After a month of zigzagging around the country, spectators jostling for one-handed catches in the stands, stilt walkers and party zones, the attention will switch solely to the men out in the middle when Sunrisers Eastern Cape and Durban’s Super Giants meet in the second SA20 final at Newlands today (5.30pm start).
There were many who had wondered whether the second edition of South Africa’s cricket messiah could surpass its maiden adventure.
The circumspection was also due to the negativity surrounding the non-availability of senior Proteas for the ongoing Test series in New Zealand.
There was a feeling that the sideshows were getting ahead of the main thing.
But SA20 Season 2 has raised the bar even further in 2024. Besides the “sportainment” experience, the actual cricket has been on another level.
Records have been shattered all around, especially with the bat. Last season’s leading run-scorer, Jos Buttler, managed 391 runs.
But three batters have already passed 400 in Season 2, with MI Cape Town’s Ryan Rickelton smashing the 500-run barrier for the first time.
Pretoria Capitals’ Kyle Verreynne also improved the competition’s highest score with 116 not out against MI Cape Town.
And now the two best sides in 2024 have the opportunity to put on a grand show under the picturesque watch of Table Mountain. There could hardly be a better setting for such a grand occasion.
The Sunrisers will certainly enter the contest with plenty of confidence. They trounced the Super Giants by 51 runs just a few days ago at Newlands in Qualifier 1.
It was a fantastic bowling performance, led by the tournament’s leading wicket-takers in Ottniel Baartman (16), Daniel Worrall (15) and Marco Jansen (15).
Equally, the Sunrisers have the benefit of never having lost at Newlands in three encounters over the past two seasons.
“I didn’t know that… (about not having lost in Cape Town). It’s great news for us,” SEC captain Aiden Markram said yesterday.
“But we are not going to look too much into that. We still have to go out there and make good decisions, and execute our game-plans.”
A large part of the Sunrisers’ pre-match preparation will undoubtedly be focused on how they can contain – or better yet dismiss – the dangerous Heinrich Klaasen.
The Super Giants middle-order stalwart has been the most consistent white-ball batter in the world for the past two years.
Klaasen has single-handedly destroyed bowling attacks and changed the momentum of matches in favour of the Super Giants this season – just like he did against Joburg Super Kings in Qualifier 2 at the Wanderers on Thursday.
“He has been scintillating since day one. For the last two years, his game has come on in leaps and bounds,” DSG captain Keshav Maharaj said yesterday.
“He is probably the best T20 batter in the world right now. He has the ability to go about his business where he gives himself 10 balls, and then the next 30 could be disappearing.
“He has done exceptionally well and led this batting unit, especially in the pressure moments. Hopefully he gets one more bite at the cherry (in the final).”
The Sunrisers will be fully aware, though, that dismissing Klaasen cheaply will not guarantee the SA20 trophy returns to Gqeberha.
DSG boast a galaxy of batting stars, with Matthew Breetzke and Wiaan Mulder also in red-hot form, while a sold-out Newlands final is the perfect stage for Quinton de Kock to unleash his fury.
Sunrisers skipper Markram will therefore have to turn to his own ace bowler Baartman when the pressure intensifies.
“He has done wonders for us. He is the guy who wants the tough overs. He wants to bowl when the pressure is on, and be the guy that gets the team over the line, which sits really well with us,” said Markram.
“That’s the characters that we want in our team. It has been fantastic what he has achieved, and he is a massive competitor.
“I am looking forward to him bowling those big overs and putting his hand up for the team.”
SA20 Final Squads
Sunrisers Eastern Cape: Aiden Markram (captain), Tom Abell, Ottniel Baartman, Temba Bavuma, Liam Dawson, Sarel Erwee, Aya Gqamane, Simon Harmer, Jordan Hermann, Marco Jansen, Patrick Kruger, Dawid Malan, Adam Rossington, Caleb Seleka, Andile Simelane, Tristan Stubbs, Beyers Swanepoel, Daniel Worrall.
Durban’s Super Giants: Keshav Maharaj (captain), Ashton Agar, Matthew Breetzke, Junior Dala, Quinton de Kock, Tony de Zorzi, Heinrich Klaasen, Wiaan Mulder, Naveen-ul-Haq Murid, Bryce Parsons, Keemo Paul, Dwaine Pretorius, Bhanuka Rajapaksa, Jon-Jon Smuts, Jason Smith, Prenelan Subrayen, Reece Topley.