Year of the spinners – 2018 Domestic Cricket Review

The 2017-18 domestic cricketing season was filled with action and drama – both on and off the field. The biggest story of the season not only filled the pages of domestic newspapers ans websites but also international ones as well, with the failed attempt to launch the much-publicized T20 Global League.
The ‘honour’ of the GLT20 fell at the feet of Haroon Lorgat, the former CEO of Cricket South Africa, an event that cost him his job with reports being put out that the GLT20 would cost CSA too much money – but that is another story altogether.
The action on the field though was dominated by Mark Boucher’s Multiply Titans – again – but more importantly, and most interestingly, dominated across all three formats by the spinners. Boucher took over the reins of the Titans in August 2016 and continued the good work set out by former Titans coach, Rob Walter, with the men from Centurion claiming their third consecutive T20 title while reclaiming the four-day title.
Titans T20 Dominance
 
The Titans were dominant in the shortest format of the game, ending top of the log after 10 games with a massive eight-point gap over second-placed Hollywoodbets Dolphins. The Titans clinched their third consecutive title with a comfortable seven-wicket victory over the Dolphins at Supersport Park in Centurion in mid-December 2017.
Not surprisingly, the Titans’ best batsman was none other than AB de Villiers, who ended with 259 runs at 64.75 and an astonishing strike-rate of 200.77 but he was only ninth on the batting charts. The title charge was more down to the bowling collective with left-arm spin of Tabraiz Shamsi ending top of the charts with 16 wickets at 15.31 and his team-mate, Proteas star Lungi Ngidi coming second with 13 scalps at an impressive 12.84.
The support bowlers played a vital role too with medium-fast pacers Malusi Siboto and Junior Dala both claiming nine wickets to complete the demolition job for Boucher in his second season in charge.
Shamsi miserly in Momentum 1-Day Cup
 
Shamsi again topped the charts with 26 wickets at 14.84 while Sisanda Magala came a distant second with 18 wickets. Aya Gqamane, Mthikwkhaya Nabe and Dane Paterson all claimed 17 wickets apiece but the dominance of Shamsi was evident in the averages. Shamsi’s average of 14.84 was streets ahead of Magala and the 17-wicket trio, who all had averages higher than 23.
 
Boucher’s men were in imperious form in the 50-over format too by topping the Momentum One Day Cup log, pipping the World Sport Betting Cape Cobras by two points. Heinrich Klaasen’s season produced 522 runs at an excellent 52.2 average with five half-centuries, which earned him a call-up to the Proteas team while Farhaan Behardien contributed 437 runs at 48.55, also with five fifties. Both presented very good strike-rates of 94.05 and 92.58 respectively.
The Cape Cobras’ Pieter Malan claimed the batting prize with 615 runs at an excellent average of 61.5, which included five fifties and one century while Gihahn Cloete came second with 546 runs at 54.6, a feat that included two centuries and two fifties.
The Titans though fell at the semi final stage, receiving an eight-wicket walloping from the Warriors in Centurion thanks to Anrich Nortje who claimed 3-45 to help dismiss the Titans for 230. Jon-Jon Smuts’ unbeaten 74 from just 60 balls helped the Warriors achieve their target with a massive 15.1 overs to spare.
The Warriors would face-off against the Dolphins in the final after the men from Durban had claimed a 49-run victory over the Cobras at PPC Newlands in Cape Town. The spoils though would end up being shared as the first attempt in Durban was called off due to rain with the Dolphins on 154 for six after 39.4 overs with Senuran Muthusamy unbeaten on 54. The attempted restart the following day was unable to begin with the rain failing to give way and the title was shared between the sides.
Spinners dominate Sunfoil Series
 
The Sunfoil Series was tightly contested with the Titans edging the Warriors to the title by just 1.55 points. The sad reality of the four-day competition was that the Titans and Warriors only managed two wins apiece – which either points to dead pitches or the lack of desire of the captains to go for the jugular.
The stats though paint a picture to the latter as there seemed to be an even contest between bat and ball. Rassie van der Dussen from the Lions averaged 73.76, falling 41 runs short of 1000 runs for the season while Vaughn van Jaarsveld (Dolphins – 898), Malan (Cobras – 892), Zubyar Hamza (Cobras – 828) and Rudi Second (Knights – 803) all scored more than 800 runs and averaging above 50 with Second smarting 80.30.
 
Hamza’s efforts earned him a call up to the Proteas test squad for the series against Pakistan starting on 26 December with the 23-year old from Rondebosch Boys High notching up three centuries and four fifties in 14 innings.
But again it was the spinners that surprised with Simon Harmer of the Warriors claiming 47 wickets at a touch over 21 with four five-wicket hauls and one 10-for. In fact the top three spots were all occupied by spinners as Muthusamy (Dolphins) and Shaun von Berg of the Titans placed second and third with 33 and 29 wickets respectively.
The top tier was dominated by spinners with no less than six of the top ten turning their arm over as Dane Piedt (Cobras), Smuts (Warriors) and Aaron Phangiso (Lions) completed the list on the traditionally fast-paced South African tracks.
The 2018-19 season though has begun in completely different fashion with the Cobras having won four out of their five matches to sit top of the table at the halfway mark while the Lions sit 11.14 points further back in second, having won three of their five games. The defending champions though have not had the start to the new season as Boucher would have hoped, having drawn four of their five games with one defeat to sit second-from-bottom.
Mzansi Super League – Local boys dominate
 
The replacement of the Global T20 took shape in a more localised format, in double-quick time. The Mzansi Super League kicked off mid-November and ended with the final at Newlands between the table-topping Cape Town Blitz and the Jozi Stars, with the Stars claiming the maiden title with an easy eight-wicket victory.
Former Cape Town man Beuran Hendricks was named man of the match for his 2-21 in four overs as the Blitz were restricted to 113 for seven. Despite Hendricks claiming the man of the match award, his two wickets moved the left-arm seamer to 12 wickets while team-mate Duanne Olivier stole the bowling show, ending the tournament with 20 scalps at 13.2 runs per wicket.
The best strike bowler in the Super League was local boy, Nono Pongolo who claimed his 10 wickets at just 12.40 while the Paarl Rocks’ Tabraiz Shamsi was the most economical bowler, conceding runs at just 6.3 runs per over. Dale Steyn of the Blitz proved that the 35-year old still has the magic, heading into the 2019 World Cup. The right-arm fast bowler claimed 12 wickets at 18.91 while conceding runs at just 6.48 but most importantly, he was the only bowler to have two maidens to his name – a special feat in the shortest format of the game.
Rassie van der Dussen scored his fourth half-century of the tournament in the final, ending on an unbeaten 59 from 55 balls with eight fours and one six, which gave the Stars top-order batsman top spot on the rankings with 469 runs at an average of 58.62.
Van der Dussen’s explosive batting also saw the right-hander smash the most sixes in the tournament, claiming 23 maximums while Quinton de Kock of the Blitz, who was named man of the series, was more elegant in stroking 45 boundaries, coupled with his 18 sixes.
De Kock ended second on the batting rankings with 412 runs and shared the honours with Van der Dussen’s team-mate, Reeza Hendricks. Hendricks also finished with 412 runs and the pair shared the exact-same average of 58.85 and the same highest score of 108 but De Kock’s runs came in one less innings and the left-handed Protea finished with a higher strike-rate of 169.54 to Hendricks’ 142.56.
 Despite the MSL T20 being touted as South Africa’s version of the Indian Premier League or the Big Bash in Australia, the local lads dominated the standings in almost every aspect. Only two international cricketers finished in the top 10 bowling rankings with Jeevan Mendis of Sri Lanka and Dwayne Bravo of the West Indians finishing second and eighth respectively.
Ryan Rickelton of England was the only international batsman to make the top 10 batsman, ending eighth with 251 runs at an average of just 27.88. Gihahn Cloete of the Tshwane Spartans was solid at the top of the order, scoring 330 runs at 33 while the Blitz’s Jannaman Malan showed much promise with his 305 runs at 33.8.
No doubt Cricket South Africa will have something to build on now that the inaugural Mzansi Super League is done and dusted.  Roadmap ahead – Find a title sponsor, source a few more headlining international stars and most importantly, the fans need to get behind this initiative and get their bums on seats.

Author: Brendon

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