Kagiso Rabada endured the most stressful period of his Test career following an incident with Steve Smith. Photo: Reuters
Kagiso Rabada endured the most stressful period of his Test career following an incident with Steve Smith. Photo: Reuters

The big-hitters of the 2018 South African cricket season

By Zaahier Adams Time of article published Dec 25, 2018

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Here we look at the major newsmakers of the 2018 South African cricket season... 

Steve Smith, David Warner and Cameron Bancroft

March 24, 2018. A seminal day in the history of Australian cricket. The fact that it all played out under the watch of Table Mountain at the cathedral of South African cricket, Newlands, added to the drama.

Three Australian cricketers, including their captain and vice-captain, caught red-handed trying to tamper with the ball using a yellow object, later confirmed as sandpaper.

The fallout was immense ,with Smith and Warner stripped of their leadership roles and banned for 12 months, while Bancroft – the actual perpetrator - received a nine-month suspension.

It was not only the players, though, that fell on their sword, but also coach Darren Lehmann, long-time chief executive James Sutherland and a host of other leading figures in the Australian game.

Kagiso Rabada

In comparison to the Aussies’ misdemeanours, Rabada’s behaviour was almost saintly, but the Proteas spearhead was being set up to be the villain of the series ahead of the Newlands Test.

After Rabada brushed Smith’s sleeve with his shoulder during the second Test in Port Elizabeth, prompting a Neymar-like performance from Smith claiming he was charged, the young fast bowler faced arguably the most stressful period of his young Test career.

Only after a high-profile lawyer, Advocate Dali Mpofu, was called in to represent Rabada before an ICC tribunal was the 23-year-old cleared to play in the next Test in Cape Town.

Rabada put all the drama behind him to finish the year as the No 1 bowler on the ICC Test rankings.

Former Australian captain Steve Smith in tears during a press conference after arriving at Sydney International Airport following the ball-tampering scandal in Cape Town. Photo: EPA

The Mzansi Super League

After the failed launch in 2017, and the subsequent parting of former chief executive Haroon Lorgat with Cricket South Africa, there was little hope that South Africa would finally get their own T20 league.

CSA, though, were determined to lift the curtain on a brand new competition, and even with late setbacks, including a breakdown with broadcaster SuperSport, the first ball of the inaugural Mzansi Super League was bowled on Friday, November 16 at Newlands.

There were six sparkling new teams, and the entire tournament, including every single match, was shown on free-to-air channel SABC.

It was a momentous initiative, taking the game into the houses of millions that had previously never had the privilege of watching high-quality domestic cricket.

CSA chief Thabang Moroe gave the tournament a “6/10” rating, but the potential is certainly there for the future.

Ashwell Prince

The former Proteas Test batsman is only just into his second season as a franchise coach. And yet Prince has produced phenomenal results in such a short period of time. He has managed to transform the Cape Cobras from a disjointed, fractured unit immersed in internal squabbles into a team that are willing to die for each other out in the middle.

This renewed team spirit has brought about a change of fortunes too, with the Cobras heading into the New Year with a 20-point advantage at the top of the 4-Day Domestic Series table.

Prince also led the Cape Town Blitz to a runners-up spot in the MSL T20.

It is though not only the performances of his teams that have stood out in 2018, but also the way Prince has managed to get the best of a group of unheralded young players, while also continuing to stand firm in his beliefs in what he regards as the injustices of society, particularly on social media.

Dané van Niekerk and Marizanne Kapp

The Proteas Women’s team may not have been able to match their brilliant 2017 when they progressed to the World Cup semi-finals.

But even though they have endured a disappointing World T20 in the Caribbean in 2018, they were still major newsmakers this past year, particularly when captain Van Niekerk and Kapp tied the knot, making them the first married couple to play international cricket in the same team.

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