<
>
Player of the Match
Player of the Match

Balanced Jozi Stars start as favourites to lift inaugural title

Nono Pongolo takes off in celebration after hitting two sixes to win the match Mzansi Super League

Big Picture

The rivalry between Johannesburg and Cape Town extends far beyond the cricket field. Cape Town has the mountain, Jo'burg the money, and you might even frame the comparison as one between eye-catching beauty and good personality.

In the cricket, too, the numbers in Jozi Stars' books seem more balanced and suggest they have the form and personnel to take the inaugural Mzansi Super League title. They have the tournament's leading runscorer (Rassie van der Dussen) and wicket-taker (Duanne Olivier) in their ranks. But they haven't relied solely upon them to get here, with Reeza Hendricks scoring back-to-back hundreds and Kagiso Rabada taking 12 wickets at 18.58 - including when it really mattered. Elsewhere, Dan Christian has struck his runs at 194.05, collecting the quickest fifty in the tournament along the way, while Nono Pongolo shone with 6 for 20 in his last outing, the best T20 figures ever recorded at the Wanderers.

To put it simply, Stars have options. T20, though, can be as much about individual brilliance as it can consistent team-work, and in that regard Quinton de Kock has instrumental to Blitz' run to the final, despite middling support from the other end. With 407 to his name, De Kock has scored over 100 runs more than the next highest batsman in the Blitz line-up, Janneman Malan, and the middle order has struggled almost throughout.

With the ball, Dale Steyn has shown that he has lost none of his bite, taking 11 wickets and choking the opposition with an economy rate of just 6.67, but the rest of the attack have fired only in fits and starts.

The teams have slugged it out in their games against each other earlier in the league, de Kock helping Blitz to 198 for 5 and a 62-run win at the Wanderers at the end of November before Stars turned up and reversed the treatment at Newlands, Hendricks top-scoring to carry his team to 196 for 4 and a 50-run victory two weeks ago.

Blitz will hope to ride on their home advantage at one of the most beautiful cricket grounds in the world, and look to their big names for inspirational brilliance. But in this particular battle, it could be Stars who leave with bragging rights.

Form guide

Cape Town Blitz: LWLWL (completed matches, most recent first)

Jozi Stars: WLWWW

In the spotlight

Quinton de Kock missed first three games of the MSL, but he was immediately into his stride on his return from national duty in Australia. Only van der Dussen has scored more runs than him, having also played four more games. Almost always, when de Kock has scored, Blitz have won, and innings of 74, 108, 93 and 86* suggest he's in pretty decent nick. If Stars can get him early, their chances of success increase dramatically, but if de Kock gets in he could once again be their talisman.

Kagiso Rabada loves the big stage. While their batting has fired consistently, Rabada has also helped to turn Stars' tournament around with the ball after they had made an inconsistent start. He picked up a career-best 4 for 27 against Durban Heat to push Stars into the top three on the points table, and then nabbed AB de Villiers for a duck to see off Tshwane Spartans last weekend. In the final, it will be his job to get de Kock early, and it is a challenge he would undoubtedly up for.

Team news

Stars are without Chris Gayle, the West Indian having flown home earlier this week for family reasons, but Ryan Rickelton will step in as an able replacement. The question for them may be whether to bring legspinner Eddie Leie into the line-up, though conditions are likely to mean Simon Harmer's offspinners are sufficient in the slow-bowling department.

Jozi Stars (possible): 1 Ryan Rickelton, 2 Reeza Hendricks, 3 Rassie van der Dussen, 4 Dane Vilas (capt), 5 Pite van Biljon, 6 Dan Christian, 7 Simon Harmer, 8 Kagiso Rabada, 9 Nono Pongolo, 10 Duanne Olivier, 11 Beuran Hendricks

Blitz have a fairly stable line-up, and they too are likely to look to a pace-heavy bowling attack.

Cape Town Blitz (possible): 1 Quinton de Kock, 2 Janneman Malan, 3 Dawid Malan, 4 Andile Phehlukwayo, 5 Asif Ali, 6 Farhaan Behardien (capt), 7 Mohammad Nawaz/George Linde, 8 Ferisco Adams, 9 Dale Steyn, 10 Malusi Siboto, 11 Nandre Burger

Pitch and conditions

Sunday should be warm and sunny, with little chance of rain. The pitches prepared at Newlands have been excellent for T20 cricket recently, and another good batting strip is expected.

Stats and trivia

  • The average first innings score at Newlands during the MSL has been 171. The side batting first has won three of the five games played here.

  • Van der Dussen is the competition's leading runscorer with 410 runs at an average of 51.25 and strike rate of 144.36, and has also hit the most sixes with 22. His team-mate Olivier leads the bowling charts with 18 wickets at 12.88.

  • De Kock is averaging 67.83 in the competition, and is striking the ball at 174.67 with 18 sixes.

Quotes

"Playing in a home final is a pressure we like and having the final at Newlands, in front of the Blitz Brigade is unbelievable. This is where the tournament started and for it to end here is really exciting for everyone."

Cape Town Blitz allrounder Andile Phehlukwayo is happy that the tournament has come full circle

Stars 2nd innings Partnerships

WktRunsPlayers
1st13RR HendricksRD Rickelton
2nd86RR HendricksHE van der Dussen
3rd16DJ VilasHE van der Dussen

Mzansi Super League

TEAMMWLPTNRR
CTB1063300.941
JS1064291.295
PR105522-0.292
NMBG104421-0.448
TS104616-1.044
DH103614-0.716