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Domestic four-day series a welcome display of South Africa’s depth of talent

Domestic four-day series a welcome display of South Africa’s depth of talent
Delano Potgieter of the Lions celebrates scoring 50 runs during day three of the CSA 4-Day Domestic Series, Division 1 final match between the Lions and Western Province at the Wanderers in Johannesburg. (Photo: Lee Warren / Gallo Images)

Seemingly out of nowhere, Delano Potgieter put up his hand for the Lions in the four-day cricket series final to guide his side to victory.

The Lions were crowned champions on Sunday after clinching a thrilling 99-run victory over Western Province in the final of the domestic four-day competition at Wanderers.

Delano Potgieter twice played innings-rescuing knocks to help his side over the line. There was also a fine contribution from Tshepo Moreki — whose time in New Zealand seems to have rejuvenated his confidence — a first career five-wicket haul as well as a half-century, as nightwatchman, for the Lions.

four-day series cricket lions

The Lions celebrate their victory on day five of the CSA 4-Day Domestic Series, Division 1 final between the Lions and Western Province at the Wanderers in Johannesburg. (Photo: Lee Warren / Gallo Images)

Bjorn Fortuin helped wrap up the Western Province tail on Sunday with a five-wicket haul to finish the tournament as the highest wicket-taker, with 35 scalps. 

Western Province’s young batting duo of Daniel Smith and Gavin Kaplan registered first innings half-centuries while Dane Paterson and Mihlali Mpongwana were venomous in swing-friendly conditions. 

South Africa’s callow showing in New Zealand in their recent 2-0 Test series defeat — with a squad mainly composed of domestic stalwarts — may have given the impression that South Africa’s domestic four-day competition lacks quality. 

There are a few flaws in the competition, such as each team playing only seven matches per season and matches not being televised, except for the final.

However, this four-day season, and the final in particular, displayed the depth of South African cricket.

Abundant talent

The gripping five-day final between the first and second-placed teams, after the seven-match league phase, ebbed and flowed right up to the final day. 

The Lions were 35 for five on the morning of day one and after playing catch-up they surged ahead.

four-day series cricket moreki

Tshepo Moreki of the Lions celebrates a wicket with his teammates on day five of the CSA 4-Day Domestic Series, Division 1 final between the Lions and Western Province at the Wanderers in Johannesburg. (Photo: Sydney Seshibedi / Gallo Images)

“I am really proud of the whole squad,” Lions head coach Russell Domingo said.

“It was a real squad effort because a guy like Mitchell van Buuren didn’t play in the final but was one of our leading run-scorers. Duanne Olivier, one of our leading wicket-takers, and Wandile Makwetu also made a big contribution.

“The guys fought extra hard in this final for those who weren’t playing. They dug really deep and I am so proud of them. We showed really good character, we had to be tough mentally, stick to our game plans and fight hard.” 

All-rounder Potgieter shone for the hosts with a rearguard 81 in the first innings before smacking an unbeaten 155 in the second innings, rescuing his side from 113 for six. 

Potgieter also collected two wickets to go with his 236 runs to deservedly collect the Player of the Match award. 

The all-rounder’s story was made more special by the fact that he was not originally marked for selection in the final.

four-day series cricket potgieter

Delano Potgieter of the Lions on day four of the CSA 4-Day Domestic Series, Division 1 final match between DP World Lions and World Sports Betting Western Province at DP World Wanderers Stadium in Johannesburg, South Africa. (Photo by Lee Warren/Gallo Images)

“Delano was magnificent,” Domingo said. 

“He only played a few games but he did really well last week in Centurion and he brought that confidence here. He only came in because Wiaan [Mulder] couldn’t bowl and we needed that fourth seamer. And then he plays one of the best final innings you’ll ever see.” 

Potgieter was not eligible for selection for the Test series against New Zealand due to being contracted to MI Cape Town in the SA20.

His best performances on the domestic scene have mostly been in white-ball cricket, but he proved he is more than capable of match-winning performances in the longer format.

Another player who was previously pigeonholed as a white-ball batter is the Warriors’ Tristan Stubbs, who had a phenomenal four-day series.

After a bright first half in the four-day series, Stubbs was selected for South Africa’s Test squad against India, but only managed four runs across two innings in his only Test match, at Newlands on a tricky wicket.

Nonetheless, Stubbs continued his bright domestic form and knocked an impressive unbeaten 302 — only the 11th first-class triple century in South Africa — against KwaZulu-Natal Inland to take his overall runs tally for the season to 562 in five matches, with a breathtaking average of 80.28. 

Only the Dolphins’ Marques Ackerman scored more than him in the four-day series with 571. 

Looking ahead 

Even though there is a T20 World Cup on the horizon, in June in the West Indies, South Africa’s Test match schedule is fairly busy towards the end of the year.

The national team is expected to play West Indies, Bangladesh, Sri Lanka and Pakistan in two-match series, between August and January next year, with white-ball matches against the same opposition in between. DM

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