5 talking points from SA's domestic cricket return

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Sarel Erwee
Sarel Erwee
Anesh Debiky/Gallo Images
  • Sport24's Lynn Butler highlights FIVE talking points after the opening round of the 4-Day Franchise Series.
  • Franchise cricket returned to South Africa this week after an eight-month hiatus due to the coronavirus pandemic.
  • Multiple records were broken with noticeable standout performances with the bat.

1. Cricket South Africa fails on providing ball-by-ball live coverage

Any fan or journalist thinking they could follow ball-by-ball coverage of the 4-Day Franchise Series was mistaken.

Cricket South Africa (CSA) and the trusted Cricinfo website could not provide ball-by-ball coverage in the opening week of the domestic season, with Cricinfo citing valid reasoning, which includes financial costs mainly effected by the global pandemic.

However, in CSA's case, the governing body had months to prepare for domestic cricket's return - although its off-field problems during the nationwide lockdown diverted attention.

Fans of this proud cricketing nation could not watch their beloved 4-day competition with the tournament played behind-closed-doors to curb the spread of the coronavirus.

Pitch Vision, which was available to journalists and those who've signed up for it, was useful but came with its own technical glitches.

Following this week's action, one had to solely rely on sporadic live updates and tweets from journalists and franchise Twitter accounts.

Luckily this writer attended two days of the 4-Day Franchise Series clash between the Cape Cobras and Titans at Newlands and followed intently the quality of cricket on display.

For the Cobras, there were some Newlands fans around as the construction workers watched some cricket during their lunch breaks.

2. Spinners came to the party

The top three leading wicket-takers of the competition thus far are spinners: George Linde (Cape Cobras - 9), Tabraiz Shamsi (Titans - 7) and Keshav Maharaj (Dolphins - 7).

Most importantly, those returns showcased the spin arsenal Proteas head coach Mark Boucher has at his disposal. 

It does help that the two spin-friendly wickets in the country - Kingsmead and Newlands - were the place-setting for the spinning trio to start their season.

Cobras slow left-armer Linde nabbed 5/65 and 4/123 in their loss against the Titans at Newlands. The all-rounder made his Test debut for the Proteas last year when he replaced the injured Maharaj.

Linde's early performance would have been noticed by Director of Cricket Graeme Smith and national selector Victor Mpitsang, who was spotted at Newlands on Day 2 of the opening encounter. 

Proteas first-choice spinner Maharaj not only snagged a six-for in the Lions' second innings but led his side in a nine-wicket win at Kingsmead.

Shamsi's performance with the ball was great to see considering the upcoming England limited-overs series, which gets underway on 27 November.

3. Proteas batsmen vie for Test spots

Test spots are up for grabs as the Proteas face Sri Lanka in a two-match Test series on Boxing Day and over the New Year's period.

All the national players, bar those that are away playing in the Indian Premier League, are set to play in at least the opening two rounds of the 4-Day Franchise Series.

This saw several national players live up to the hype and produce some serious knocks.

At Newlands, Titans opening Dean Elgar made valiant knocks of 101 and 58, which also brought up calls on social media - and by himself - that he would be the "logical" choice as Test captain.

Proteas batsman Theunis de Bruyn hasn't played a Test match for his country since October last year, but the 28-year-old scored 127 in the second innings at Newlands to steer the Titans to victory.

As Boucher and Mpitsang look to name their provisional squad in the upcoming days, certain spots are up for grabs.

Dolphins new recruit Keegan Petersen crafted 173 off 363 balls - hitting 16 fours and a six. Petersen was called up as a replacement last year after Aiden Markram suffered a finger injury against England in the festive Test series. 

4. Tons all around!

Petersen's 16th first-class ton accompanied opener Sarel Erwee as the duo put on a record stand, which saw the Dolphins triumph in their season-opener.

The pair put on a brilliant exhibition of batting as stats revealed with a record-breaking partnership.

Erwee fell one run short of a well-deserved double century when he was dismissed for his highest franchise score of 199 off 282 balls - 25 fours and a six.

The 30-year-old scored his eighth first-class century as the Dolphins declared on 458/3 in their first innings.

In Bloemfontein, Knights opener Jacques Snyman stole the show with both bat and ball. His efforts with the bat saw him plundering 18 fours and two sixes in his destructive 78-ball 109 at the Mangaung Oval.

Snyman followed the century with bowling spells of 3/29 and 1/25 as the Knights completed a resounding 179-run victory over the Warriors.

Elgar and De Bruyn's tons in Cape Town rounded up five centuries in the opening week.

5. Records tumble in the opening week

Before lunch on day one, Snyman smashed the fastest 4-day Franchise century ever as he reached his fifth career 100 in just 71 balls. The previous record was 73 balls, set by team-mate Shaun von Berg.

By the time the Snyman was finally out before lunch, he had posted the highest first-session score on day one of a domestic first-class match in South Africa since Lawrence Seeff hit 119 not out for Western Province B against Natal B in Cape Town in 1978.

The Knights opener made the first century before lunch on Day 1 of a Franchise 4-day Series match since Rilee Rossouw's 108* in 2010.

At Newlands, the Titans' 150 was the lowest innings team total in South African first-class history to include a century. Elgar scored a scored 101 off 143 balls as his side collapsed against the spin of Linde.

At Kingsmead, Erwee shared a record-breaking second-wicket partnership with Petersen, where they amassed 344 runs.

It was the highest for any wicket in Bloemfontein, topping the 316 stand between Mark Bruyns and Errol Stewart for KwaZulu-Natal against Boland way back in 1998/99.

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