Cape Town — Newlands has hosted many grand tournament openers over the years. But on Tuesday the storied old ground will add a momentous occasion to its honour list with the Betway SA20 opening game.
The inaugural tournament, which is the brainchild of tournament commissioner Graeme Smith, is being billed as the saviour of South African cricket.
And it could not have wished for no more resonant fixture on its first day. It’s MI Cape Town facing off against neighbours Paarl Royals. It’s a match-up steeped in historical rivalry, but also fresh and exciting enough to resonate with the young generations that the tournament hopes to pull through the turnstiles.
Both teams will be led by players that are renowned T20 globetrotters in Rashid Khan and David Miller, who ironically were on the same stage in Ahmedabad less than a year ago celebrating Gujarat Titans’ maiden Indian Premier League title together.
But on Tuesday they will put their friendship on ice and try their utmost to land the first punch in SA20.
“I’d rather him in my team to be honest,” Miller joked. “But I think that’s the joys of these types of competitions around the world. You get to meet different players, experience them on and off the field.
“But if you cross the line then you want to win the game for your team. No matter what it is. We will always have that friendship off the field, but we’re professional sportsmen and are by nature competitive.”
Newlands set to buzz on Tuesday evening with a capacity crowd expected. It will certainly be an occasion to savour, especially with Cape Town having missed out on its traditional New Year Test and not staged any major events since the advent of Covid-19 almost three years ago.
“It’s been a couple of years that I’ve played in South Africa. I don’t think the stage can be set any better. It's going to be a packed house and it's so great to see people coming back to the cricket and enjoying themselves,” Miller said.
“Hopefully it’s going to be a spectacular game and I’m sure it will be. I’m looking forward to it. This is what a cricketer trains and dreams for.”
Rashid, meanwhile, has only played one previous match at Newlands, but has been informed by his teammates what a special atmosphere is created under Table Mountain.
“I’ve played one game here in the Mzansi Super League a few years back and I didn’t have a good game. But I am happy to be in a new place and am super excited. I’ve had a few conversations with the guys in terms of the ground and its specifications,” the MI Cape Town captain said.
There will be an abundance of superstars on show across both teams with England’s World Cup winning trio Jos Buttler, Jason Roy and Eoin Morgan headlining the Royals’ squad, while MI Cape Town also boast Jofra Archer, Sam Curran and West Indian Odean Smith.
Proteas stars Kagiso Rabada, Rassie van der Dussen (both MI Cape Town) and Lungi Ngidi (Paarl Royals) were scheduled to arrive from Australia on Monday evening, and Rashid said he will check in with Rabada to see if the fast bowler was ready to spearhead the MI Cape Town attack.
“It is totally up to the players and we as a management staff haven’t made a call as yet. Whatever he is comfortable with, and what is good for him, we don’t want to take a big risk, so let’s see how it goes,” Rashid added.
SQUADS FOR NEWLANDS
MI CAPE TOWN: Rashid Khan (C), Beuran Hendricks, Delano Potgieter, Dewald Brevis, Duan Jansen, George Linde, Grant Roelofsen, Jofra Archer, Kagiso Rabada, Liam Livingstone, Odean Smith, Olly Stone, Rassie Van Der Dussen, Ryan Rickelton, Sam Curran, Waqar Salamkheil, Wesley Marshall, Ziyaad Abrahams.
PAARL ROYALS: David Miller (captain), Eoin Morgan, Jason Roy, Mitchell van Buuren, Wihan Lubbe, Jos Buttler, Dane Vilas, Ferisco Adams, Corbin Bosch, Codi Yusuf, Evan Jones, Andile Phehlukwayo, Bjorn Fortuin, Imran Manack, Obed McCoy, Lungi Ngidi, Tabraiz Shamsi, Ramon Simmonds.
Start: 5:30pm TV: SS2