Johannesburg — From Simon Harmer, to Duanne Olivier and David Bedingham, the 2021/22 Four-Day Series had the returning ‘overseas pros’ underline the importance of their experience and the value it can provide at domestic level.
That all three were then topics of Proteas call-ups — with Olivier and Harmer, getting selected — the benefit of opening the domestic system to players who were once prevented from playing locally after seeking their fortunes in the UK, were seen.
Both Harmer and Olivier dominated with the ball. Olivier got himself selected for the high profile Test series against India after taking 29 wickets in five matches for the Central Gauteng Lions, while Harmer, finished as the Four-Day competition’s leading wicket-taker with 44 wickets that came at an average of 19.29 and was in the squad that toured New Zealand.
Having already achieved terrific success at Essex in recent years, he added to his trophy haul as part of the victorious Titans side, and was seen dancing on the outfield at SuperSport Park as they celebrated, what at one stage this season, looked an unlikely achievement.
Harmer took 6/84 in the Lions second innings, getting the ball to spin and bounce viciously as the Lions crumbled on the final day. Harmer said recently he’d always wanted to return to South Africa and “create competition within South African cricket.”
“It’s healthy for our system and I have been with the Titans since the beginning of the season in October. I’ve just been keeping my head down and focusing on what I can in that environment with the ultimate intention of getting back into the international set-up.”
Keshav Maharaj remains the Proteas’ no.1 spinner, but the two Tests against Bangladesh later this month will be played at the coast and Durban in particular, has in recent seasons, become a spinning paradise. The Dolphins have used three spinners there and if conditions are similar for the first Test, the Proteas would be well served looking at playing both Harmer and Maharaj.
Behind Harmer, the second highest wicket-taker was Western Province’s Kyle Simmond’s the left arm spinner, who picked up 33 wickets at an average of 26.00.
Olivier’s national call-up, alongside that of Lutho Sipamla and Sisanda Magala proved costly for the Lions. But what fun they produced in the first four rounds, laying waste to batting units across the country and in one memorable match at St. George’s Park, setting up an innings victory after the Lions had scored just 170.
Pieter Malan topped the batting charts, scoring 601 runs, after finishing the competition with a double hundred against the Dolphins in the final match. Ryan Rickelton’s three centuries, were the most by any batter and while national selection convenor, Victor Mpitsang may view him as a back-up keeper, his output with the willow, which carried over from last season, must see him come into contention for a spot in the Proteas’ middle order in the event of injury or loss of form.
The talks with Bedingham were interesting in that they showed Mpitsang’s willingness to keep all options open. Bedingham, who scored 509 runs at an average of 63.62, needs to make up his mind about where he wants to play. In a South African context, as good as he has been this season, there are others who have also been pressing their claims strongly, most notably Marques Ackerman and Matthew Breetzke.
Also, while Rassie van der Dussen hasn’t made big scores at no.4, he’s also not let the Proteas down and made valuable second innings contributions in the three Test triumphs this summer.
Hopefully, with Covid measures easing in the future, Cricket SA will be able to play a full double round of fixtures in the Four-Day series. The country’s players desperately need it, as does the Proteas Test side, which draws players from the competition.
*The Titans’ success saw them go to the top of the promotion/relegation log. Points are earned over all three competitions, and with the title success, on the back of being runners-up in the T20 Challenge, the Titans put themselves in pole position.
The Knights are bottom with just one point.
The Northern Cape side won the Division 2 title and are front runners for promotion.
The final points tally, will include next season’s competitions. One side from Division 1 will be relegated and one team from Division 2 promoted.