Netherlands international Roelof “the Bulldog” van der Merwe put in a clinical performance in the inaugural SA20 Final to inspire his Sunrisers Eastern Cape franchise to a memorable trophy win. On a fast and bouncy Wanderers pitch at Johannesburg which also provided plenty of turn to spinners, van der Merwe utilised the conditions perfectly to register bowling figures of 4-0-31-4.
The Bulldog didn’t have everything go his way after being taken apart for 17 runs by Theunis de Bruyn and Rilee Rossouw in his 2nd Powerplay over. But he came back strongly later in the innings to pick up the wickets of de Bruyn, Eathan Bosch and Migael Pretorius.
The excellent final performance caps off an incredible tournament for the evergreen 38-year-old allrounder who finished the competition as the joint highest wicket-taker with 20 scalps alongside Anrich Nortje. In fact, van der Merwe’s average of 9.55 and economy rate of 5.61 were even superior to Nortje’s returns, propelling him to the top of the charts.
Speaking at the post-match presentation, van der Merwe was understandably ecstatic. “Unbelievable day. At my age, you never know what will be your last game, so I give everything into every ball. Still buzzing. Will sink in once we have the debrief in the changing room”, he said.
The tournament itself was an unprecedented success for South African cricket after the recent financial and racism scandals as well as the on-field lowlights. Even though it was initially derided for its derivative franchise names and IPL owners, SA20 was extremely well received by the local public with diverse fans attending and sell-out crowds at most venues. Particularly notable was the Orange Army fanbase, with the St. George’s Brass Band providing a raucous and formidable atmosphere at Sunriser East Cape home games in Gqeberha.
Waseem and Wiese: the best Associate performers at the ILT20
In other franchise T20 news, UAE’s Muhammad Waseem and Namibia’s David Wiese were the standout Associate performers at the inaugural ILT20 competition. Billed as the “second-most lucrative T20 league in the world”, the ILT20 was a sharp contrast to SA20’s boisterous crowds with television audiences subjected to vast swathes of empty seats at most league games. Fortunately, the crowds did finally pick up in time for the playoff stage and the finals series.
In the cookie cutter world of T20 Franchise Leagues, ILT20 was unique for a few reasons. Teams could field as much as nine foreign players in the starting XI alongside two local UAE players; also there was a requirement to sign at least two overseas Associate players in the wider squad. Although the numbers from this event didn’t count towards a player’s career statistics, the involvement of Associate players, whilst limited, was a baby step in the right direction.
Associates who made their mark
37-year-old Namibian veteran David Wiese carried on his fine franchise form, bowling with familiar guile and an arsenal of cutters to bamboozle batters. He finished as the second highest wicket-taker in the competition with 18 scalps at an average of 14.77 and a fine economy rate of 7. An imposing man standing at 6’5 tall, Wiese was also a safe pair of hands in the outfield with seven catches.
On the batting front, UAE international Muhammad Waseem was in blistering form. The stocky batter combined brilliantly with fellow opener Andre Fletcher for several brisk partnerships and provided real impetus to MI Emirates’ innings in the powerplay overs. Waseem’s batting exploits (367 runs, average of 33.36 and strike rate of 138.49) were head and shoulders above other Associate batters. He ended up at number four on the top run scorers list and number three on the six hitters list, clearing the field a total of 24 times.
Other notable performances belonged to George Munsey and Junaid Siddique. Munsey played four games but scored two fifties, while Junaid Siddique was a steady performer with the ball for Sharjah Warriors. Fringe UAE player Akif Raja was ILT20’s breakout star for Dubai Capitals picking up nine wickets at 23.88.
Disappointingly, opportunities were limited for some Emirati players and other associates, with a couple of franchises treating the mandatory selection of two UAE cricketers as a mere formality. On more than a few occasions, the UAE players selected in the starting XI batted in the lower order and got little or no bowling opportunities whatsoever.
Talented leggie Karthik Meiyappan, who rose to global prominence with a sensational hattrick at last year’s T20 World Cup, was criminally underused; ditched after two wicketless league games. USA’s premier pacer Ali Khan was similarly scrapped after two matches, despite a tally of two wickets in the opening match.
Others like Bas de Leede, Vriitya Aravind and Mark Watt played a pathetic solitary game; while Ruben Trumpelmann did not feature at all. Here’s to hoping that these ILT20 coaches and selectors show more faith in Associate talent next season!
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