosure at Newlands Cricket Ground looking down at the field. The pitch looked ridiculously close to the Oaks grass bank, almost as if you could lob a helmet from the pitch straight into the crowd. It looked perilous for spectators.
When I woke up, I instantly realised what my dream was telling me.
AB de Villiers is back in town!
And the sixes are going to fly.
The Mzansi Super League is now an unstoppable train and full marks to CSA and the SABC for pulling this rabbit out of a side pocket. Despite the doomsayers, I believe it’s going to be a real cash cow from the get-go because of the eyeballs these matches will generate globally but, even more importantly, across Africa.
That sets the stage for some world-class heroes to shine brighter than ever before.
Any fine-tuned athlete needs to be constantly pushed by their opponents and peers to maintain the highest levels of performance. In cricket, it helps to be facing the best bowlers or bowling to the best batters in the nets on a daily basis, and this is something that Steve Smith and David Warner might be struggling with during their well-earned break from competitive cricket.
AB himself has been off the competitive circuit for almost six months, so there will be question marks around how motivated he has been to keep himself in peak condition. Has he been able to keep his mind sharp in cricketing terms, regardless of the net practices and secret middle sessions he has had over the past few months?
However, you don’t get to be the best in the world without knowing your game inside out, along with knowing what it takes to get you ready to roar when the pressure is on. Shortly after the AB bombshell dropped, Kagiso Rabada told me how impressed he was by AB’s focus and ability to work on a few specific things during the Proteas’ net sessions.
‘He goes into the net and he doesn’t bat for long but in no time he has already worked on what he wanted to fine-tune,’ said Rabada, whose own duel with AB is the most mouth-watering to contemplate for me personally. If only Lungi Ngidi wasn’t a Spartan …
AB withdrew from the #Proteafire because he needed a mental break and time to spend with his young family. Those are the two reasons the public know about, and perhaps there are other reasons we will never know, but none of that will matter to the Blitz bowlers when AB strides out to the crease at Newlands on Friday night.
What an occasion: the opening match of the long-awaited Mzansi Super League at one of the greatest cricket arenas in world cricket, with AB ready to play his first competitive innings in South Africa since the Proteas buried the former great Australian team under a pile of their own sandpaper shavings in a 3-1 Test series hiding.
The fans will be off their faces with excitement to watch AB in the flesh again (rather than on YouTube), and the international viewership is likely to be off the charts, particularly on the subcontinent. It will also be exciting for the Blitz bowlers, of course, as each and every one of them will want to be the man to snare this most prized wicket; after all, it will come with the kudos of being replayed on highlights reels that will loop around the world for weeks, not to mention trend on social media.
That is … if the Blitz can bowl AB out!
There will be intense pressure on AB to get a ‘big one’ against the Blitz, but he’s a man who thrives on a challenge – and the bigger, the better! As an intense competitor he will be starving for runs, and he has something to prove: that’s he’s still No 1.
One bad ball, umpiring call or sensational catch could stop him in his tracks, of course, but barring one of those events, you can be sure that on Friday night, AB will be back at his best, slamming snowballs over the ropes at Newlands in the night sky to the delight of the crowd and the exasperation of the bowlers.
Once he successfully navigates a cautious first over or two, I’m expecting to see AB score in the region of 70-85 runs tonight, because that’s the calibre of the man. He delivers, and he’s still ‘that good’.
Make no mistake, the Blitz are a really good side and are strong candidates to lift the inaugural MSL T20 trophy (and they are playing at home), but I believe the Spartans are going to crush them in this opening fixture, simply on the wave of AB’s return.
And my feeling is that The AB Wave is going to keep rolling for quite some time! After all, there’s a lot of water that still needs to run under the 2019 World Cup bridge.
The match will be screened live and free on SABC 3 and Radio 2000, with the first ball due to be bowled at 7pm on Friday.