Franchises ready to rumble in sponsor’s final Pro20 series

2011-01-26 00:00

THE final season of Standard Bank’s affiliation with the domestic Pro20 Series looks set to be a frenetic one, with a host of stars set to commence the mad scramble for a lucrative spot in the final — and the Champions League — on Friday, when the Titans visit the Cobras.

Added to the household names, the sponsors are also stepping up their efforts to popularise the game at schoolboy level, with several schools pencilled in to play in televised curtain-raisers for the big boys.

With the Proteas steeling themselves for World Cup duty, those left behind will be playing for the chance to play in the annual T20 Champions League which, game for game, is the most lucrative tournament in the sport.

“Once you get a taste of it, you want to go back again,” Lions skipper Alviro Petersen said when asked about his side’s experience during last year’s global club showpiece.

The Lions bowed out at the first round, despite beating the highly-rated Mumbai Indians in the opening fixture.

South Africa’s other representatives last year, the Warriors, made it all the way to the final, and fast bowler Garnett Kruger said they were keen to get back to winning ways.

“This season hasn’t gone as well, and I think the team wants to make sure we are in it again. All the other teams are now looking at us as the team to beat, so there will be no easy games for us,” Kruger said.

Another franchise that looks set to challenge for the title is the Titans, who surprisingly lost to Lions in last year’s semis.

“It hurt a lot when we missed out last year, because we pride ourselves on being the stand-out franchise,” captain Jacques Rudolph admitted.

“Friday’s game against the Cobras gives us the chance to make a quick start this season, and we also have the added bonus of Albie Morkel back for us,” he added.

The Knights, formerly the Eagles, have had a mixed season, but the experience of Ryan McLaren for one should stand them in good stead.

The all-rounder really ought to be in the World Cup squad, but the selectors have deemed his skills surplus to requirements.

It is certainly the Knights’ gain.

The Dolphins, meanwhile, will look to their sluggers to carry them through.

Graham Ford’s charges are light in the bowling ranks — even more so with Imran Tahir gone — and the likes of David Miller, Loots Bosman and perhaps even Inland star Glen Addicott will have to score heavily for them to stand a chance.

The KZN outfit open their campaign next Wednesday, against the Lions at the Wanderers.

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