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Top Proteas must play opening rounds of CSA T20 Challenge

Stuart Hess Sports reporter
Proteas T20 captain Aiden Markram, seen here lifting the SA20 trophy, will be among a host of nationally contracted players available for the opening weekend of the CSA T20 Challenge.
Proteas T20 captain Aiden Markram, seen here lifting the SA20 trophy, will be among a host of nationally contracted players available for the opening weekend of the CSA T20 Challenge.
Image: Nic Bothma/Sportzpics

South Africa’s nationally contracted players, including IPL-bound Aiden Markram, Heinrich Klaasen and Kagiso Rabada, have been instructed to play in the opening week of the Cricket South Africa (CSA) T20 Challenge before they jet off for more lucrative assignments in India. 

The Proteas must avail themselves for two to three matches in the opening week of the competition, which will give it a significant boost, even as it — as with all the other domestic competitions — is still without a sponsor. 

The tournament, which starts on March 8, featuring all eight Division 1 teams, will be played on a home and away basis and will last seven weeks, finishing with a final on April 28. The remaining nationally contracted players who aren’t heading to the IPL will be available for the whole T20 Challenge. 

The IPL confirmed on Thursday that it starts on March 22 and will run until May 26, with the final played just five days before the start of the T20 World Cup in the US and in the Caribbean.

South Africa plays its opening match in that competition on June 3 against Sri Lanka in New York. The Proteas are also scheduled to play three T20 Internationals against the West Indies in May, which will be the last part of their warm-up for the World Cup.

Rob Walter, the Proteas’s limited-overs coach, earlier said the tournament would provide a last opportunity for players — not involved in the IPL — to make a push for World Cup selection. 

For others, such as Rassie van der Dussen, Reeza Hendricks and Tabraiz Shamsi, who are involved in the Pakistan Super League, the domestic tournament will create the chance to maintain rhythm and get more game time, with the World Cup in mind. 

Van der Dussen has continued with the excellent form he showed in the SA20 by making half centuries in two of his first three matches for Lahore Qalanders in the PSL.

Hendricks, who struggled in the SA20, earned a player-of-the-match award for the Multan Sultans, making an unbeaten 78 and backed that up with another half century. 

Van der Dussen and Hendricks, who play for the Central Gauteng Lions, are in the race for a top-order spot in the Proteas squad, with their teammate Ryan Rickelton, who was the leading run-scorer in the SA20. The PSL ends on March 18, leaving another month of play in the T20 Challenge for the Lions pair, and Shamsi, who will return to the Northerns Titans. 

One player who’s return to play will be closely monitored is fast bowler Anrich Nortjé, who has indicated he wants to play for the Warriors before heading to India. Nortje last played in September, injuring his back in the second ODI against Australia. A fit Nortje will provide Walter with a surfeit of fast-bowling options for the World Cup.

Besides Rabada and Ngidi, Gerald Coetzee — who missed the SA20 after developing a pelvic inflammation in the first Test against India — has been training in the nets at SuperSport Park this week. Ottniel Baartman, the bowler of the tournament in the SA20, and Nandre Burger are strong candidates for World Cup selection.

In addition, there is Marco Jansen, who displayed his value for the champion Sunrisers Eastern Cape team and was named the “Rising Star” of this season’s SA20. 

David Miller won’t be available for the Dolphins because he is getting married.

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