AFTER a successful start to the 2016 Africa T20 Cup in Pietermaritzburg last weekend, the competition shifts to East London this week where Pool C takes centre stage.
Last season’s semi-finalists, Free State, will again be looking for a good showing and they will enter the weekend as one of the favourites at Buffalo Park Cricket Stadium.
“We’ve played two practice matches each against Northern Cape and North West, so I feel we are pretty well prepared,” commented Free State coach Edward Mokoenenyane. “We won one and lost one against North West and, taking a line through the latter’s performances last weekend we can go into the tournament with confidence.
“We have a nice mix of youth and experience and, under the conditions you normally get at Buffalo Park, I believe our spinners will play an important role.”
But their three group rivals, hosts Border, Easterns and Zimbabwe, will be just as confident of their own prospects in the Eastern Cape.
Former Proteas fast bowler Andre Nel is the coach of Easterns and his team came extremely close to reaching the semi-finals last year, only to lose out to the eventual champions Northerns in their final pool encounter.
“We have a few new faces and hopefully we can repeat what we did last year,” Nel said. “I think as long as we can be just that little better, then we’ll play better as a team and improve on last year.
“I think our fielding cost us a bit then. But I'm looking forward to it.”
Easterns are up against the home team in the second match on Friday, with the Zimbabweans and Free State opening up proceedings a little earlier.
“Looking at the teams, it’s a really tough pool,” Nel said. “Border are at home and they could be the surprise package because they know the conditions. Free State are also very good and Zimbabwe are also there, but they have a young side. So it’s an open group and will be tight come Sunday.”
Border coach Frank Plaatjes is delighted that the tournament roadshow is stopping in the Buffalo City Metro.
“It’s great for us, not just as Border Cricket, but the city of East London and surrounding areas,” he said. “There’s a lot of interest because these things don’t come around often.
“As for the cricket, we’re looking ahead to it. I think we’ve got a good chance. If you look at all the teams, they are from up north, so being the local team and knowing the conditions may well count in our favour.”
There will be two matches each played on Friday, Saturday and Sunday with the start times for the first two days being 12h45 and 16h30.
Both Sunday games are day matches with starts set at 09h45 and 13h15. All four matches on Saturday and Sunday will be broadcast live on SuperSport.
For the full list of fixtures, visit http://cricket.co.za/tournament/734/2016-Africa-T20-Cup