Andre Nel’s Easterns look to get off to a good start as Pool C kicks off in East London today.
Last season’s semi-finalists, Free State, kick off proceedings against Zimbabwe and will enter the weekend as one of the favourites at Buffalo Park.
‘We’ve played two practice matches each against Northern Cape and North West, so I feel we are pretty well prepared,’ commented Free State coach Edward Mokoenenyane. ‘We won one and lost one against North West and, taking a line through the latter’s performances last weekend we can go into the tournament with confidence.
‘We have a nice mix of youth and experience and, under the conditions you normally get at Buffalo Park, I believe our spinners will play an important role.’
Border, Easterns and Zimbabwe, will be just as confident of their own prospects in the Eastern Cape as they all fight for a chance to make the knock-out stages.
Nel, former Proteas fast bowler and current coach of Easterns are hoping to get out of the group stages this year, something they didn’t quite manage in the inaugural edition last season.
‘I think our fielding cost us a bit then. But I’m looking forward to it,’ said Nel.
After the opening clash between Zimbabwe and Free State, Easterns will face the home team Border in the second match on Friday.
‘Looking at the teams, it’s a really tough pool,’ Nel said. ‘Border are at home and they could be the surprise package because they know the conditions. Free State are also very good and Zimbabwe are also there, but they have a young side. So it’s an open group and will be tight come Sunday.’
Border coach Frank Plaatjes is delighted that the tournament will take place at their home ground in Buffalo City.
‘It’s great for us, not just as Border Cricket, but the city of East London and surrounding areas,’ he said. ‘There’s a lot of interest because these things don’t come around often.
‘As for the cricket, we’re looking ahead to it. I think we’ve got a good chance. If you look at all the teams, they are from up north, so being the local team and knowing the conditions may well count in our favour.’
There will be two matches played today, Saturday and Sunday with the start times for the first two days being 12h45 and 16h30.
Both Sunday games are day matches starting at 09h45 and 13h15.