COMMENT: SA20 success makes Proteas Test sacrifices worth it

Marco Jansen of Sunrisers Eastern Cape celebrates after taking the catch to dismiss MI Cape Town captain Kieron Pollard. Photo: Nic Bothma/Sportzpics

Marco Jansen of Sunrisers Eastern Cape celebrates after taking the catch to dismiss MI Cape Town captain Kieron Pollard. Photo: Nic Bothma/Sportzpics

Published Feb 8, 2024


Right, so what we feared the most would happen in New Zealand has kind of, sort of transpired, although it is kind of, sort of not as bad as it could have been, and in that, I guess, we can kind of, sort of take a few positives with the obvious negatives.

On Wednesday morning – at the end of the fourth day of the first Test – the Proteas lost to the Black Caps by 281 runs.

For sure, it remains a hammering, and the first innings was especially dreadful from the Proteas, but there were some signs of fight.

The bowling attack at Mount Maunganui was always the major concern, and so it turned out to be, with the Proteas knocked around mercilessly for 690 runs, with only 14 wickets to show for their efforts during the match.

The batting creaked under such an immense weight, although they were slightly more resilient with the willow in hand in the second innings.

Still, it remains a humbling, if not embarrassing defeat – one that was predicted, and which has now come to fruition.

Sending a much-weakened Proteas to the Land of the Long White Cloud was, arguably, always going to result in such a loss, even though the margins were debatable.

On the flip side of the coin, however, is the undeniable fact that season 2 of the SA20 has been a rip-roaring success, and that Cricket South Africa has probably justified its decision to prioritise the local tournament over the tour during this period tenfold.

While the knives have been out due to SA “disrespecting” the longer format of the game, the truth is that cricket in this country is fighting for survival, and a global market share that will ensure the health of the game here.

That was also the opinion of legendary cricketer Stuart Broad, who is commentating for SuperSport at the SA20, when he mused about the situation. The Englishman, although now retired, arguably remains the poster boy for Test cricket.

After all, the 37-year-old played a mightily impressive 167 Tests, claiming 604 sticks during his remarkable career.

“I understand why South Africa have a C team in New Zealand,” he opined last week.

“To be honest, it would have been the decision I would have made personally. The SA20 must grow. It had such a great season 1.

“Why is the SA20 great?” Broad continued.

“Because, firstly, you have the best players playing and you have got the South Africa stars, the heroes coming through that the kids look up to. The casualty has been the two Test matches in New Zealand … ”

Although we can all agree that it is chastising to lose in such a fashion in the Test arena, what is equally true is that South African cricket will bounce back with a little bit more depth and options.

It is perhaps too early to state what those options will be, but having an extra batsman tested or bowler exposed to the rigours of Test-match cricket is surely an important development.

The SA20, meanwhile, has seen some truly spectacular moments, the most recent that absolutely ridiculous catch by Aiden Markram on Tuesday night in the Sunrisers Eastern Cape’s victory over Durban’s Super Giants.

There have been some big hits, astounding innings and magnificent plays during the tournament, and although the team names remain a mouthful, the competition is generating a pleasing momentum, while its credibility is on the rise.

Even so, it remains in a precarious position. The foundation for its longevity is only being built now, and I suspect it will take until the fifth season or so to really gauge its success, and if the sacrifices elsewhere have been vindicated.

Right now, though, you wouldn’t bet against it.


IOL Sport