Paarl Rocks assistant coach Geoff Toyana cut a morose figure yesterday morning in the aftermath of his side’s elimination from contesting the final of the inaugural Mzansi Super League (MSL) today, without a ball being bowled on Friday night.
After a sluggish start, the cult team of the tournament – probably due to that odd name – had gathered enough steam to make it to a play-off against the Jozi Stars at the Wanderers Stadium in Johannesburg, only for a traditional Highveld thunderstorm to rain off the game and leave them high and dry.
The general refrain from the cricket public has been that there should have been a reserve day to replay the play-off, instead of advancing the higher ranked team through to the final – and Toyana feels the same.
“I think Cricket SA need to look into a reserve day,” he said.
“You cannot have a team get a free ride into a final. We were ready for that game and our energy in the warm-up was good.
“We felt we could put them under pressure, so it was disappointing not to even get on to the field,” he said.
“To go out like that is quite disappointing. If we’d had a shocker and lost, I would understand. The biggest disappointment is for the people of Paarl, whose hearts we had captured and who were so brilliant with their support. But it is what it is.”
Looking at the tournament as a whole, Toyana said he was encouraged by its first offering.
“I think it was really good. It did start slowly, but the cricket played was excellent and I think the internationals are going to be keen to be involved.
“I was talking to Dwayne Bravo, Cameron Delport, David Wiese and Dan Christian – guys who make a living playing in these competitions – and they were very excited. So I feel the tournament as a whole will grow.”
Reserve day or not, today’s final at the Newlands cricket ground will now feature the two teams who finished top of the log in the competition: the dominant Cape Town Blitz, who won seven of their 10 games, and Jozi Stars, who scored six out of 10.
Toyana was full of praise for the “smart” way in which the Blitz conducted their recruitment, and the workmanship of some of their key players.
“I think a guy like Quinton de Kock [407 runs in seven matches at a strike rate of 174.64] has been instrumental in their plans and showed that he is a serious player, while a guy like Janneman Malan [305 in nine at 125.51] has brought runs,” said Toyana.
“It should be a good final.”
Looking at the Stars, Toyana said they were probably better balanced than the Blitz, thanks to a batting line-up boasting the in-form Reeza Hendricks – whose two centuries are not only the most by anyone in the competition, they were also back to back – and the tournament’s top run scorer, Rassie van der Dussen (410 runs in 11 matches at 144.36), and the experience of Christian.
“When you add Kagiso Rabada, Beuran Hendricks, Christian and Simon Harmer on the bowling side, you have a very well-balanced side in all departments. If you look at the two teams player for player, the Stars have the better team.”
Toyana, who is the Highveld Lions’ high performance coach, said the approach of both the Blitz and the Stars would probably be to try to get two or three wickets in the power play because “both sides score quickly, so you have to take wickets to stop the bleeding”.
While expecting the Blitz to rely on Dale Steyn and young Nandre Burger for that job, Toyana said he felt the final could well be the De Kock and Rabada show.
“Each will look to take the other down during that power play,” he said.
Besides the bias Toyana obviously felt towards his employers and origins, the other reason he felt the Blitz were not favourites was the fact that they had not played in seven days.