The Cape Cobras won the South African domestic T20 final by beating the Knights at Newlands on Friday night. In many ways, it was the perfect final and the sold-out crowd was proof that with there is still very much an appetite for live sport. By ANTOINETTE MULLER.
It’s taken three years, but South Africa’s domestic T20 final has at last come of age and its champions, the Cape Cobras, rewarded the Newlands faithful with a T20 trophy after last season’s heartbreak of losing to the Dolphins.
The Cobras beat the Knights in the final at Newlands on Friday in a match which had everything. A sell-out crowd, international T20 stars, fielding worthy of an Olympic Gold, Dale Steyn’s poetry in motion and some of the domestic players putting their hands up and making their mark.
After winning the toss and electing to bat first, the Cobras got off to a slow start. Richard Levi was out early while Hashim Amla and Dane Vilas pottered along steadily and at the half-way mark, the home side was 51-2. They continued going along steadily, but it was not until the 17th over, when Kieron Pollard and Omphile Ramela launched a blistering assault, that the home side was propelled into the pound seats. They lifted their team from 101-3 at the end of the 16th over to 158-4 by the end of the 20th.
The Cobras started their defence of the target with Steyn running in at full steam. Facing him was Gerhardt Abrahams, a relative T20 rookie. His inexperience showed and it was like pitting an old school VW against a souped-up Ferrari. Steyn went wicketless throughout his four overs, but he conceded just 11 runs, with an economy rate of just 2.75. Aside from the one wide conceded in his first over, everything else about Steyn was perfect, and from side-on, he still looks like a biomechanical miracle, even when he’s just bowling in a T20. The heroes of the night with the ball were Dane Paterson and Kieron Pollard, though, sharing seven wickets between them as just two Knights batsmen, Reeza Hendricks and Rilee Rossouw, managed to pass the 30-run mark. Captain Justin Ontong, too, was superb in the field, taking five catches, including a magnificent caught and bowled chance in the 12th over. Overall, it was a perfect all-round performance, and by the time the final ball was being bowled, the Newlands crowd had risen to their feet to applaud their local heroes.
That two of the impact players for Cobras are products of the semi-pro pipeline is a good sign for domestic cricket in South Africa. Although Ramela was born in Soweto, he moved to Boland in 2009. Paterson started playing for West Province Under-19 in 2007. There was a short stint with KwaZulu-Natal and the Dolphins in-between, but for the most part, he is local player who has gone through the ranks. A holistic review will only be possible at the end of the season, but if the T20 final is anything to go by, things are improving steadily.
Over the last few years, South Africa’s T20 competition has tried desperately to become relevant. International players have been drafted in and out of teams with varying levels of success. This year, a smattering of Caribbean flavour has made all the difference, not just to the fans, but also to the players. Their mere presence, and the wealth of knowledge that accompanies them, makes a huge difference to the psyche of domestic teams.
With international schedules the way they are, it’s been difficult for South Africa to attract high profile names to their local competition. Kumar Sangakkara was supposed to play, but did not make it due to Sri Lanka’s last-minute tour to India following the cancellation of the West Indies tour. Considering Sri Lanka also had a seven-match ODI series against England which ran parallel to the T20 competition, in hindsight it’s perhaps a good thing that Sangakkara never made it.
That the West Indies players have made an impact, there is no doubt. When Kieron Pollard stepped out to bat at Newlands on Friday, the crowd cheered, and no matter where he went on the boundary rope while fielding, he was welcomed with adulation. As it became more apparent that a victory for the Cobras was on the cards, Pollard would try to rise the crowd and get them to cheer, waving his palms in an upwards motion to those on the grass banks. Each time, the fans obliged. His joking interaction with fellow countryman Andre Russell out in the middle also added to the occasion and fun.
That a domestic final managed to sell out – the point of suites being opened and tickets being sold to them – is testament to the cricket culture in Cape Town. It was everything a final should be, a carnival atmosphere with cricket worth paying money for. DM