Local stars and international guns for hire lit up the second edition of the Mzansi Super League (MSL), writes Quintin van Jaarsveld.
South Africa’s T20 showpiece came to a head in Paarl on Monday, where home team the Rocks powered to an eight-wicket win over the Tshwane Spartans to succeed the Jozi Stars as champions.
The final, albeit one-sided, was an example of what the competition could, and Cricket South Africa (CSA) desperately needs it to be, as the teams played in front of a sold-out crowd at Eurolux Boland Park. Unfortunately, the tournament didn’t receive that kind of love for the most part, with fans attending in drips and drabs rather than streaming into stadia.
Aside from attracting average live gates, MSL 2.0 was overshadowed by the CSA crisis and startling revelations of how the country’s cricketing body had been captured and run into the ground in recent years, leaving the Proteas and the state of South African cricket as a whole at an all-time low.
These issues are unique to the MSL and cannot be overlooked as to why the tournament hasn’t taken off as anticipated. Thanks to the incompetence of its inception, which required a name change and a full 12-month delay as CSA – among a myriad of issues – struggled to secure a broadcasting deal, the tournament appeared doomed from the start.
The players, who instead of being the main attraction became co-stars in their own production, have done their level best to elevate the tournament, but after two campaigns, the competition remains a commercial catastrophe, digging the debt-riddled CSA into an even deeper financial hole.
Adding to its slow growth is a dilemma crippling all T20 tournaments of its kind – the lack of its own identity. All ‘spin-off’ T20 tournaments follow the same formula – using bright colours and splashy marketing promising cricket as you’ve never seen before. The problem is, we have, on a much bigger and better scale in the Indian Premier League (IPL).
Instead of offering a unique alternative to separate themselves from the rest, these tournaments are frankly nothing more than watered-down versions of the IPL. Cricket lovers know this, which is why the progression of the MSL and its equivalents across the world will continue to resemble a five-day toil rather than a T20 blitzkrieg.
On a positive note, the players played their parts to boost the MSL brand again this season and deserve to be acknowledged for their endeavour on the field. Let’s, then, shine the spotlight on the top performers of MSL 2.0:
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A destructive force from Down Under fired on all cylinders and led the run-scoring stakes this season. Australian Ben Dunk emerged as the master blaster of MSL 2.0, scoring an unrivalled 415 runs for the Nelson Mandela Bay Giants. South African international Janneman Malan was the next-best, contributing 358 runs to the Cape Town Blitz’s cause. The leading locally-based batsman was none other than Tshwane Spartans superstar AB de Villiers, whose 51 in Monday’s final landed him the number three position.
1: Ben Dunk (Nelson Mandela Bay Giants) – 415
2: Janneman Malan (Cape Town Blitz) – 358
3: AB de Villiers (Tshwane Spartans) – 325
4: Reeza Hendricks (Jozi Stars) / Henry Davids (Paarl Rocks) – 275
5: Cameron Delport (Paarl Rocks) – 246
6: Jon-Jon Smuts (Nelson Mandela Bay Giants) – 238
7: Quinton de Kock (Cape Town Blitz) – 235
8: Temba Bavuma (Jozi Stars) – 232
9: James Vince (Paarl Rocks) – 226
10: Faf du Plessis (Paarl Rocks) – 219
No-one was able to reach the magical three-figure mark this season, however, there were still some hefty knocks, with Dunk and Malan again leading the way. Both were cruelly denied centuries, finishing 99 not out, Dunk doing the damage in just 54 balls against the Jozi Stars and Malan in 59 against the Spartans. England ace Alex Hales also came agonisingly close to a ton, scoring 97 not out for the Durban Heat against the Rocks.
1: Ben Dunk (Nelson Mandela Bay Giants) – 99*
2: Janneman Malan (Cape Town Blitz) – 99*
3: Alex Hales (Durban Heat) – 97*
4: Dean Elgar (Tshwane Spartans) – 88*
5: James Vince (Paarl Rocks) – 86*
6: Cameron Delport (Paarl Rocks) – 84
7: Wihan Lubbe (Durban Heat) – 83
8: Reeza Hendricks (Jozi Stars) – 80
9: Henry Davids (Paarl Rocks) – 77*
10: Dane Vilas – 75*/ Janneman Malan (Cape Town Blitz) / Ben Dunk (Nelson Mandela Bay Giants) – 75
Durban Heat duo Ravi Bopara and David Miller were the most consistent willow-wielders. England standout Bopara averaged 87 in his three innings while Proteas star Miller averaged 61.33 in five innings. Dunk was a dependable destroyer and his average of 51.87 in 10 innings is arguably the most impressive of all.
1: Ravi Bopara (Durban Heat) – 87.00
2: David Miller (Durban Heat) – 61.33
3: Ben Dunk (Nelson Mandela Bay Giants) – 51.87
4: Pite van Biljon (Tshwane Spartans) – 48.00
5: AB de Villiers (Tshwane Spartans) – 46.42
6: Vernon Philander (Cape Town Blitz) – 45.50
7: Janneman Malan (Cape Town Blitz) – 44.75
8: Alex Hales (Durban Heat) – 40.00
9: Reeza Hendricks (Jozi Stars) – 39.28
10: Temba Bavuma (Jozi Stars) – 38.66
Durban Heat’s flash lightning, Wihan Lubbe wasted little time. With five of their 10 matches raining out, Lubbe made the most of his time at the crease, scoring at 184.21. England international Tom Curran took to the South African pitches well, scoring at 180.00 for the Tshwane Spartans while Chris Morris, one of the stars of the tournament, scored at 176.81 for the Nelson Mandela Bay Giants.
1: Wihan Lubbe (Durban Heat) – 184.21
2: Tom Curran (Tshwane Spartans) – 180.00
3: Chris Morris (Nelson Mandela Bay Giants) – 176.81
4: Quinton de Kock (Cape Town Blitz) – 163.19
5: Wahab Riaz (Cape Town Blitz) – 161.69
6: Marco Marais (Nelson Mandela Bay Giants) – 160.21
7: Cameron Delport (Paarl Rocks) – 167.34
8: Dwaine Pretorius (Paarl Rocks) – 158.33
9: AB de Villiers (Tshwane Spartans) – 152.58
10: Ben Dunk (Nelson Mandela Bay Giants) – 149.81
Sixes are what fans come to see in T20 cricket and there were many a ball bashed into the stands. Malan tops the maximum list with 22 big hits, followed by Dunk with 17. England import Liam Livingstone let rip with 15 for the Cape Town Blitz, Rocks captain Faf du Plessis led by example with 13 while Proteas trio Miller, De Villiers and Quinton de Kock clonked 11 apiece.
1: Janneman Malan (Cape Town Blitz) – 22
2: Ben Dunk (Nelson Mandela Bay Giants) – 17
3: Liam Livingstone (Cape Town Blitz) – 15
4: Faf du Plessis (Paarl Rocks) – 13
5: David Miller (Durban Heat) / Quinton de Kock (Cape Town Blitz) / AB de Villiers (Tshwane Spartans) – 11
6: Dwaine Pretorius (Paarl Rocks) – 10
7: Wihan Lubbe (Durban Heat) – 9
8: Temba Bavuma (Jozi Stars) / James Vince (Paarl Rocks) / Henry Davids (Paarl Rocks) – 7
9: Asif Ali (Cape Town Blitz) / Chris Gayle (Jozi Stars) / Sibonelo Makhanya (Paarl Rocks) / Pite van Biljon (Tshwane Spartans) / Dane Vilas (Durban Heat) / Chris Morris (Nelson Mandela Bay Giants) / Jon-Jon Smuts (Nelson Mandela Bay Giants) – 6
10: Alex Hales (Durban Heat) / Jason Roy (Nelson Mandela Bay Giants) / Heinrich Klaasen (Tshwane Spartans) / Morne Marais (Nelson Mandela Bay Giants) / Cameron Delport (Paarl Rocks) – 5
Bowlers have the short end of the stick when it comes to T20s. The deck is stacked against them, their misfortunes celebrated by boundary-loving spectators. It takes supreme skills and variation for bowlers to make an impact in the shortest format of the game, and it comes as little surprise that the top two wicket-takers are Proteas spin wizards Imran Tahir (with 17 for the Giants) and Tabraiz Shamsi (with 16 for the Rocks). All-time great Dale Steyn was also sublime; the veteran led the Cape Town Blitz’ bowling attack and claimed 15 victims.
Proteas legend Steyn delivered the best spell of the tournament to help the Blitz claim a 15-run win over the Spartans at Newlands. “The Phalaborwa Express” ripped the heart out of the visitors’ batting line-up, taking three wickets for just 10 runs in four overs. Netherlands star Roelof van der Merwe took 3/15 for the Spartans against the Rocks in Centurion with Keshav Maharaj returning the same figures for the Heat against the Stars in Durban, while Shamsi took 3/16 against the Blitz in Paarl.
1: Dale Steyn (Cape Town Blitz) – 3/10
2: Roelof van der Merwe (Tshwane Spartans) / Keshav Maharaj (Durban Heat) – 3/15
3: Tabraiz Shamsi (Paarl Rocks) – 3/16
4: Sisanda Magala (Cape Town Blitz) – 3/17
5: Junior Dala (Nelson Mandela Bay Giants) – 3/19
6: Wahab Riaz (Cape Town Blitz) – 3/19
7: Morne Morkel (Tshwane Spartans) – 3/21
8: George Linde (Cape Town Blitz) / Imran Tahir (Nelson Mandela Bay Giants) – 3/23
9: Dale Steyn (Cape Town Blitz) – 3/25
10: Tom Curran (Tshwane Spartans) / David Wiese (Tshwane Spartans) – 3/30
Morne Morkel might’ve called time on his international career, but he’s still a world-class fast bowler. The Spartans skyscraper boasts the best average of the season with 13.58. The tormenting Tahir, one of the world’s best T20 bowlers, sits second with 14.23 followed by Steyn with 15.13. The Spartans’ David Wiese and Rocks’ Shamsi round off the top five.
Wiaan Mulder was a run-restrictor of note. Coming in at our minimum requirement of six overs, the Tshwane Spartans medium pacer went for 5.33. Tahir is renowned the world over for his uncanny ability to dry up runs and was remarkable in this regard, as usual, bowling 42 overs, far and away the most by a player in the top 10, and going for 5.76. Dwaine Pretorius did the job for the Rocks and places third after going for 6.30 per over.
Quintin Van Jaarsveld is a former MDDA-Sanlam SA Local Sports Journalist of the Year and a former three-time Vodacom KwaZulu-Natal Sports Journalist of the Year. Formerly the sports editor and Outstanding Journalist of the Year award winner at The Fever Media Group, deputy editor at eHowzit, editor at SARugby.com and senior staff writer at Rugby365.com, he boasts over 15 years’ experience and is currently a freelance sports writer.