The CSA T20 Challenge came to an exciting end on Sunday with the Boland Rocks disrupting their chances of beating the Northern Titans and beating their first piece of silverware in their first season in the top division of South African cricket.
It was a great comeback for the Rocks that started the tournament with losses to Western Province and the Titans, before taking sweet revenge by beating in both the semis and finals to win the trophy.
A number of players stood out during the tournament, ranging from cautious and experienced to young and exciting. These guys have cracked the top five.
Captain fantastic Pieter Malan had a brilliant tournament and against the odds led his side to a great title in the first A division. Malan finished as the league’s top scorer, with 368 runs at an average of 46 and a strike rate of 118.7, hitting five half-centuries.
He also finished as the leading catcher in the tournament with 11 catches in nine games. But it was in the knockouts that he really came out on top as he was named man-of-the-match in the semis and finals. He scored a run-a-ball 57 and took three catches against Western Province and scored 71 out of 56 and took two catches in the final against the Titans.
It was hard to choose between Proteas spinning maestro Tabraiz Shamsi and Ziyaad Abrahams, after the latter man took an incredible 12 wickets in five games with an average of 11.5 and a stroke rate of 8.9, but Shamsi shadowed it for his performance in the knockouts.
Shamsi finished as the best wicket taker of the tournament with 13 in nine matches with an average of 19 and a stroke rate of 16.6. But it was in the semis and finals where he shone with a hat-trick, taking figures of 3/15 in the semi-final against the Dolphins, then 3/20 in the final against the Rocks, but ended up in the losing team.
Despite his team failing to make the knockouts on their home turf, Tristan Stubbs was undoubtedly the breakout star of the CSA T20 competition. Twenty-one-year-old Stubbs is only in his second season with the Warriors and began to settle in slowly, only to be known for some devastating at bats in the group stage.
He finished as the tournament’s second-highest scorer with 293 runs in seven games with an average of 48.83 and an incredible strike rate of 183.12. He hammered a league-high 23 sixes, 10 more than second best, and didn’t break a career best 80 from just 31 balls.
He even switched to the Proteas T20 frame for the World Cup later in the year.
Hardus Viljoen was arguably the all-rounder in the CSA T20 tournament, helping his side to a first division title. Known more for his bowling skills than his batting, Viljoen took nine wickets in six innings with an average of 18.44 and a stroke rate of 12.6.
On the batting front, he faced six innings, not finishing in three, while scoring 97 runs at an average of 32.33. However, it was in the final where he really shined, batting an invaluable 32 of 16 balls to take his side to a decent, albeit undersized, total, then helping them defend it by taking 2/14 in pick up three. left with the ball.
CP Klijnhans made his professional debut for the Knights at the age of 22 in the CSA T20 competition and established himself as a player for the future. Although the Knights struggled, finishing second from the bottom of the log, Klijnhans was a bright spot in their campaign.
He played just four games, finishing as the Knights’ second-highest scorer with 125 runs, the highest average of 41.66, while scoring two half-centuries, though he also fell for a duck.
His highest score was on his debut against the Warriors, where he hit through the innings and scored an unbeaten 67 to lead them to a nine-wicket victory. He also showed his excellent field skills by making four catches, two of which were excellent one-handed grips.