On Friday night Supersport Park gave a sense of the kind of ‘gees.’ it can create. Photo: @SpartansMSLT20 on twitter

JOHANNESBURG – Boland Park and the atmosphere there when the Paarl Rocks play has so far been the highlight for the Mzansi Super League - but on Friday night, this most fan friendly of venues gave a sense of the kind of ‘gees.’ it can create.

It’s fair to say that residents in Gauteng haven’t taken to the MSL the way folk in Paarl have. Even in the Jozi Stars victorious run to the title last season, the Wanderers often had more empty seats than spectators, while the Spartans as a team never captured the imagination of a fiercely parochial city. 

That seemed to change on Friday night. And to be fair to the Spartans’ brainstrust, in this season’s draft they employed a deliberate ploy to try and pick as many ‘local’ players as possible to give the team more of a Tshwane feel as it were. 

Many of the players have shared dressing rooms since they were kids so building a team spirit hasn’t been difficult. Their two previous home games have been rained out unfortunately, but last week’s come from nowhere win against the Stars really does appear to have galvanised the squad.

And so with that win in the bank, and a visit by the competition’s in-form team, a good crowd of 5598 turned up last night and while there wasn’t a mountain of runs scored, nor was there a close finish, there was sufficient entertainment from the home team, to get spectators properly on their side. 

It was two of their own, who played starring roles. Roelof van der Merwe now plies his trade in the bright orange of the Netherlands, but they remember him well in these parts for his many starring roles in building the Titans into South Africa’s most successful domestic franchise. 

For those who don’t know Van der Merwe the vein throbbing, muscular celebrations were enough to get them excited as his four-over spell sunk the Rocks. 

The visitors were helped in getting a quick start by some directionless bowling in the first two overs by Tom Curran - who delivered four wides in the opening over - and Lutho Sipamla, as the Rocks notched up 27 runs off the first 12 balls. 

The dismissal of Cameron Delport was a key turning point. The bruising left-hander had timed the ball sweetly in getting to 25 but his 12th ball he lofted a pull to short-fine leg where Morne Morkel took an easy catch. 

Rocks captain Faf du Plessis tried to hold the innings together, but he became Van der Merwe’s third victim when he drove the left-arm spinner straight to Pite van Biljon in the covers after scoring 19 off 21 balls. Van der Merwe picked up 3/15 as the Rocks innings collapsed in an ugly heap. 

The Spartans were under no real pressure, and what the crowd really wanted was some entertainment from AB de Villiers. He delivered. After surviving a bruising first over from Hardus Viljoen - in which a couple of top edges flew out of the reach of fielders, he got going properly raising his bat for the second time in a week after passing the 50-mark.

Playing his 300th T20 match, De Villiers, eventually finished on 69 not out off 37 balls, his bat sending the ball to all parts of the ground and lifting the atmosphere to heights not previously seen at this venue. 

The Spartans head to Cape Town to face the Blitz on Sunday and will be back here next Thursday to play the Stars. This competition feels very much alive for them, and that will only bring more people through the gates.    

Results:

Paarl Rocks 126 all out

Tshwane Spartans 127/2

Spartans won by eight wickets.

@shockerhess

 

IOL Sport

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