IOL Sport writer, Lungani Zama.
Spare a thought for the red-ball soldiers. While the Proteas continue to pummel Pakistan with whatever colour ball they use, there is a most intriguing domestic battle for honours on the go.

The Cape Cobras looked to have sewn up the Four-Day Franchise Series, but they have been hauled back to shore by the Lions and, to an extent, the Warriors.

It’s a tantalising race once more, and we may well have a final day drama unravelling to determine the champions. That is what happened with the Titans last season. They played to the final whistle.

Now, the onus is on the Cobras and the Lions to wrestle it out.

It is not a script too dissimilar from the Mzansi Super League. The men from the Cape have done much of the running, only to see a GP number plate getting bigger in their review mirror.

It would probably hurt even more for the Cobras if they missed out on the four day loot. They played quality cricket upfront, pummelling teams with positive cricket.

Their young attack stepped up, and their top-order piled on the runs. And then, and then, and then...

The best part of this four-day competition are the number of unheralded players making their way into the bright lights.

Remember the surnames Malan, Qeshile, Ackerman, Rapulana and Bosch.

Those are just some of the vital cogs in the future of the long format. We all crow about the Proteas at Test level, but it is imperative that the next layer beneath them is healthy.

Zubayr Hamza went to the Wanderers to make his Test bow, and did not look out of place. He played his shots, and his defence looked organised.

There are other, intriguing storylines emerging around the country.

The Warriors may not win a trophy this season, but they are building a heck of a squad. As long as they can keep their pace pack out of the clutches of franchises with deeper pockets, they may well be a dominant force next season.

The Knights are always plucky, and the Titans are too proud a union not to bounce back. The Dolphins are in the midst of a succession plan, but the likes of Sibonelo Makhanya and Marques Ackerman have shown they will still make runs in the future.

It’s fashionable to look at the Proteas and be chuffed, but there must be lessons taken from Australia’s demise in recent years. Back in 2014, as they came and snatched a series here, they looked like they were ready to start a new dynasty.

Alas, their playing reserves were diminished, and they were far too reliant on ageing warhorses.

South African cricket can’t dare fall into the same trap.

The regeneration must be an ongoing process. That is why it was so pleasantly surprising to see the headlines in the recent Pakistan series snatched by Duanne Olivier.

Good on him.

He is a proud product of the system, a man who has plundered at franchise level. He graduated when he was ready, and he has flourished in esteemed company.

While flash in the pan acts may work for short-term projects in coloured clothing, you still have to do your time with the red ball.

And those who are ready often hit the ground running in international cricket.

The four-day fare may not be on everyone’s radar, but it remains a great factory for the Proteas.

Roll on, the domestic red!


Sunday Tribune

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