The Mzansi Super League is about to get underway and after all the trouble that South Africa had in getting a city-based franchise tournament off the ground, just the fact that we know this tournament is happening is something to be celebrated.
There are six city-based teams that will be competing in this tournament. Each side will play the others at home and away before the knockout stage of the tournament. The winner of the league stage gets a direct pass to the final while the sides finishing second and third play each other in a semi-final.
Each side has been a given South African Marquee player and an international Marquee player. There is some concern about the availability of the players though because the T10 League in Abu Dhabi has many of the same contracted players. This means that some of the overseas stars are going to be playing in the league only for a couple of weeks.
The clash with other international games also means that there is going to be no player from New Zealand, India or Bangladesh will be a part of the tournament.
|Team||Played||Wins||Losses||Points||Net Run Rate|
|Cape Town Blitz||10||6||3||30||0.940|
|Nelson Mandela Bay Giants||10||4||4||21||-0.440|
This is the strongest squad and the team to beat, at least on paper, before the tournament starts. Durban Heat is packed to the gills with international talent and players that are known to be T20 specialists the world over.
Let’s start with the two marquee players. Rashid Khan is the best T20 bowler in the world right now and has proven himself in every corner of the globe. Recently, Rashid Khan also seems to have discovered a new gear to his batting which makes him even more valuable to have in the side.
Hashim Amla is returning from injury and that is why he is going to be missing the ODI tour to Australia. Amla has been going through a bit of a rough patch in the last few months. His IPL was okay, the centuries don’t seem to be flowing in any format of the game, and some questions are being raised about his utility in the shortest format.
An opportunity to lead a strong side from the front in the MSL could be the very thing he needs to rediscover his touch. Amla is a class player and we would never advise counting him out so early.
Durban Heat also has David Miller, Heinrich Klaasen, Khaya Zondo, Albie Morkel, Temba Bavuma, and Morne van Wyk in its side. All of these players have international experience and have tasted success at the highest level of the game.
This could well be the strongest batting lineup in the game or at the very least, the side with the most amount of T20 experience.
It’s not just about the batting either. Kyle Abbott, Keshav Maharaj, Marchant de Lange, and Vernon Philander are all a part of the Durban Heat squad. There is genuine pace, T20 know-how, top-notch spin, and experience to call upon.
It is not easy to find any glaring weakness in this side and we can see them being a part of the knockouts for sure.
MSL 2018 Prediction: Winners
There is a lot to like about the Paarl Rocks as they get ready to play in the MSL. They are led by Faf du Plessis who is the captain of South Africa and also one of the shrewdest T20 brains on the planet. He has played T20 cricket around the world and knows what needs to be done to win tournaments.
He is joined by the highest wicket-taker in the history of T20 cricket, Dwayne Bravo. Both these players played together for a long time at the Chennai Super Kings in the IPL and share a good rapport together. Bravo is showing that his injury last year did not take any edge away from his cricket.
In fact, after a long time, Dwayne Bravo is contributing with both the bat and ball in T20 competitions.
The side also has the brightest young prospect in South African cricket, Adien Markram. After a blazing start to his international career, Markram has struggled a bit in recent times. This competition provides him the opportunity to make a statement. We have no doubt he can be one of the best batsmen in the world and all he requires is a bit of confidence.
Paul Stirling from Ireland is also in the side to try and provide a quick start while Dane Paterson from South Africa is going to provide raw pace. Tabraiz Shamsi has had success in T20 leagues around the world as well and this is another opportunity for him to go head to head against Tahir and Maharaj.
The fast bowling department looks a little think for Paarl Rocks and we would have liked to see some quality all-rounders in there as well. An experienced leadership could find the best way to get this squad to perform above the sum of its parts.
MSL 2018 Prediction: Semi-Finalists
The Nelson Mandela Bay Giants are also going to have the same problem that some of the other teams are going to face. One of their Marquee players, Jason Roy is not going to be around for the majority of the tournament.
That leaves a big hole in the batting order for the Giants who will have to look for replacements. They also have Imran Tahir who is a colossus in the T20 format of the game. His four overs are going to be difficult to score off and he also picks wickets regularly.
Tahir and Rashid Khan are very similar types of bowlers and it will be interesting to see which one of them is able to have more impact on this edition of the MSL. The Giants are also full of plenty of international talent in their squad.
Chris Morris, JJ Smuts, Junior Dala, Christiaan Jonker, Aaron Phangiso, Ben Duckett, Ryan McLaren, and Heino Kuhn will ensure that there is plenty of quality on the park whenever the Giants play.
We are very interested to see Chris Morris play in this tournament. He was one of the World’s most coveted all-rounder before he got injured and has fallen off the radar somewhat. With the World Cup coming up, he could be using this tournament as a springboard to launch his comeback.
Ben Duckett could be a replacement for Jason Roy when he is away while Smuts, Dala, and McLaren are going to form the core of the batting unit. The bowling unit looks a little thin although Junior Dala, Chris Morris, and Aaron Phangiso are pretty experienced.
If any of the three we mentioned run into poor form then the Nelson Mandela Bay Giants could find it tough to restrict their opponents. On the whole, this is one of the better squads of the tournament.
MSL 2018 Prediction: Finalists
AB de Villiers has been one of the biggest draws in T20 cricket for a long time. Now that he has retired from international cricket and will only be seen on the T20 circuit, he is bound to be an even bigger attraction. It will be interesting to see how AB de Villiers reacts to not playing international cricket anymore.
He will be mentally fresh and free from any concerns over burnout which could actually make him more productive. On the other hand, we have seen some players lose that edge once they stop playing international cricket on a regular basis.
AB de Villiers appears to be just too good to suffer from an extended loss of form, though.
He will need to be at his best as the other big player in his side, Eoin Morgan, is not going to be around for too long. There are a couple of interesting selection choices that the Tshwane Spartans have made.
There is Dean Elgar, a player that has never made a mark in limited overs cricket.
There is Jeevan Mendis, the Sri Lankan all-rounder who had a terrible time in the NatWest T20 blast and is quite over-rated in our opinion.
There are some good picks too. Sean Williams from Zimbabwe has been in good form and is someone who can contribute with both bat and ball. Sikandar Raza just had an excellent season of the Afghanistan Premier League to put him in good form.
With Lungi Ngidi, Robbie Frylinck, and Theunis de Bruyn, the Spartans have a good amount of local South African talent in their side too.
It is clear, though, that AB de Villiers will need to perform at his best consistently for the Tshwane Spartans to have any chance of fighting for a knockout spot.
MSL 2018 Prediction: 5th
The Cape Town Blitz side was hit with the loss of JP Duminy before the start of the tournament. Considering the fact that Duminy was one of the originally announced marquee players, his absence would have thrown the plans of the side awry.
Thankfully, JP Duminy has been replaced by Quinton de Kock, who is among the best batsmen in this format of the game, and one of the most fearsome batsmen in cricket period. De Kock leads a strong batting side which has Dawid Malan, Farhaan Behardien, and Asif Ali as the most recognizable names in the squad.
Dawid Malan is an underrated T20 player and we believe he is a superb pick by the Cape Town Blitz. Farhaan Behardien is another one of those players that may have struggled to find a place in international cricket but is an absolute giant of the game at the domestic level. Behardien is the player that we would back to have the most impact for this side in the upcoming tournament.
Asif Ali from Pakistan is a bit of a mystery. He has gotten a lot of attention as a power hitter in a team that does not have anyone else. His only notable international contributions have come against Zimbabwe and his rate of failure is very high. This tournament is going to be a real test of his abilities.
Among the bowlers, Cape Town Blitz is once again well-balanced thanks to players like Samuel Badree, Dale Steyn, Dane Piedt, Andile Phehlukwayo, and some promising South African bowlers. Dale Steyn returning from injury could make a massive difference to this team if he can get back to somewhere near his best.
MSL 2018 Prediction: 4th
The Jozi Stars a couple of superb international players in their side and some very talented South African players as well. The names that jump at you from their squad are Chris Gayle, Kagiso Rabada, and Daniel Christian.
Is there any T20 league around the world that Chris Gayle has not been a part of? More importantly, though, Gayle seems to play at least a couple of match-winning innings that set the tone for the entire tournament.
Gayle is not going to have too much time to do that this time around because he is one of the players that will leave after the opening weekend to go to the T10 League in Abu Dhabi and then come back for the final two weeks of the competition. Kagiso Rabada is one of the best fast bowlers in the world at the moment. He also plays T20 cricket in competitions like the IPL and has international experience that is going to come in handy. Rabada is also very useful with the bat.
There are a couple of other very good batsmen in the squad. Dane Vilas, Rassie van der Dussen, and Reeza Hendricks are all superb players with experience of having played for South Africa. The bowling also have Duanne Olivier, Dwayne Pretorius, Simon Harmer, and Eddie Leie to call upon.
There is a lack of a quality leg-spinner in the squad, something which seems to be a pre-requisite in every T20 side, and the batting lineup appears to be a bit thin considering that Gayle is hardly going to be a part of the playing eleven.
Some quality bowlers and some hardened T20 professionals make this team one of the contenders, though. Quality all-rounders as a part of the squad also make this a side which can both bat deep and call upon plenty of bowlers in case one of the main bowlers is having an off-night.
MSL 2018 Prediction: 6th
The Mzansi Super League is going to be closely contested, that is for certain. The quality of domestic cricketers is pretty high in South Africa and that makes every side dangerous. The amount of international experience in the Durban Heat makes it a very potent side. They have the strongest batting side in the tournament and have the best T20 bowlers in the world (Rashid Khan) to lead its bowling attack.
It is going to be a tough task to dominate this tournament but we feel confident backing the Durban Heat to win the inaugural edition of the Mzansi Super League.