SA20: Super Kings, Sunrisers ready to add new chapter to SA cricket fairytale

The Sunrisers Eastern Cape celebrate with the trophy after beating Pretoria Capitals in the final of last year’s SA20 at the Wanderers in Johannesburg

The Sunrisers Eastern Cape celebrate with the trophy after beating Pretoria Capitals in the final of last year’s SA20 at the Wanderers in Johannesburg. Photo: Ron Gaunt/Sportzpics/SA20/BackpagePix

Published Jan 10, 2024


St George’s Park may be the oldest Test ground in the country, but on Wednesday, it will open its doors to the future when the second instalment of the SA20 gets under way.

Purists have bemoaned Test cricket’s demise in recent weeks due to the influx of T20 franchise leagues.

But like it or not, T20 cricket is here to stay, and particularly in South Africa with former Proteas Test captain Graeme Smith and his SA20 team working tirelessly to put together another exceptional tournament after the maiden season was an unprecedented success last year.

Season 1 was a Cinderella-like fairytale and was the injection the game required in this country.

But every sports fantasy script needs an underdog fighting its way to the top.

And the Sunrisers Eastern Cape fitted the bill perfectly with coach Adrian Birrell and Aiden Markram transforming the best of South Africa’s young talent, along with a group of relatively unknown England professionals, into a championship outfit.

New recruit Simon Harmer firmly believes that is the edge that the Sunrisers have over the opposition heading into their tournament opener against the Joburg Super Kings on Wednesday.

“Knowing Adi relatively well,” Harmer said yesterday, “I can’t speak for him, but my perception is you can do good things with good people.

“I think that’s one of the qualities that Adi signs on.

“He wants to know who the person is, he wants to know their character and what they are going to bring into the team

“Looking from the outside last year and being involved this year, that’s one thing that the Sunrisers have in their corner is that it’s a bunch of good people, obviously with exceptional skills.

“When it comes to going an extra mile for a teammate or picking somebody up when they’re down, that sort of togetherness and that family goes a long way, especially when the chips are down.

“If you look at how they rallied last year after losing their first two games, finding ways to win, slaying giants, so to speak, Adi has done exceptionally well at looking at characters over other aspects of performance.”

The Super Kings are no pushovers, though. They overcame the Sunrisers in both group matches last season, but unfortunately fell short against the Eastern Cape side in the semi-finals in Centurion.

Proteas fast bowling sensation Nandre Burger, who made his debut in three international formats this past month, certainly feels the Super Kings do not need to take a step back against the Sunrisers, especially with their wily captain Faf du Plessis still around to help them absorb the enormity of the occasion.

“It’s tough to say there is an underdog in the first game of the tournament,” he said.

“I think all teams are trying to settle into a new competition again. Each team has a process to take to do that.

“Faf has a lot of experience in terms of handling a crisis. He is a good guy to keep you calm and focused on what is ahead.

“He is able to give you the best possible advice in a moment when you are under a bit of panic.”

Burger is likely to form a lethal new-ball partnership with his Proteas teammate Gerald Coetzee, pending the “Karate Kid” passing a fitness test. The left-arm seamer is excited to get the tournament under way.

“We have a pretty good relationship. It’s pretty cool every time we get to bowl together. It’s a cool little partnership. I think

we gel quite nicely and I think we compliment each other very well,” Burger said.

The Sunrisers will be without two of their most influential players of last season in Roelof van der Merwe (unavailable) and Sisanda Magala (injured), but the home team are confident they have covered their bases during the off-season with the acquisition of Harmer and Co.

The Super Kings, meanwhile, will be looking to unleash new signings such as England superstar Moeen Ali for the first time in SA20.

It’s all set up for a cracking contest in a competition that may just go on to be the saviour of South African cricket.


Sunrisers Eastern Cape: Aiden Markram, Ottniel Bartman, Dawid Malan, Liam Dawson, Marco Jansen, Patrick Kruger, Tristan Stubbs, Brydon Carse, Temba Bavuma, Sarel Erwee, Jordan Hermann, Aya Gqamane, Adam Rossington, Tom Abell, Caleb Seleka, Beyers Swanepoel, Andile Simelane, Simon Harmer.

Joburg Super Kings: Faf du Plessis, Gerald Coetzee, Moeen Ali, David Wiese, Sam Cook, Zahir Khan, Leus du Plooy, Reeza Hendricks, Lizaad Williams, Nandre Burger, Donovan Ferreira, Aaron Phangiso, Sibonelo Makhanya, Kyle Simmonds, Wayne Madsen, Romario Shepherd, Dayyaan Galiem, Ronan Herrmann, Imran Tahir.


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