Sixteen teams will be staking a claim for the first title of the new-look 2021-22 season when the CSA Provincial T20 Knock Out competition gets under way this weekend in Kimberley.
Four of those teams will face off against each other in Pool A, starting on Friday when Western Province take on the Lions from 10am, before the Northern Cape Heat open their campaign against SWD at 2:30pm.
The entire competition is being played in a bio-secure environment with Kimberley Oval hosting Pools A and D, and the finals leg of the competition, while Pools B and C will play at the Mangaung Oval in Bloemfontein.
Heat head coach Mark Charlton believes playing at home will give his team extra confidence heading into the opening round of matches.
“It does give us a bit of an advantage,” he said. “We know the field and we played some warm-up matches on it, which is good. It’s not only the deck and the field, but also the training facilities and how to work with them, which has been important for us in the last four days of preparation.
“From what we saw in the warm-up matches, the conditions are good. I am very happy with what I saw in the middle, the scores were pretty high, the deck had a bit of pace in it, and the ball always flies in Kimberley, so there should be fairly high-scoring encounters if the batters get it right.”
The competition marks the inclusion of the Heat and SWD in top-tier cricket and, having spent this week acclimatising to conditions, SWD head coach Garry Hampson is relishing the prospect of his team coming up against Division 1 opposition.
“All the teams have something to prove, as do we. Most of the teams have some new faces and guys will be aiming to make their mark and settle into their roles. Playing in a cross-divisional competition, one would expect the Division 1 teams to win easily, and the pressure will be on them to do so, but the Division 2 teams have a point to prove.”
Hampson is also expecting some tough selections decisions this weekend.
“There’s a real nice blend of exciting young players and they are surrounded by some more experienced cricketers. We’ve got the likes of our captain Jean du Plessis, Onke Nyaku, Yaseen Valli and Andre Malan, to name a few, that bring stability to the squad.
“There’s been a real synergy between all the players of sharing ideas and learning from each other. It is posing some selection challenges and that’s a good place to be in. We’re really excited about this competition, and I believe we’re going to unearth some gems out of the squad this season, so I’m looking forward to it.”
Western Province and the Lions will be without their T20 Proteas as the national team players begin preparations for the T20 World Cup.
“There are now more opportunities for the younger players to step up and stake their claims,” said WP acting head coach Faiek Davids. “I think we have a fantastic balance. We have a couple of younger guys that have now graduated with the likes of Kyle Verreynne, Zubayr Hamza and Nandre Burger. We have a lot of experience in the camp with a couple of newbies in the team. I feel very happy and confident with the squad.
“The guys look quite sharp,” he added. “We’ve seen from past experiences that the guys still want to feel their way into the season, but that is definitely something that I will raise with the players that we need to hit the ground running, especially in the first match.”
Meanwhile, Lions head coach Wandile Gwavu is challenging his young side to replicate past seasons’ successes, when they took home T20 silverware in 2018-19 and 2020-21.
“We are looking forward to the start of the season with a lot of excitement,” said Gwavu. “It’s a great opportunity for some of our youngsters to claim a regular starting place in the Lions team and I believe we have the squad to compete and do well.”
All 31 matches of the competition will be broadcast live on SuperSport, with commentary available in English, Afrikaans and IsiXhosa.
Northern Cape Heat squad: Aubrey Swanepoel (c), Jonathan Vandiar, Ernest Kemm, Evan Jones, Rivaldo Moonsamy, Qaasim Adams, Isaac Dikgale, Orapeleng Motlhoaring, Beyers Swanepoel, Joe van Dyk, Andrew Rasemene, Jermone Xaba, Benjamin van Rensburg and Hanu Viljoen.
SWD squad: Jean du Plessis (c), Travis Ackermann, Herschell America, Blayde Capell, Hanno Kotze, Andre Malan, Renaldo Meyer, Sintu Majiza, Pheko Moletsane, Onke Nyaku, Heath Richards, Regan Rhode, Yaseen Valli, Sean Whitehead and Jhedli van Briesies.
Lions squad: Ryan Rickelton (c), Tladi Bokako, Shane Dadswell, Ruan Haasbroek, Dominic Hendricks, Carmi Le Roux, Sisanda Magala, Aya Myoli, Tshepo Ntuli, Kagiso Rapulana, Joshua Richards, Malusi Siboto, Lutho Sipamla, Louren Steenkamp and Mitchell van Buuren.
WP squad: Wayne Parnell (c), Kyle Verreynne, Aviwe Mgijima, Basheer Walters, Beuran Hendricks, Daniel Smith, Jonathan Bird, Jordan Woolf, Kyle Simmonds, Mihlali Mpongwana, Nandre Burger, Tony De Zorzi, Tshepo Moreki, Yves Kamanzi and Zubayr Hamza.
Pool A fixtures (Kimberley Oval):
Friday, 24 September
Western Province vs Lions (10am)
Northern Cape Heat vs SWD (2:30pm)
Saturday, 25 September
SWD vs Western Province (10am)
Northern Cape Heat vs Lions (2:30pm)
Sunday, 26 September
SWD vs Lions (10am)
Northern Cape Heat vs Western Province (2:30pm)