For a ground steeped in history and tradition, Newlands will forever be part of the bold and brave Mzansi Super League’s storyline.
After the grand old lady of South African cricket hosted the tournament’s opening game just on a month ago, it is now busy putting on its finest dress for the maiden MSL T20 final this afternoon.
The finale will, of course, feature the home team, Cape Town Blitz, that started off like an express train, and another, the Jozi Stars, that has smashed the record books the past couple of weeks.
While the romantics were hoping for an all Western Cape derby showpiece, it was “Mother Cricket” that decided that MSL T20 1 will be contested by the most traditional of foes: North v South.
It is a rivalry that allows the oldies to fondly reminisce about titanic battles between Le Roux and Rice and Magiet and Manack. But equally it allows the millennials to salivate at the prospect of modern-day gladiators such as Quinton De Kock going head-to-head with Kagiso Rabada and Dale Steyn with Reeza Hendricks.
“I think it is quite special (Newlands hosting the final) after the opening game was also here. That was quite special as well. There was decent crowd in and obviously the opposition had some big names in. Obviously with the final, both teams are going to have some big names again, so it is going to be a special game to be a part of. Everyone is really excited about it,” Blitz coach Ashwell Prince said.
Blitz captain Farhaan Behardien went straight out tribal though. “It is Province versus Lions. Cape Town versus Joburg. Who is better? That is a battle all on its own. So, to beat the Jozi Stars on our home ground that will be satisfying.”
Neither team holds any form of advantage over the other. The two league encounters were equally one-sided affairs. Up at the Wanderers, De Kock blitzed the Stars bowlers to all parts, with a particularly vicious assault on his national teammate Rabada. In the return fixture at Newlands, it was again the visitors that emerged victorious with Jozi absorbing the early pressure before unleashing an avalanche of boundaries towards the backend of their innings.
Therein, though, lies the strength and the weakness of the shortest form of the game: anything can happen and usually does. Form counts for something but not much, status is of no real consequence.
Both teams boast a top-order that is striking the ball sweetly with De Kock (407) sandwiched between Stars duo Rassie van der Dussen (410) and Hendricks (379) at the top of the series run-scoring charts.
However, the major difference is that Jozi Stars’ middle-order has also packed a hefty punch with Dan Christian (196) and captain Dane Vilas (179) also contributing considerably, alongside young opener Ryan Rickelton’s 245 runs.
This is certainly a meaty batting line-up all the way through, unlike the Blitz that has been heavily reliant on their opening duo of De Kock and Janneman Malan (305).
“The guys are playing well. Usually in a tournament like this you have one guy that runs away with it and he just dominates in a team. But it has been nice for us that we have three in Rassie and Reeza who are leap-frogging each other. It is very exciting that we have a group that are putting their hands up and we are not depending just on one guy,” Vilas said.
With the stage set for an epic final and no outright favourite, the only certainty is that one team will be crowned the inaugural winners of the Mzansi Super League. And after a roller-coaster of a month, that will indeed be a title to be proud of.@ZaahierAdams