The opening round of the 2016 Africa T20 Cup from Friday to Sunday at the Pietermaritzburg Oval signals the start of the domestic season in the province while also represents the start of a new era for cricket in the region.
KwaZulu-Natal Inland play host to North West, Western Province and Namibia for Pool A’s group stage clashes and having reached the final in the tournament’s inaugural edition in 2015, the team from the capital are eager to put in a strong showing in their own backyard this weekend.
Up against North West on Friday, Western Province on Saturday and Namibia on Sunday, the side knows all too well they will have their work cut out for them but also bring good confidence with them having been the pace-setters at Provincial level during the 2015/16 across all formats.
Sunfoil Dolphins coach, Grant Morgan – standing in for regular KZN Inland coach, Shane Burger who is currently doing duty with the national ‘A’ team in Australia – is however confident the men from Maritzburg have what it takes.
“We’re now the guys other teams are chasing and so yes, the pressure is on us to perform but we want that pressure; we’ve earned it!” says Morgan.
“Like us, the other sides have named some strong squads, each with a couple of match-winners, but that’s what you want – the better the teams that come to Pietermaritzburg, the greater the opportunity for our guys.
“We’ve had a really good build-up, including a couple of games against a near full strength Knights side, so we’re ready,” he adds.
Having taken the reigns of KZN’s Franchise side in May 2016, Morgan has put in endless hours behind the scenes with many of the Sunfoil Dolphins, KZN and KZN Inlands players alike during the off- and ongoing pre-season.
Much of the focus of his efforts have been on instilling the correct mindset within both the Dolphins and his enlarged group of playing personnel, with the Africa T20 Cup getting underway this weekend signalling the start of the application of that fresh approach.
“The Inland squad has continually been developing and growing from a core of just four guys back in 2012 to the unit that it is today.
“A lot of the guys in the squad have lived together, now played together for two or so years and as a result, have formed a brotherhood, which is huge.
“They’ve also built up quite a good T20 record over the past three years.
“Now is the time for the who have been part of the setup for quite a while to perform and from that, be pulled up through to the Dolphins.
“You want that pulling effect to develop right the way through all levels – from school and academy level to Provincial, Franchise and, ultimately, National level.
“That’s the mindset we want to create here in KZN going forward, and it starts with the Africa T20 Cup this weekend.”
Having recently returned from an off-season stint in England, Sarel Erwee will again captain the KZN Inland team this weekend with Mbasa Gqadushe – who took over from Erwee last season up the regular skipper’s Dolphins call-up – waiting in the wings if needed.
Two games take place daily with the opening fixture taking place from 09h45-12h55 and all the action from the second clash – which involves KZN Inland on all three days this weekend – unfolding from 13h15-16h25.
Fans are urged to get their slice of the action by purchasing their ticket at R40 for adults and R30 for pensioners and children.
KwaZulu-Natal Inland Squad:
Sarel Erwee (captain), Craig Alexander, Tshepang Dithole, Mbasa Gqadushe, Graham Hume, Sohail Mahmoud, Kurtlyn Mannikam, Attie Maposa, Lefa Mosena, Kyle Nipper, Ruhan Pretorius, Mthokozisi Shezi, Vaughn van Jaarsveld