Johannesburg – As if the Social Justice and Nation Building hearings and the T20 World Cup weren’t enough, the drama around Quinton de Kock, has ensured that the start of the Four-Day Domestic Series on Friday, is barely on anyone’s radar.
South African cricket is wild, with this week’s drama, following on from years of administrative mayhem. The Four-Day, first class competition, once upon a time the primary domestic tournament, is now a ragged barely noticeable feature in the background of South African cricket.
The Covid pandemic hasn’t helped obviously, but also the fact that the Proteas have played so little Test cricket since Mark Boucher became head coach, means that the feeder competition is largely ignored.
South Africa has played just eight Tests under Boucher’s tenure - with three different captains illustrative of those turbulent times in the sport. And while there is zero fanfare around the start of this season’s competition - once again without a sponsor - there’s no doubting its importance, ahead of a summer, that features a mouth-watering clash with Virat Kohli’s top ranked Indian team.
There is no reason for any player locally to feel the door is closed for them as far as the Proteas Test side is concerned, which should add to the competitiveness of the tournament, which features the new domestic structure - with eight teams in Division 1, and seven in Division 2.
Even in just eight Tests South Africa has gone through major changes in personnel, with a question-mark still hanging over the no.3 spot, while the no.5 position remains open as well. Among the bowlers Anrich Nortje, Kagiso Rabada and Lungi Ngidi are the established pace trio, but with all three Tests being played in Gauteng, the selectors may want to include an extra seamer, making the battle among fast bowlers over the next few weeks worth watching.
Although a different format, the recent T20 Knock Out showed South Africa was well stocked in that department, with Ottneil Baartman (Dolphins), Daryn Dupavillon (Dolphins), Glenton Stuurman (Warriors) Migael Pretorius (Knights) and Gerald Coeetzee (Knights) among the leading candidates for call ups to the Proteas should they transfer their form with the white ball, to the red one.
As for the batting, Keegan Petersen will want to prove he is a better player following his two outings in Caribbean and emphasise to the selectors that he remains the best bet for the no.3 slot. Raynard van Tonder, Zubayr Hamza and Marques Ackerman will be among those also pushing for recognition in that position as well.
The middle order is more wide open. Temba Bavuma missed the West Indies series earlier this year with a hip injury and has had little four-day form to warrant being thrown straight back into the Test side. That will motivate batsmen, with Kyle Verreynne, Rudi Second and Sibonelo Makhanya among those keen to make an impression.
Fixtures (all matches start 10am): Division 1 - Imperial Lions vs North West Dragons (Wanderers), Multiply Titans vs Gbets Warriors (SuperSport Park), ITEC Knights vs Gbets Rocks (Mangaung Oval), Six Gun Grill Western Province vs HollywoodBets Dolphins (Newlands).
Division 2 - KZN-INland vs Easterns (Pietermaritzburg), Limpopo vs Border (Polokwane)