CAPE TOWN - Can a match that consists of just five overs per innings, with each player - bar the wicketkeeper -bowling an over, be taken seriously?
“Of course, it can and it certainly was,” says South Africa’s victorious Hong Kong Sixes coach Ashwell Prince.
“There is definitely an element of fun with the tournament being staged in Hong Kong over Halloween weekend, but when we arrived I asked the guys if they were here to party or play some good cricket? That South African team spirit and competitiveness just takes over when any team wearing green crosses that white rope.”
There were certainly quality cricketers on show over the two days at the famous Kowloon Cricket Club. The MCC side was led by England all-rounder Samit Patel, and included a host of county professionals such as former Western Province and current Middlesex all-rounder Gareth Berg.
The recently-retired Test and ODI all-rounder John Hastings spearheaded the Australian challenge, but undoubtedly the strongest team on paper at the tournament were runners-up Pakistan. Twenty20 specialist Sohail Tanvir led the Asian nation’s bowling attack along with former Test speedster Mohammed Sami.
This was in contrast to the South African contingent which had no players with international experience. In fact, the seven-man squad consisted primarily of players on the fringes of their respective franchise squads and were only cobbled together after having missed out on the now-defunct Global T20 League draft.
Prince believes that this situation actually proved to be a source of inspiration. “There was a lot of pride... We were all guys, and I include myself, who had missed out on a gig at the Global T20 and really wanted to prove something. So, there was a lot of passion in the performances and skill. There were some outstanding catches taken by Aubrey Swanepoel in the outfield, and Sarel Erwee really surprised with his bowling. Guys like Ferisco Adams and Farhaan Sayanvala also did really well.”
Erwee was the leading run-scorer for South Africa with 132 runs, but was also surprisingly the tournament’s joint leading wicket-taker with six scalps. Free Stater Corne Dry also claimed six wickets.
“I think it is going to be tough for these guys to break into their franchise squads with all the international players available for the T20 Challenge. They are really talented cricketers, and a guy like Erwee does play for the Dolphins and Ferisco has played for the Cobras before and has really good white-ball skills, so we’ll always have an eye on him,” Prince said.
“But... I see more of them making an impact at franchise level when the Momentum One-Day Cup comes around at the beginning of next year when the Proteas are on international duty. It was a fun weekend though with all these guys. Some great Proteas like Shaun Pollock, Jonty Rhodes and David Miller have all played in Hong Kong before, so it could be a stepping stone for some of them.”
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