Feast of schoolboy cricket

2016-09-28 06:00
PHOTO: DAWIE DE WET Maritzburg College's Jean de Wet made an  unbeaten 100 on Goldstones during Oppenheimer Michaelmas Cricket Week last year, but Grey College cantered home by seven wickets.

PHOTO: DAWIE DE WET Maritzburg College's Jean de Wet made an unbeaten 100 on Goldstones during Oppenheimer Michaelmas Cricket Week last year, but Grey College cantered home by seven wickets.

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“It is so enjoyable. Oppenheimer Michaelmas Cricket Week is the highlight of our cricket calendar because of all the history surrounding it and the fact that so many prominent past cricketers and current professionals have played in that same week.”

These words last year from highly regarded 2015 St Stithians first XI captain and opening batsman Ricardo Vasconcelos epitomise the prestige and respect with which many of the country’s top schoolboy cricketers hold this annual extravaganza hosted annually by Maritzburg College.

The 57th edition of Oppenheimer Michaelmas Cricket Week takes place from Saturday, October 1 to Tuesday, October 4 and promises much camaraderie among the players and coaches as well as a high level of play.

A total of 40 matches will be jam-packed into four days of schoolboy cricket involving the 20 sides.

The festival’s prime asset, apart from the fabulous hospitality of hosts Maritzburg College, is the quality of venues and pitches in and around the KZN capital.

A number of the best schoolboy first XI teams in the country are set to take the field. Long-time hosts Maritzburg College, plus the likes of fellow KZN schools Clifton, DHS, Hilton, Kearsney, Michaelhouse, Northwood, Hilton, Glenwood and Westville take on New Zealand school, Westlake, Hudson Park (East London), Afrikaanse Hoër Seunskool (Affies) and Pretoria Boys’ High School (PBHS), as well as Johannesburg’s Jeppe, St John’s, St Stithians and King Edward VII School (KES), plus Bloemfontein’s Grey College and Grahamstown’s St Andrews College with the 18th team being the CSA TAP Invitational XI.

The determination to take the cricket into the country sees Richmond Country Club as well as Eston Country Club playing host to matches once again.

While it is a festival of cricket, the competition is unrelenting amongst teams that enjoy a long-standing rivalry. Goldstones is the Maritzburg College fortress where they will face stiff competition from Affies, St Andrews, PBHS and Hudson Park.

College, home ground or not, have had their fair share of losses against their powerful rivals and this year’s contests will certainly be no different. College have also enjoyed some memorable victories on the field of gold during this golden week and that will boost their morale no end.

If history is a yardstick, a number of the cricketers taking part in the 57th edition of this cricketing landmark are destined for higher honours post-school. AB de Villiers and Faf du Plessis (Affies), Hashim Amla, Barry Richards, Lance Klusener (DHS), Kepler Wessels, Hansie Cronje (Grey College), Ali Bacher, Graham Smith (KES), Jonty Rhodes, David Miller and Kevin Pietersen (Maritzburg College) are just some of the luminaries that have enriched this festival.

Given the 50-over format and a mandatory 16 overs to the hour, the cricket is focused and intense throughout. Tuesday offers the option of T20 cricket for those traveling long distances home, while 50-over matches may also be played on the last day by mutual consent.

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