A successful 2019 CSA T20 Challenge proved co-existence with 2018’s Mzansi Super League is feasible.
Pundits pondered whether the 2018-19 season would be limited or empowered by two flagship T20 tournaments. While the allure of new city-based franchises and involvement of several players from abroad in the MSL somewhat overshadowed the T20 Challenge, there is evidently room for both in future seasons.
While the MSL was limited to six venues, the T20 Challenge afforded those who don’t reside in Johannesburg, Cape Town, Port Elizabeth and Durban the opportunity to watch premier limited-overs cricket in Potchefstroom, Bloemfontein, East London and others.
Much like the Lenasia Premier League, Dolphins Premier League and Cape Premier League have empowered amateur club cricketers to push for higher honours in the provincial ranks, the MSL has enabled those fringe T20 cricketers to pursue loftier ambition. Diego Rosier and Migael Pretorius are batting and bowling examples, respectively, who graduated from Northerns and North West to the Titans and Lions. Rosier and Pretorius’ Tshwane Spartans and Jozi Stars’ prospects in the MSL, respectively, have been heightened by solid performances in the T20 Challenge.
While crowd numbers weren’t substantial across both competitions during an admittedly long season, the cricket was of impressive quality, not necessarily hampered by an excess of quantity. Names such as Bjorn Fortuin and Ryan Rickelton reaffirmed status among the country’s second tier of talent in the CSA T20 Challenge, while the likes of Jon-Jon Smuts and Khaya Zondo posed friendly reminders to the national selectors.
Lizaad Williams, meanwhile, epitomised the success of the loan system – this time exemplified between the Cobras and Lions. His presence in the Lions XI was particularly important after Beuran Hendricks’ departure to the Indian Premier League.
In the MSL, local bowlers Lutho Sipamla, Nono Pongolo and others outshone overseas recruits such as Dan Christian and Mohammad Nawaz. Among the batsmen, Janneman Malan started what resulted in a T20I debut for the Proteas – and highlighted a platform that genuinely afforded lesser names to play alongside big guns. The best examples of this were Sipamla’s appreciation of AB de Villiers’ influence – and Dale Steyn’s praise for Anrich Nortje.
In a season inundated with plenty of Indian Premier League cricket and the promise of an entertaining World Cup, the MSL and CSA T20 Challenge – in conjunction rather than isolation – have certainly done Cricket South Africa proud.
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