CAPE TOWN – Aspirant Proteas will have one round of first-class fixtures to impress new national coach Ottis Gibson ahead of the two-match Test series against Bangladesh at the end of the month.
Defending Sunfoil Series champions the Knights will officially start the domestic franchise season on September 19 by hosting the Cape Cobras in Bloemfontein in the opening round of four-day fixtures released by Cricket South Africa on Monday.
The Knights were the surprise winners of the competition last season, with Nicky Bojé’s side claiming the trophy in champion style by beating the Highveld Lions by an innings in their final match to place themselves out of the reach of their nearest rivals, the Titans.
For all the excitement surrounding the launch of the inaugural T20 Global League to be held from November 3 until December 16, the continued importance of South Africa’s premier first-class competition cannot be underestimated.
The Proteas are fresh from suffering a 3-1 Test series defeat in England and Gibson will no doubt be keeping a close eye on the local talent before his first official assignment.
One of Gibson’s former home grounds in South Africa, the Wanderers, will also see four-day action on the opening weekend when it plays host to the Lions and Warriors, while further north, the Titans and Dolphins will do battle at SuperSport Park in Centurion.
While looking for a potential Test opening partner for Dean Elgar, the Barbadian will no doubt be monitoring the form of Knights middle-order batsman David Miller quite closely.
The powerful left-hander, who has played 99 ODIs and 52 T20Is for the Proteas, has recently stressed that he no longer wants to be regarded as a “limited-overs specialist”, and will be hoping for a good start to the Sunfoil Series to leave an immediate impression on Gibson.
Former South Africa A coach Shukri Conrad was particularly pleased with Miller’s efforts during the recent series against India, where the 28-year-old clubbed 78 off 115 balls in the first “Test” victory over the visitors.
The Sunfoil Series will break for the T20 Global League at the end of October and resume at the beginning of February.
In this bumper 2017/18 season for South African cricket supporters – India and Australia also visit these shores – the domestic action continues after the completion of the T20GL with the Momentum One-Day Cup on December 20.
The One-Day Cup runs throughout the festive season, with a notable item on the calendar being a New Year fixture at St George’s Park, with the Warriors hosting the Dolphins, all the way to the final on February 3.
Despite the advent of the T20GL, the CSA T20 Challenge has been kept intact, but will now be played at the end of the summer, running from March 14 through to April 14 next year.
The season will therefore run for two weeks longer than usual, which could have an impact on the availability of the national players, who may have left for the Indian Premier League already, which is set to start on April 4.