An exciting maiden season of SA20 is set for its grand final on a Saturday evening (February 12th) at Johannesburg’s New Wanderer’s stadium. No, we are not calling it exciting just for the sake of it. If you don’t believe us, you just need to read Rashid Khan’s words at the end of his team, MI Cape Town’s final league game.
“I feel after IPL this is gonna be a massive competition and the second-best league,” he said, bidding farewell to the maiden season.
The crowds have turned up to create an electrifying vibe around the cricketing action. There have been enough thrillers to keep the non-South African cricket fans interested as well. Such has been the thrill that the fourth semifinalists - Paarl Royals - sealed their spot only in the final over of the league stage.
Now the spicy battle for the title is set up between the table-toppers Pretoria Capitals and the third-placed Sunrisers Eastern Cape. Both teams have taken different routes to the final which we will explore in this piece, and while at it, we provide you a summary of what to expect in the final.
Pretoria ‘pace’ their way to the top
Pretoria Capitals took such a head start in the tournament that despite losing their penultimate league game by a margin of 151 runs, their top spot on the table hardly faced any threat. Their motto has been striking the hammer when the iron is hot.
With the bat, their opening partnership has batted at a strike-rate of 174.1 while maintaining a healthy average of 30.5. As a result, their powerplay run-rate is far ahead of any other side in the tournament. Will Jacks, Pretoria’s highest run-scorer, left after seven games but since then, Kusal Mendis has racked up over 202 runs in six games (average 33.7, strike-rate 152.2).
With the ball, they have believed in taking wickets. Their bowling strike-rate of 14.8 as well as their average of 20.2 is the best in the season. Anrich Nortje’s power-packed season (18 wickets in 10 matches, economy of 6.3) has framed Pretoria into one of the most professional pace bowling units of the season. But that doesn’t make them a one-trick pony. In the semi-final in Johannesburg, the venue for the final as well and one of the slower pitches this season, Pretoria defended 153 against Paarl. The key on such tracks has been Adil Rashid. The wily leggie has 13 wickets in nine games at an economy of 8. In the semi-final against Paarl, Rashid snaffled 2/15 in his four overs.
Threat: Pretoria have the lowest batting average in the middle overs (20.7). Thus, a good start could be critical for them, especially on the slow track of Jo’burg, making Mendis and Phil Salt key batters for them. Also, there is no word on the fitness of the regular skipper Wayne Parnell who has missed the last three games due to injury.
Sunrisers ‘rising’ out of misery
Sunrisers Eastern Cape had a slow start. They lost their first two games and incidentally, both were against Pretoria. After two heavy defeats, they made a strong comeback - four wins in the subsequent five matches. The same reflects on their batting fortunes as well.
They have the least batting average in the powerplay - 21.2. Their openers have also averaged the least - 20.7. However, they average the best in the middle-overs at 26.6 runs per wicket. And the same goes in the death overs where Surisers’ average (27.9) and run-rate (10.9) are both the best. Hence, they dont start well but know how to come back. It is in complete contrast to how Pretoria have gone about their batting.
Maintaining the contrast, Sunrisers’ pace bowling setup has been rather ineffective - the highest average and the joint-most expensive economy. The spinners have compensated in terms of the best economy in the tournament alongside the best average as well.
Roelof van der Merwe has pouched 16 at 10 runs apiece while bowling at an economy of only 5.3. Aiden Markram has pulled a rabbit out of the hat every time he has taken the ball in his hands - 10 wickets, 14.4 bowling average, 6.5 economy. Markram’s tally of 340 runs with the bat (average 34, strike-rate 127.3, a hundred in the semi-final) is over 100 runs better than any other batter in the side. Hence, no doubt that the skipper will be Sunrisers’ MVP heading into the final.
The Orange Army in South Africa will aim to strangle Pretoria’s attacking approach with spin. However, Pretoria also boast the best run-rate against spin in this tournament (8). That is what makes this contest an exciting prospect.
Threat: On a pitch that may not aid the pacers a lot, Sunrisers’ underperforming pace unit will be under huge threat bowling to the pace-bashing Pretoria batters. Even if they are not able to overcome their misfortunes with the ball, they need to make sure they don’t lend the opposition a quick start.
*the final was initially scheduled for February 11th but has been postponed due to a waterlogged field and inclement weather