Bullring to script T20 Challenge final

DOLPHINS players Jon Jon Smuts, Grant Roelofsen and Andile Phehlukwayo will face two opponents in the final tomorrow. | Archives

DOLPHINS players Jon Jon Smuts, Grant Roelofsen and Andile Phehlukwayo will face two opponents in the final tomorrow. | Archives

Published Apr 28, 2024


THERE are very few stadium atmospheres around the world that can match the Wanderers in full cry, and tomorrow’s CSA T20 Challenge final in which the Lions host the Dolphins is expected to dish out more of the same.

The Bullring still possesses most of the traits that helped produce what many deem the best one-day international of all time – the 438 game in which South Africa chased down a mammoth score set by Australia. In that part of the country, the ball travels miles off the bat, whether well-timed or not by the batter.

The good old field-first winning strategy applies to this day as the Lions have demonstrated in their T20 Challenge campaign, where they have won six out of their eight home games fielding first.

The only time they lost a home game despite winning the toss and fielding first was when they hosted the Warriors in the round robin stage.

However, the iconic stadium has had its fair share of changes, particularly with regard to the nature of the wicket itself.

Gone are the days when the big fast bowlers called the shots at the Bullring. The script has flipped dramatically over the years. Now the pitch seems to favour the spinners quite a bit, as 21-year-old Nqaba Peter (19 wickets) has demonstrated throughout the tournament alongside his spin twin Bjorn Fortuin (16 wickets).

Somehow, this dynamic duo has found just the right formula of pace and trajectory that is necessary to not only keep the batters quiet, but also take wickets at regular intervals at the Wanderers.

With this acute knowledge of their home ground advantage in mind, coupled with the abundance of Proteas players they have at their disposal, it is natural to believe the Lions have an out-and-out upper hand over the visiting Durban-based Dolphins.

After all, the Lions are boosted by numerous explosive batters including Ryan Rickelton, Rassie van der Dussen and Reeza Hendricks. Moreover, with quality batters such as Mitchell van Buuren struggling to break into the XI, the Lions look seriously strong as a T20 unit.

However, due to the unpredictable nature of T20 cricket, it is almost suicide to rule out any team, let alone it being a final where pressure and expectation will have a say in the result of the game.

The Dolphins are playing away from home against a highly-rated team, which means the men from the coast have very little pressure and expectation compared to what the hosts will experience tomorrow.

Despite their lack of the so-called “big players”, the Dolphins have found a way to win throughout the tournament – a feat the Lions will respect, especially having lost to the Dolphins in the round robin stages.

As soon as the umpires and players cross the boundary ropes and play is called, the “big player” or “big team” tags fall away and the contest simply boils down to bat and ball.

Additionally, coach Imraan Khan’s Dolphins have a skill that many would miss due to it being hidden in their lack of big scores in this campaign. A closer examination of the reasons behind the Dolphins’ lack of big scores in relation to the Lions purely boils down to the difficult wicket in Durban, where the Dolphins have played nine games including the semi-final defeat of the Warriors on Thursday.

Like most of the coastal stadiums, big scores do not come as often as they do on the highveld, where the high altitude allows the ball to travel further than it normally would on the coast.

This will undoubtedly come into the reckoning tomorrow as the Dolphins batters are used to the hard graft of putting runs on the board.

Start: 2pm TV: SuperSport