CRICKET fans have one compelling reason to follow the domestic limited-overs championship: Sanath Jayasuriya.
The Sri Lankan legend, who has scored a staggering 12875 runs in one-day internationals in a career spanning 421 matches, has joined the Dolphins for the season and has been included in the squad to play the Lions in Potchefstroom today .
Forming part of a formidable batting order that includes HDAckerman, captain Ahmed Amla and Jon Kent, Jayasuriya provides an attacking dimension that cannot be matched by any other domestic opening batsmen.
His canny slow left-armers might also prove vital to a Dolphin attack that has so far not once taken 20 wickets in any of the side’s first-class matches.
Their opponents will be without their captain, Neil McKenzie, who was suspended after showing dissent in last week’s round of first-class matches, and Andre Nel is still struggling with a knee injury.
Though the Lions’ batting has stroke makers such as Alviro Petersen, Stephen Cook and Vaughn van Jaarsveld, the bowling looks vulnerable, with Garnett Kruger the only bowler of proved class.
The defending champions, the Titans, who are away to the Eagles in Bloemfontein, should be regarded as favourites for the match, if not for the tournament. Their talented batting line-up is matched by an enterprising and potent bowling attack that includes three spinners: Roelof van der Merwe, Paul Harris and Imran Tahir.
It is perhaps their opponents on Sunday, the Warriors, who are the biggest threat to their supremacy.
The Eastern Cape men have arguably the best one-day bowling attack in the country, which includes South Africa under-19 captain Wayne Parnell, record-breaker Juan “Rusty” Theron, and spinners Robin Peterson and Johan Botha. Captain Davey Jacobs, who in 2004-2005 scored a hundred off 79 balls for the Eagles, is South Africa’s nearest equivalent to Jayasuriya.
It would, however, be foolhardy to discount the Eagles. The Free Staters are the only team to have won two titles since the formation of the franchises.
Veterans Boeta Dippenaar, Loots Bosman and Morne van Wyk will anchor the batting, and Ryan McLaren will spearhead the bowling. Spinner Con de Lange was the leading wicket taker in 2006-2007.