The much-awaited first edition of the SA20 league will start from Tuesday (Jan 10), with MI Cape Town ready to lock horns with Paarl Royals in the curtain raiser.
Here is a brief look at the strengths, weaknesses, and players to watch out for, from each of the six teams:
Durban’s Super Giants
Captain: Quinton de Kock | Home: Kingsmead, Durban
Just like their "sister" team Lucknow Super Giants from the Indian Premier League (IPL), Durban have a plethora of all-rounders in their set-up. Out of the 18-member squad, they have six all-rounders, and all six of them are potential contenders for a spot in the playing XI.
In any combination of the playing XI, they will have at least seven players who will have the ability to roll their arm, which was also a key factor in England’s recent T20 World Cup win.
Despite having an array of all-rounders, Durban are very weak when it comes to proper batters, especially the top-order. Their skipper Quinton de Kock, alongside Johnson Charles and Kyle Mayers, are the only three top-order batters, who will have to shoulder a lot of responsibility given that the rest of the unit consists of finishers and bowlers, who can offer only some value with the bat.
Players to watch out for: Quinton de Kock & Prenalan Subrayen
Youngsters to watch out for: Matthew Breetzke
Probable XI: Quinton de Kock (c & wk), Kyle Mayers, Johnson Charles, Henrich Klaasen, Matthew Breetzke/Christian Jonker, Wiaan Mulder, Jason Holder, Dwaine Pretorius, Keshav Maharaj, Prenalan Subrayen, Reece Topley/Junior Dala.
Joburg Super Kings
Captain: Faf du Plessis | Home: The Wanderers Stadium, Jo’Burg
The two Super Kings franchises, Joburg and Chennai, play in conditions that are polar opposites. In Chennai, it is conducive for spin and in Johannesburg, the pacers play a huge role. This is why Joburg have stacked up their team with good pacers.
Coetzee, Joseph, Burger, Malusi Siboto and Lizaad Williams are a few to mention. On the batting side of things as well, the top-three are well aware of the conditions and are packed with players who can all play pace very well, for example, Faf du Plessis. Chennai’s template of playing to their strength - home conditions - yet again follows suit.
On paper, the Jo'burg team seems to be a balanced side. However, there is a void that they will have to fill. We all know Ferreira has done well as a finisher, but apart from him, there is a scarcity of proven finishers. In the Test arena, Verreynne showed his aggressive side.
But, in the 2022/23 CSA T20 Challenge, he scored 79 runs in six innings at a strike rate of 133.9 and an average of 13.2. Add it to the absence of the talented English batter, Harry Brook, JSK will need to find the finishing prowess elsewhere, which might be a big worry.
Players to watch out for: Reeza Hendricks & Janneman Malan
Youngsters to watch out for: Donovon Ferreira & Gerard Coetzee
Probable XI: Reeza Hendricks, Faf du Plessis (c), Janneman Malan, Kyle Verreynne (wk), Lewis Gregory, Donovan Ferreira, Leus de Plooy/Romario Shepherd, Gerard Coetzee, Alzarri Joseph, Aaron Phangiso, Nandre Burger.
MI Cape Town
Captain: Rashid Khan | Home: Newlands, Cape Town
Power, power, and more power, that is what the Cape Town team is made of. Among the six teams, Cape Town have the perfect T20 set-up. From one to nine, they have eight batters who can go berserk from the word go. Clear enough to say the best power-hitting team.
Rassie van der Dussen is the odd man out. But that isn't a very bad thing, considering how the anchor is always the one who saves such a ship. Another one of their strength is how they have some of the world’s best players at such valuable positions, be it Rashid Khan, Liam Livingstone, Sam Curran or Jofra Archer.
Just going by their names, you can’t find a weakness in their set-up. However, their biggest concern would be the form of their prime players. With hitters from top to end, you need one anchor and Rassie suits that role. However, his form hasn’t been great in recent times.
In the bowling front, Rabada will be their spearhead. Again, his form since 2022 is also a big worry. In addition, Cape Town’s team is way too raw, and they would want their senior pros to lead them from the front, given how the games can come thick and fast.
Players to watch out for: Liam Livingstone, Rashid Khan & Sam Curran
Youngsters to watch out for: Dewald Brevis & Duan Jansen
Probable XI: Wesley Marshall, Dewald Brevis, Rassie van der Dussen, Ryan Rickelton (wk)/Grant Roelofsen, Liam Livingstone, Sam Curran, Duan Jansen, Odean Smith, Rashid Khan (c), Kagiso Rabada, George Linde/Beuran Hendricks.
Captain: David Miller | Home: Boland Park, Paarl
One of Paarl’s biggest strengths is experience. Buttler, Roy, Miller, Shamsi and Vilas have all played over 200 T20 matches. More than that, Buttler, Miller and Roy have been amongst the runs on a consistent basis.
All three batters have scored over 2000 runs at a strike rate of over 135+. If Buttler single-handedly led the Royals to an IPL final, with a staggering 863-run season, Miller showed his worth in Gujarat Titans’ title-winning campaign. In that sense, they have a very good core but is that enough?
There are a lot of areas that Paarl needs assessment, starting with raw pace. Paarl have a good set of pacers, but none of them are express pace. The fastest bowler among the lot is Corbin Bosch. Even with him, we can hardly expect a 145+ delivery.
The other weakness is, none of their top-order batters (1-5) have the ability to bowl. This means, at max, they can play only six bowlers. If we look at other teams, they have at least one bowler among the top five who can roll over their arm.
Even if they look to strengthen their batting, they fall short by another bowler or vice versa. For a franchise like the Royals, they should have seen this coming.
Players to watch out for: Jos Buttler, Jason Roy & David Miller
Youngsters to watch out for: Obed McCoy
Probable XI: Jos Buttler, Jason Roy, Wihan Lubbe, David Miller (c), Dane Vilas, Corbin Bosch, Evan Jones/Bjorn Fortuin, Andile Phehlukwayo, Tabraiz Shamsi, Obed McCoy, Lungi Ngidi.
Captain: Wayne Parnell | Home: SuperSport Park, Centurion
Pretoria have hard hitting top-order batters. With Jacks, Salt and Rossouw, one can expect plenty of runs and many great starts in the powerplay. All these three batters have a strike rate of 145+ in the powerplay in all T20s since 2021.
Apart from that, their bowling unit is top-notch. Nortje alongside their skipper Parnell will lead the bowling unit, who can combine with the refreshing youngster, Eathan Bosch.
They are a bowling strong unit rather than batting. They have an explosive top three, but there aren’t many batters to follow. To be precise, with a strong bowling unit, you need batters who can bat long, something like what Pakistan do.
But in Pretoria’s case, apart from de Bruyn, the rest all are hit-or-miss players. In addition, Neesham at number five could be their last reputed batsman. Parnell and a few others are all bowlers who can bat.
That’s not it, apart from Salt, Pretoria do not have a back-up wicketkeeper until Kusal Mendis arrives. So, it is quite a big risk that they are taking.
Players to watch out for: Anrich Nortje & Rilee Rossouw
Youngsters to watch out for: Eathan Bosch
Probable XI: Will Jacks/Cameron Delport, Phil Salt, Rilee Rossouw, Theunis de Bruyn, James Neesham, Wayne Parnell (c), Senuran Muthuswamy, Daryn Dupavillon/Migael Pretorius, Anrich Notje, Adil Rashid, Eathan Bosch.
Sunrisers Eastern Cape
Captain: Aiden Markram | Home: St George’s Park, Gqeberha
The biggest advantage for the Sunrisers squad is that they have at least nine players out of their XI who can bowl. Also, most of their players are in form. Rossington has scored 700+ runs at a strike rate of 154.2, Markram has 1445 runs at a strike rate of 140, these are a few to mention among batters. Not only their batters, Baartman with the ball too was fantastic in the 2022/23 edition of the CSA T20 Challenge.
There is a shortage of Internationally exposed players in their squad. Out of their 18-member squad, only six of them have played T20Is. Even among the six, Markram is the only one with 15+ matches under his belt.
With this, a lot relies on their domestic talent and hope they come good. Whilst the T20 Challenge experience might be a thing, SA20 might just prove to be too big a level to make the jump. Either way, they will come out swinging.
Players to watch out for: Aiden Markram & Adam Rossington
Youngsters to watch out for: Marco Jansen & Tristan Stubbs
Probable XI: Adam Rossington (wk), Aiden Markram, JJ Smuts, Tom Abell, Tristan Stubbs, James Fuller, Marco Jansen, Ottniel Baartman, Ayabulela Gqamane, Sisanda Magala, Junaid Dawood/Mason Crane.