A mix of established names, and a few new faces for CSA T20 Challenge
A mix of established names, and a few new faces; Stuart Hess looks at six players to watch in the CSA T20 Challenge that starts in Durban on Friday.
Lions - Sisanda Magala
He’s been on the cusp of national selection, with concerns over his fitness holding him back. So in the kind of elevated company this tournament is providing, maybe he’ll learn something in that regard. This competition - packed as it is with SA cricket’s cream of the crop - is the ideal stage for him to shine. Magala has the ability to produce magic with the ball, he can - on his day - hit it a mile and has good hands. If he genuinely is an international player in waiting, the next week is the time to show it.
Titans - Chris Morris
It’s not as if he was going to sneak under the radar in the tournament anyway - and then Thursday’s IPL auction happened. With a T20 World Cup on the horizon, this was going to be the 33 year old’s chance to show he was still a candidate for the Proteas in the shortest format. What the national selectors want to see from him is consistency and a narrowing of the very big gap between his best performances and his worst. He’ll be a target too for the Titans’ opponents - who doesn’t want to take down the most expensive player in IPL history?
Dolphins - Ruan de Swardt
Handy with bat and ball, De Swardt has been a steady performer for the KZN franchise in this fractured season. At 23, he’s very much a new kid on the block, but he’s an ambitious one - anybody declaring they want to be the ‘Ben Stokes of South Africa’ is setting themselves some lofty goals. He’s not shown himself to be as big a hitter as Stokes - although the T20 format may liberate him to explore that part of his batting - nor as explosive a bowler. But all-rounders are all the rage in this format, so this is as good a time as any to display his wares.
Cape Cobras - Zubayr Hamza
It’s been a difficult season for one of the most talented batsmen in the country. With so much star quality around, and the fact he’s been relieved of the captaincy, there’s not as much stress for him as earlier in the season. There were hints at a return to form in the Momentum Cup, and perhaps that’s what it will take for him - one good innings. He’s too good a player for this slump to last forever. An in form and confident Hamza, will be a major boost for a Cobras side lacking the kind of big names of other squads in Durban.
Knights - Wandile Makwetu
Since making the move from Centurion to Bloemfontein, the former SA under-19 captain has been a steady contributor for the Knights. It feels like a break out competition is around the corner - could the CSA T20 Challenge be it? A well rounded batsman - although one who’s shown little form this season - and a good gloveman, the 22 year old has felt like a superstar in waiting since his junior days. This is the highest profile event he’s played as a professional - it's as good a time as any to show that he belongs with the big boys.
Warriors - Sinethemba Qeshile
A surprising choice as captain, but another sign that the franchise’s coach, Robin Peterson, is keen to see the young wicket-keeper batsman take on more responsibility. Qeshile, 22, has been in reasonable form in the Four-Day competition and the Momentum Cup, but it will be interesting to see what affect the pressures of captaincy will have on him. He’s a talented batsman, with wonderfully quick hands, while his keeping is athletic. Having already had a taste of the international game - in two T20s against Sri Lanka in 2019 - this tournament offers a chance to remind the new national selectors of his ability while measuring himself against a number of very handy wicket keepers.