Johannesburg — The last domestic competition of the season kicks off on Friday with the Cricket SA One-Day Cup, which will feature a host of Proteas.
For the likes of One-Day skipper, Temba Bavuma, Rassie van der Dussen and Aiden Markram, the first two rounds of matches this weekend will provide useful warm-ups ahead of the three match One-Day International series against Bangladesh that starts on March 18.
Bavuma and Van der Dussen are both available for the Central Gauteng Lions, who open their campaign at the Wanderers against the Warriors, while Markram is part of a Titans unit, packed with Proteas, including Dean Elgar, Tabraiz Shamsi and Lungi Ngidi, who will face the Boland Rocks at SuperSport Park.
Ngidi’s last match, was the third ODI against India on January 23, after which he missed both Tests against New Zealand with a back injury.
He returned to training this week, although it’s still not clear whether he will play both of the Titans’ two opening matches this weekend, the second of which involves a trip to Durban to face the KwaZulu Natal Dolphins.
Fellow fast bowler, Kagiso Rabada is not available for the Lions.
Elgar despite not playing ODIs, did emphasise last week that the One-Day Cup could still be useful for players looking to maintain some sort of rhythm for the Test format too. “There’s no hiding some of the guys’ form of late,” Elgar said last week.
The most notable of those players is Markram, whose Test form has fallen off a cliff recently. With Sarel Erwee’s success in New Zealand and Keegan Petersen’ superb form against India, it’s difficult to see how Markram might fit into the Test side for those two matches against Bangladesh later this month. However he can restore his own confidence this weekend.
“Even though there is no four-day cricket, I think the One-Day cricket experience they’ll get, they will have to try and maximise those opportunities when they get them. You can’t replace time spent at the crease, albeit it’s in a white ball game. The next few weeks will be big, for most of the batters around the country, especially those wanting to play in the Test side,” said the Proteas Test captain.
That will include Erwee and Petersen, who will both be part of the Dolphins side.
The ODI series against Bangladesh is of course crucial in South Africa’s quest to automatically qualify for the 2023 World Cup through the ICC Super League. The Proteas sit 10th on the table and are chasing a spot in the top eight to ensure they don’t face the nerve-wracking prospect of a pre-tournament qualification competition next year.
The domestic One-Day Cup of course also provides those with World Cup ambitions of staking a claim for a spot in the national limited overs teams. Next season’s tournament will be too late, so this really is the last opportunity for those, not yet looked at by the selectors, to raise their hands.
*Meanwhile, the Bangladesh Cricket Board said that top all-rounder, Shakib Al-Hasan will be given a break from all cricket until April 30. Shakib was due to tour South Africa with the Tigers but has cited mental and physical exhaustion as reasons for a break from the sport.