Paarl braces for MTN40 showdown

The scenic town of Paarl is braced for a night to remember when the MTN40 semifinal between the Cape Cobras and the Warriors takes place at Boland Park on Friday.

Boland cricket chief executive Omar Henry, said since many of the country’s leading cricketers will be in action, the match is likely to draw a capacity crowd. “It will be the biggest game in Paarl since the 2003 World Cup,” said Henry.

“And it will be the biggest domestic game since Boland won the final of the Standard Bank Cup 10 years ago.

“With the national players available for their franchises there will be an exceptional array of talent on show.

“As many as 75% of the players will have played at international level if both teams pick all their stars, so it is a rare opportunity for spectators to see so many top-quality cricketers in a domestic game,” said Henry.

National team captain Graeme Smith and JP Duminy will be in the Cobras team, while Jacques Kallis, Mark Boucher, Ashwell Prince and Wayne Parnell will turn out for the visitors.

Good crowds have attended matches at Boland Park this season, with more than 7 000 at the MTN40 match between the Cobras and the Diamond Eagles last month.

Henry hopes around 10 000 will attend Friday’s semifinal, which starts at 4pm.

Those who do attend will be able to enjoy cricket at one of the country’s most scenic grounds.

“With the grass banks there is a nice rural atmosphere and we encourage spectators to relax with picnics and braais,” said Henry.

“Adding to the on-field entertainment will be a brass band playing during the game — it’s our version of the Warriors band at St George’s Park.”

Henry said the fact the semifinal had been allocated to Boland was the result of a decision at Western Cape board level.

“We don’t get that many big games in Paarl and the fact we have had good crowds at our games so far tells a story that the people in this area are hungry for cricket.”

The Cobras have arranged with Metrorail for transport for Cape Town-based fans and a Cobras Luxury Express will offer a train ride to and from Paarl for the occasion.

In their MTN40 league meetings this season, the Warriors won their first encounter last November at Buffalo Park in East London, while the Cobras triumphed at Sahara Park Newlands a few days ago.

The floodlights at Paarl normally play a huge factor in day/night games at the venue as fielding sides usually have problems seeing the ball in a few places on the field when the second side comes into bat.

As a result a few catches have been spilt from attempts off high, skied balls.

The country’s national controlling body, Cricket South Africa, should have been alerted to this and this clash would have been better served by playing a day clash on Sunday, while the other semifinal between the Titans and the Dolphins could have been allocated the Friday slot.

There is also a huge element of unpredictability about the Paarl pitch but the Cobras have done well there this season in all forms of the game.

However, whoever wins the toss is likely field first in order to negate the problem of poor lighting in places during the second half of the match. — Sapa

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