South African cricket was isolated from the rest of the world for 21 years – from 1970 to 1991 – because of the apartheid policies of the former government. Isolation came at a time when the country could fairly claim to be the top test-playing nation in the world after the Springboks had pummelled the powerful Australians 4-0 with ease.
Because of the policies of its government, however, South Africa had only ever played against Australia, England and New Zealand. When the country was readmitted to world cricket in 1991 it was able to face all opponents, and India was the first to welcome the “new” South Africa into the international game.
Previously known as the Springboks, the Proteas, after an initial settling-in period, adapted surprisingly quickly to the demands of the international game in 1991.
They lost their first two one-day internationals to India in India, but in the third match they showed what they were capable of, chasing down an imposing victory target of 288 in 50 overs, to win by eight wickets with 3.2 overs to spare.
The South African side quickly established a reputation as a superb fielding outfit, a reputation soon backed up by its the bowling attack and, after a period of maturing, its batting line-up. In very little time after their return to the international fold the Proteas became one of the elite teams of world cricket.
In many ways they were more than the sum of their parts, with teamwork and grit securing them a number victories when the odds seemed stacked against them.
A famous example of this was the third test at Sydney in January 1994, when the Proteas defeated the powerful Australians by five runs, skittling them for just 111 in their second innings when victory for the home team had seemed a foregone conclusion.
In 2012, they ascended to the number one ranking in test cricket, after beating England in England. This was followed by a second successive series victory over Australia in Australia.
Soon after their return to the international game, the Proteas became a powerhouse in the limited-overs game, ranking for many years as either the best or second best team in the world. In test cricket (the five-day game), they were in the upper tier of teams for well over a decade before ascending to the position of the world’s best team in 2012.
The World Cup
Contested every four years, the World Cup is a limited-overs competition featuring the top cricketing nations of the world. It was first held in 1975 when the West Indies beat Australia by 17 runs to become the first World Cup champions. In 1979, the West Indies easily defended their title, defeating England by 92 runs in the final.
There was an upset winner in 1983 when India derailed the West Indies’ bid for a third successive title, defeating Clive Lloyd’s all-conquering side by 43 runs in a low- scoring final. Australia and England met in the 1987 final with the Australians eking out a seven-run win.
SA’s debut – 1992
South Africa made their debut at the World Cup in 1992 and made a big splash, thrashing hosts Australia by nine wickets in their opening match.
SA went all the way to the semi-finals before falling victim to a controversial ruling on matches delayed by rain. Pakistan claimed the title with a 22-run victory over England.
Sri Lanka showed they were a team to be respected in the most emphatic fashion in 1996, beating Australia by seven wickets to win the title. For South Africa, it was a disappointing tournament as they went unbeaten through their pool, only to fall in the quarterfinals to the West Indies and an inspired innings by Brian Lara.
Greatest match of all time?
In 1999, Australia and South Africa played in one of the greatest matches of all time as they tied their World Cup semi-final, after Allan Donald was run out in the final over with the Proteas needing one run for victory.
The Australians went through to the final because they had defeated South Africa by five wickets with only two balls to spare earlier in the tournament. In the title-decider, Australia recorded an easy eight-wicket win over Pakistan.
World Cup hosts
South Africa hosted the World Cup in 2003, and entered the tournament with high hopes of becoming the first nation to win cricket’s biggest event on home soil. Unfortunately for the home fans, the Proteas disappointed and failed to reach the Super Sixes stage after yet another defeat that was hard to believe.
Shaun Pollock’s team came up one run short of what was required in a rain- affected match against Sri Lanka in Durban, resulting in a tie, which meant that for a second World Cup in succession a tie equalled elimination.
Disappointment in 2007
South African hopes for the 2007 Cricket World Cup were high as the Proteas took over from Australia at the top of the world one-day rankings just prior to the tournament in the West Indies.
During the tournament, however, the performances of the side fluctuated alarmingly. Wins over beaten finalists Sri Lanka, the Netherlands, Scotland, Ireland, England, and the West Indies were offset by defeats against Australia, New Zealand and Bangladesh.
South Africa did, however, reach the semi-finals, but crumbled to a 7-wicket loss to Australia after scoring only 149 all out.
Shock quarterfinals exit
In 2011, South Africa shone in the early going and finished top of Group B. The Proteas impressed in compiling five wins in six matches. The other teams to qualify for the quarterfinals from the group were hosts India, who went on the win the event, England, and the West Indies.
In the quarterfinals, in a story that has become depressingly familiar to South African cricket supporters, the Proteas’ challenge came unstuck as they surprisingly succumbed to New Zealand, who had finished fourth in Group A, by 49 runs.
Twenty20 World Cup
South Africa hosted the inaugural Twenty20 World Cup in September 2007 and the event was widely praised as an outstanding success.
This viewpoint was reflected in the decision of the England and Wales Cricket Board to sign the tournament director, former Proteas’ fast bowler Steve Elworthy, to fill the same role for the 2009 edition of the Twenty20 World Championships, which will take place in England.
India were crowned world champions after defeating arch-rivals Pakistan in an exciting final, which put an exclamation mark on a hugely successful tournament.
The second T20 World Cup was played in England. South Africa topped Group D after wins over Scotland and New Zealand. They then topped their group in the Super 8s, defeating the West Indies, England, and India.
The Proteas’ challenge was finally halted in the semi-finals when Pakistan, who went on to lift the title, won by seven runs, behind Shahid Afridi’s 51 off only 34 deliveries and 2 for 16 with the ball.
The 2010 T20 World Cup was held in the West Indies. Despite losing to India by 14 runs in Group C, the Proteas moved on to the Super 8s. After a win over New Zealand, however, they disappointed, going down to eventual winners England and Pakistan to finish bottom of their group and miss out on the semi-finals.
After winning their two warm-up matches, the Proteas underperformed in the 2012 T20 World Cup, finishing bottom of Group 2 after losses to Pakistan, Australia and India.
The Sunfoil Series
The Sunfoil Series is the primary domestic inter-provincial four-day cricket competition.
It features six franchises: The Dolphins (KwaZulu-Natal), the Cobras (Western Cape), the Warriors (Eastern Cape), the Lions (Gauteng), the Titans (Northern Gauteng), and the Knights (Free State).
The franchise system was adopted in 2004/05, with an aim of creating a strong tier of teams that would create a higher standard of competition at the top level and thus improve the standard of domestic cricket in South African.
It was seen as a way of bridging the gap between domestic and international competition, should a cricketer be called up to the Proteas.
Interprovincial competition changed from a three-day to four-day format from 1992; it was known as the Castle Cup from 1992/93 to 1995/96, and thereafter as the SuperSport Series.
The format used to decide the winner has changed from time to time. In some years, the title has been decided on league points, while in others a final has been played.
Winners since 1992/93
(Names are given as they were at the time. Where a final was drawn, the title was shared)
- 1992/93 Orange Free State
- 1993/94 Orange Free State
- 1994/95 Natal
- 1995/96 Western Province
- 1996/97 Natal
- 1997/98 Free State
- 1998/99 Western Province
- 1999/00 Gauteng
- 2000/01 Western Province
- 2001/02 KwaZulu-Natal/Northerns
- 2002/03 Easterns
- 2003/04 Western Province
- 2004/05 Eagles/Dolphins
- 2005/06 Dolphins/Titans
- 2006/07 Titans
- 2007/08 Eagles
- 2008/09 Titans
- 2009/10 Cape Cobras
- 2010/11 Cape Cobras
- 2011/12 Titans
- 2012/13 Cape Cobras
The current format sees each team playing matches home and away against the other five franchises. The side that finishes with the most points on the log is crowned the champion.
The Momentum One-Day Cup
The Standard Bank Cup, played in a 45 overs per side format, succeeded the Benson and Hedges Series in 1996/97 as South Africa’s primary limited-overs competition. In 2006/07, it became the MTN Domestic Championship.
It features the six franchises, while Zimbabwe was added for the 2007/08 season.
Standard Bank Cup
- 1996/97 Natal
- 1997/98 Gauteng
- 1998/99 Griqualand West
- 1999/00 Boland
- 2000/01 KwaZulu-Natal
- 2001/02 KwaZulu-Natal
- 2002/03 Western Province
- 2003/04 Gauteng
- 2004/05 Eagles
- 2005/06 Eagles
MTN Domestic Championship
- 2006/07 Cobras beat Warriors by 18 runs
- 2007/08 Titans beat Warriors by 38 runs
- 2008/09 Titans beat Eagles by eight wickets
- 2009/10 Warriors beat Dolphins by 71 runs
- 2010/11 Knights beat Titans by 8 wickets
Franchise One-Day Cup
- 2011/12 Cobras beat Warriors by 5 wickets
Momentum One-Day Cup
- 2012/13 Final rained out, shared by Lions and Titans
- 2013/14 Final rained out, shared by Cobras and Titans
The MiWay T20 Challenge
The Standard Bank Pro 20 competition was introduced in 2003/04. It marked the domestic introduction to Suth Africa of 20 overs per side cricket, a form of the game that quickly became a fan favourite worldwide.
In 2007, South Africa hosted the first Twenty20 World Championship, which was regarded as a massive success, far outshining the World Cup hosted in the West Indies in the same year.
Standard Bank Pro 20
- 2003/04 Eagles
- 2004/05 Titans
- 2005/06 Eagles
- 2006/07 Lions
- 2007/08 Titans
- 2008/09 Cape Cobras
- 2009/10 Warriors
- 2010/11 Cape Cobras
MiWay T20 Challenge
- 2011/12 Titans
Ram Slam T20 Challenge
- 2012/13 Lions
- 2013/14 Dolphins
CSA Provincial Three-Day Challenge
The CSA Provincial Three-Day Challenge is a competition that features provincial amateur teams competing in two pools. It has at times included teams from Zimbabwe and Namibia.
- 2004/05 Griqualand West
- 2005/06 Northerns
- 2006/07 Gauteng
- 2007/08 Griqualand West
- 2008/09 Griqualand West
- 2009/10 Eastern Province
- 2010/11 Western Province
- 2011/12 Griqualand West
- 2012/13 Gauteng
Provincial One-Day Challenge
The Provincial One-Day Challenge, featuring the teams contesting the SAA Provincial Three-Day Challenge, has been held since 2005/06. Its format is 45 overs per side.
- 2005/06 Northerns
- 2006/07 KwaZulu-Natal
- 2007/08 Gauteng
- 2008/09 Boland
- 2009/10 Northerns
- 2010/11 Western Province
- 2011/12 Free State
- 2012/13 Border
- 2013/14 KwaZulu-Natal Inland
For many years, cricket was regarded as the game of the privileged white man, but great strides have been made to make it a game for all South Africans. Most of the credit for this change must go to the Cricket South Africa’s development programme, which started long before the country held its first democratic elections in 1994.
An ever-increasing number of players of colour have made it to the top of the game in South Africa, being chosen to represent the Proteas, but it is at lower levels that the change is most obvious.
Quotas introduced at senior provincial level have unearthed some excellent talent, while junior provincial and national teams are even closer to reflecting the demographics of country.
This is a growing trend, and the hope is that in years to come quotas will not be necessary, all South Africans will have equal opportunity to make it to the top of the game, and South African cricket will be able to challenge the world by drawing on all the talent available in the country.
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