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Graeme Smith: Betway SA20 delivering what we promised

15 Feb | BY Graeme Smith | MIN READ TIME |
Graeme Smith: Betway SA20 delivering what we promised

The Betway ambassador and Commissioner of the tournament reflects on a successful Season 2 and discusses the developing narratives in the Test arena.

It’s been a busy few weeks but Season 2 of Betway SA20 was an enormous success.

There were doubters in the beginning questioning whether we would be a one-hit wonder, but we delivered at a very strong level and have shown what we’re all about. All numbers are up, the standard of cricket has improved dramatically and we have now established ourselves as one of the best leagues in the world. 

Personally, the final weekend of the league phase was probably my favourite, with lots of jostling for those top four spots, sold-out games and final-over finishes. 

I don’t think even Sunrisers Eastern Cape’s own internal people were that confident heading into Season 1 and now they’ve gone back-to-back. They were the best team in the tournament and were deserved winners.

PROTEAS PATHWAY

We had a lot of high-quality international talent and our national players always stand out but, from a local perspective, it was great to see a new tier of domestic players emerge. Guys like Ottniel Baartman, Matthew Breetzke and Wian Mulder, who have been around for a while without putting their names in lights, all had superb tournaments. 

Under that crop of 12-15 players that pick themselves for the T20 World Cup, there’s now another 8-10 who probably weren’t going to be in the running but have certainly put their hands up to make selection difficult. That increased depth is exactly what we’re trying to achieve.

INDIA v ENGLAND IN THE BALANCE

Congratulations to Ben Stokes, who will win his 100th Test cap against India this week. Anyone who has played 100 Test matches knows how much time and effort goes into those games. It’s a real test of your mental and physical ability and he’s an all-rounder as well, so it’s a hell of an achievement.

Ben has been magnificent for the game of cricket. He plays the game in a terrific spirit and has brought a youthful energy that is so fun to watch. 

He and Brendon have unlocked an English team like I’ve never seen before. There’s always been a lot of talent, but they seem to have taken away the fear, provided a lot of security for people and look at the game in a really positive way. 

England are certainly sticking true to the way that they want to play in India by applying pressure on the opposition and making them think. The challenge will be how they respond in the next Test in particular. 

It’s a very long tour and toiling against India like you have to, with long days in the field combined with the heat, can wear you down towards the back end of a series. Staying mentally fresh, positive, and within your gameplan is important. England have done that well so far and need to hang tough for as long as possible, because if India get their noses ahead then they’ll be very difficult to chase down.

GOOD TOURISTS THE MARK OF GREAT SIDES

Being able to win away from home is the differentiator between a good team and a great team. There’s no greater challenge than travelling into someone else’s backyard for a few months at a time with their crowds, their media and their conditions, and proving that you have the team and the capabilities to compete there and win over an extended period. 

That’s something that we saw with the great West Indies side of the 1970s and 80s, and the great Australia side of the 1990s and 2000s – they really did dominate around the world. The South Africa side that I captained went nine years without losing a Test series away from home, but that consistency on the road hasn’t been present in the world game of late.

India, Australia and now England have all had teams with plenty of ability since then, but if you want to really step up then you need to do it away from home.

PLENTY OF TEST STORYLINES 

It was so terrific to see West Indies achieve their first Test win in Australia since 1997 a few weeks ago. I was up early that day and watched the last session with Shamar Joseph running in. For a young man to open up the best team in the world at the moment was enthralling cricket. Seeing how they celebrated, it’s huge for places like the West Indies to keep cricket relevant. 

The same goes for South Africa in New Zealand who, after defeat in the first Test, have managed to eke out a narrow first innings lead in the second. So much has been written and said about the lack of international experience in that lineup as a result of scheduling issues, but the guys are fighting hard and showing a lot of pride in their performance.

The hard part starts now as setting up a win in the third innings can be really tough, but for these guys to have the opportunity to level the series with such an unexpected victory is an amazing story.

New storylines put Test cricket at the forefront, which is good for the format and great for the game.

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Graeme Smith

Graeme Smith

Betway's global cricket ambassador who captained South Africa in 108 of his 116 Tests, scoring over 9,000 runs and 27 hundreds.

Graeme Smith

Graeme Smith

Betway's global cricket ambassador who captained South Africa in 108 of his 116 Tests, scoring over 9,000 runs and 27 hundreds.