We take a look at each franchise’s secret weapon, heading into the 2017-18 Ram Slam T20 Challenge campaign.
Lungi Ngidi (Titans) – Matches: 3 Wkts: 6 Ave: 7.33 Econ: 5.50 BBI: 4-19 (T20Is)
The defending champions house an abundance of Proteas stars, but there are a number of players who could light up the stage, other than the obvious suspects. Although many will talk about the return of Dale Steyn, the Titans have a younger hungry speedster looking to add to his momentum after his return from injury in October – Ngidi will be gunning for a spot in the Proteas squad ahead of the India series, and will be fired up to stand out among the Titans’ star-studded lineup. The 21-year-old made his return for the Titans in the Sunfoil Series’ Jukskei derby by taking 9-83 in a nine-wicket win for his side, and will look to inflict more misery on his city rival come Sunday in the shortest format.
Andries Gous (Knights)– Matches: 22 Runs: 601, Ave: 33.38, SR: 145.87, HS: 101* (T20s)
Seeing David Miller, the record holder for the fastest T20I century, on the team sheet is bound to excite fans. The inclusion of overseas players Marchant de Lange and Ryan McLaren, after successful stints in England, will give last season’s wooden spooners confidence ahead of the new campaign. However, I’ve picked Gous as the Knights’ wildcard for their title charge. The 23-year-old was the only player to hit a century in the Africa T20 Cup this season and finished second on the run-scorers list with 210 runs. His ton came in the semi-final to help Free State reach the final, which they lost to KZN-Inland.
Janneman Malan (Lions) – Matches: 11 Runs: 258, Ave: 23.45, SR: 110.25, HS: 70 (T20s)
The 21-year-old was one of the rookie signings who took a hit after the Global T20 League’s postponement, but will get the chance to showcase his undeniable talent in the Ram Slam T20. He’s been in red-hot form for Free State, racking up scores of 169 and 62 in his last two List A games for his province, and has impressed in four-day cricket too, hitting 75, 50 and 130 in his last three games in First Class cricket. He represented SA Emerging in a two-match unofficial Test series against Zimbabwe A, scoring 66 in the first Test, and followed this in the ODI series, scoring 108 in the first ODI and 56 in the second ODI.
Anrich Nortje (Warriors) – Matches: 9 Wkts: 11, Ave: 16.18, Econ: 6.28, BBI: 4-19 (T20s)
It was a decent Africa T20 Cup stint for the 23-year-old, who played two matches for Eastern Province. The right-arm speedster took five wickets in the tournament at an economy rate of 4.90, and managed best figures of 3-14 in the clash against Northerns, which resulted in the defending champions crashing out of the tournament.
Jason Smith (Cobras) – Matches: 18 Runs: 337, Ave: 25.92, SR: 133.20, 50s: 2 HS: 79*, Wkts: 11, Ave: 21.72, Econ: 8.53, BBI: 4-4 (T20s)
Huge expectations followed Smith after forming part of the South African U19 World Cup-winning squad. Since picking up a Cobras contract, he has become a regular across all formats. The 22-year-old made the Rookie list for the T20 Global League, and has recently represented SA A in the four-day and one-day side. He will look to gain much-needed form after a weak run for the SA A side.
Okuhle Cele (Dolphins) – Matches: 7 Wkts: 9, Ave: 20.33, Econ: 4.44 , BBI: 4-30 (List A)
The 20-year-old has grown from strength to strength – from being a regular for KZN, followed by a major jump to the SA Emerging side. The right-arm quick took seven wickets in the two-match unofficial Test series against Zimbabwe A, and a wicket in the first unofficial ODI before earning a call-up for CSA XI’s four-day match against Bangladesh. His stand-out performances have come mostly in the longer format, and with only three T20s to his name, will look to prove himself in the limited-overs arena.
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