MTN40 takes flight

THE domestic limited-overs season opens with a bang at the Wanderers today when the Lions and the Cape Cobras meet in the first MTN40 match.

THE domestic limited-overs season opens with a bang at the Wanderers today when the Lions and the Cape Cobras meet in the first MTN40 match.

At least 10 current and previous Proteas - including captain Graeme Smith - will be in action as the two teams try out the new format.

Matches are reduced from 45 overs to 40, and a number of other innovations have been introduced to speed up the game and add to the excitement. Rain delays will lead to an immediate reduction in overs instead of an extension to play.

There will be three power plays per innings. The first is compulsory in the first 10 overs. The remaining two, which last five overs each, are to be taken at the behest of the batsman any time during the innings, except between the 36th and 40th overs.

Fielding restrictions for the two batting power plays will be slightly different, with one allowing three fielders outside the circle, and the other four fielders. The batting side can nominate which they take first.

Possibly the most exciting innovation is that the 12th man, who will be distinguished by an armband, will be allowed to bat and to bowl. This provides each team with an extra batting or bowling option.

There will also be a five-minute "time-out" after the 20th over, which will enable the coaches to advise players on strategy and tactics for the remainder of the match. Graeme Smith and Neil McKenzie are two of the shrewdest captains in South Africa, and tactics can be expected to play an important role in the game.

The Cobras, who reached the semifinals of the Twenty20 Champions League in India last week, losing to Trinidad and Tobago, will have a star-studded line-up including Smith, Andrew Puttick, Herschelle Gibbs, JP Duminy, Justin Kemp and Robin Peterson.

The Lions will include players of the calibre of McKenzie, last weekend's treble-centurion Stephen Cook, Alviro Petersen, Vaughn van Jaarsveld, Jonathan Vandiar and Thami Tsolekile. - Sapa

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