I reckon there’s more than a hint of irony in the fact that this year’s CSA 1 Day Cup has generally had a very good “press” - despite being unsponsored for the first time!
The return to an orthodox 50-overs format has been met by approving nods from players, pundits and public alike.
Being based in the city hosting Friday’s all-coastal final between the Cape Cobras and Warriors no doubt helps, but I’ve also been amazed by the enthusiasm and generosity of the lead-up media space afforded to the Newlands spectacle.
You could almost be excused for thinking the Currie Cup final (yes, an elusive beast in these parts) was coming to town.
Of course it does help that domestic rugby, certainly the XVs part of it, has gone quiet for the festive season, and also that several players from each side have previously represented the other ... it gets a bit of old-fashioned “WP v EP” needle going again.
But we’re also seeing proof, I suspect, that when the top internationals are able to turn out for their franchises in one-day fare - an increasingly rare phenomenon - interest levels do still move upward at a fair rate of knots.
Inside Edge on SuperSport2 this week duly gave great prominence to the final, featuring in-studio presence on the Pommie Mbangwa-hosted programme by Warriors captain Colin Ingram, and Cobras counterpart Justin Kemp also providing input, albeit from Cape Town.
Each skipper, of course, can call on great “first lieutenant” wisdom if required: Ingram from Johan Botha, captain when the Proteas beat Australia in an away ODI series three years ago, and Kemp from a certain GC Smith.
Paul “Gogga” Adams was an additional presence on Inside Edge; he has improved immeasurably in confidence terms as a TV pundit, even if he may not top the global pile yet for really blue-chip insight.
The final starts at 15:00 at Newlands and is ball-by-ball on SS2 and CSN with a “high-def” channel option as well.
Rob’s Awesome Foursome:
1. Cobras v Warriors, 1-Day Cup final cricket
Cape Town, Friday 15:00, SS2, CSN & SH2
The toss is almost always immensely important at Newlands for day/nighters ... win it and don’t hesitate to bat! That may be especially applicable for this final because the Western Cape summer hasn’t been notably balmy yet and there may be some dew around after dark. Still, whichever way the coin lands, the senior Proteas-laden home-town team probably deserve to be installed as favourites, and boast the satisfaction of knowing they knocked over the Warriors twice en route to the showpiece - even if the nail-biting three-run away win in the round-robin phase at St George’s Park had some slightly fortuitous Duckworth/Lewis elements to it.
2. Sevens World Series (SA leg) rugby
Port Elizabeth, Friday & Saturday from 11:00, SS1, SHD & some CSN
The novelty of the Friendly City hosting the Sevens jamboree for the first time pretty much doubles the interest in this year’s South African leg of the HSBC Sevens. As for the Blitzbokke themselves, are they capable of delighting the expected masses at Nelson Mandela Bay Stadium? Despite the timely reinstallation of Cecil Afrika, it’s so hard to say, as they’ve blown hot and cold over the first two legs, including a hiding from pace-setters Fiji at the Gold Coast and a fine victory over New Zealand in Dubai. South Africa’s first-phase assignments on Friday: Canada (13:49), Kenya (16:55) and Australia (20:38).
3. Chelsea v Manchester City, English Premiership soccer
London, Monday 22:00, SS3, Maximo & SHD3
Yes, you have to wait until late Monday night, alas, for easily the match of the Premiership “weekend”: the clash of the two big Blues in England. Chelsea may only lie fourth at present - not quite Mr Abramovich’s ideal state of affairs – but they seem resurgent right now and ready to give leaders City a torrid time. The hosts enter the big game buoyed by a trio of 3-0 wins ... against Wolves and Newcastle in the Premiership and also Valencia in the Champions League. I reckon they’re good for at least a share of the spoils. TV football fans should also keep in mind Saturday night’s El Clasico meeting between Real Madrid and Barcelona (23:00, SS3 and other channels) and the Telkom Knockout final in Durban (20:15, SS4 and SABC1) between Pirates and Wits.
4. South Africa v Sri Lanka, first cricket Test
Centurion, from Thursday 10:30, SABC3, SS2 & SH2
Early notice for you of the SuperSport Park Test ... and a reminder for non-DStv folk that SABC3 will again be screening the three-match series live. The last time this spectator-friendly venue hosted a Test match, it was also the first of three: the opener against India last season. Then, the Proteas romped home by an innings and 25 runs after the Indians were skittled on a weather-restricted day one for 136 (Morne Morkel got a five-for and Dale Steyn three scalps). The quality of the Lankan tour party is being questioned, so a similarly traumatic start to the series could await them, unless known class batting acts Messrs Sangakkara and Jayawardene get among the runs meaningfully.