Johannesburg — The last round of the Four-Day Series starts on Friday morning and with everything else that’s going on in South African cricket, nevermind the rest of the world right now, you’d be forgiven for going: ‘Huh?’
Mostly due to Covid, the country’s premier first class competition, has been shifted, reduced, and set back and now concludes with a single round finale of four matches, with three teams in line to annex the trophy.
Two of those teams — the Central Gauteng Lions and the Northern Titans — face each other at SuperSport Park. The third team, the Warriors from Gqeberha, play the Knights in Bloemfontein. Naturally it's complicated as to how the final winner will emerge (see below).
Until the last round of matches at the end of January, the Lions had control of the competition thanks to the quartet of quick bowlers who dominated the first four rounds. However Gauteng were victims of that success; they lost Duanne Olivier to the Proteas from the start of the India series, Lutho Sipamla toured New Zealand, and Sisanda Magala was roped into the squad for the One-Day series with India
In addition their batting ace this summer, Ryan Rickelton was also part of various national squads and has only played four of the six matches. Going into the final round, the Lions will be without their multi-format national players; Temba Bavuma, Rassie van der Dussen and Kagiso Rabada, which they’d long ago anticipated. However, they will also be without, Sipamla, Olivier and Wiaan Mulder who have just returned from New Zealand.
Fortunately it appears that Rickelton will take up his place in the starting side at SuperSport Park. The left-hander has been one the in-form batters in the competition, and averages 118.25 in five innings having scored three hundreds. The Lions will need his form to continue given the importance of bonus points to the competition’s outcome.
The return of Magala also bolsters the attack, which he will spearhead alongside Malusi Siboto, with Tladi Bokako providing extra thrust.
That the Lions find themselves in such a tricky finale is partly their own fault. While the national call ups certainly upset the rhythm, every team knows that those are the side effects of success. The Lions have failed to win their last two matches, drawing with Western Province at Newlands, in the last week of January, thanks to a Rickelton century in the final innings, and losing two weeks earlier to the Dolphins, when they made a declaration that was much too generous.
The Titans have slowly rebuilt throughout the season, with their recent run in the T20 Challenge in Gqeberha is sure to be a source of motivation as they seek to add to the trophy cabinet at SuperSport Park.
The Warriors have surprised everyone, with their consistency built on the scoring output from Rudi Second, Lesiba Ngoepe and Matthew Breetzke.
Fixtures (all matches start 10am):
Multiply Titans vs Imperial Lions, SuperSport Park; ITEC Knights vs Gbets Warriors, Mangaung Oval; Six Gun Grill Western Province vs North West, Newlands; Gbets Warriors vs HollywoodBets Dolphins, Bolnd Park
- If Lions beat Titans and Warriors don’t win, Lions will finish 1st.
- If Titans beat Lions and Warriors don’t win, Titans will finish 1st.
- If Lions beat Titans and Warriors win, the team between them with most bonus points will finish 1st.
- If Titans beat Lions and Warriors win, the team between them with most bonus points will finish 1st
- If the Lions v Titans match is drawn and Warriors win then Warriors will finish 1st.
Bonus points needed
Assuming that all teams have the same bowling bonus points and results are as above, then in the first 100 overs of their first innings:
Warriors will need to make 25 more runs than Lions to finish above them.
Titans will need to make 292 more runs than Warriors to finish above them.
Titans will need to make 316 more runs than Lions to finish above them.
For every 1 point difference in bowling points between any of these sides the run requirements will be adjusted by 50, e.g. if Titans get 4 bowling bonus points and Lions 0 then Titans need 116 more runs than Lions to finish ahead of them.
Bonus points are awarded an the first 100 overs of each team's first innings as follows:
Batting: 1 point on reaching 150 and 0.02 points for each run thereafter
Bowling: 1 point for taking 3 wkts, 2 for 5 wkts, 3 for 7 wkts and 4 for 9 wkts.