Opinion: Sunfoil Series as important as T20 Global League

Batsman faces bowler in front of packed cordon

Jonhenry Wilson speaks about the importance of first-class cricket in South Africa as the 2017-18 Sunfoil Series gets underway this week. 

The 2017-18 Sunfoil Series gets underway this week and, indeed, South Africa's premier first-class tournament faces staunch competition for popularity and viewing figures in a calendar now including the inaugural T20 Global League.

Thankfully, four-day cricket still has a place in a country heavily influenced by the shortest format - and purists and new fans alike can look forward to some intriguing scenarios and circumstance in Bloemfontein, Johannesburg, Cape Town and beyond over the next couple of months, before the T20 Global League takes centre stage.

Aiden Markram was recently appointed captain of the Titans - and this is a massive marker for the future. The 22-year-old hasn't yet earned a Test cap, but will be leading big names like Faf du Plessis, Quinton de Kock, Dean Elgar, Dale Steyn and Morne Morkel at franchise level, when they're not on international duty together. Early days, yes, but Markram seems headed for the national captaincy.

That's not to say Theunis de Bruyn isn't a contender, though. JP Duminy's retirement from Test cricket should afford de Bruyn more time in the first-choice XI, but the Knights skipper would do his ambition the world of good by securing another title with his franchise first. De Bruyn is very much focused on his leadership role at the Knights, despite being there and thereabouts with the Proteas.

I'm really keen to see what Eddie Leie can bring to the Knights, too. The leg-spinner has left the Lions - and posted a heartfelt exit message on Facebook recently. Like Tabraiz Shamsi, he largely wears his heart on his sleeve on social media - and both of them would do well to balance emotion with results going forward.

Over at the Cobras, Kyle Verreynne should bring some zest to a franchise in desperate need of vitality, after a tough time on and off the field last season.  Verreynne can capitalise on Dane Vilas and Keegan Petersen's departures for the Dolphins and Knights, respectively. The young wicketkeeper-batsman certainly has the first-class numbers to prove his worth so far, but needs to successfully negotiate the tricky step up to franchise competition.

Mark my words, we haven't seen the end of Stephen Cook in Test cricket. Heino Kuhn's failings in England have put Cook right back in the frame - and the pair will be battling it out for big runs and selection alongside Elgar at the top of the order for the upcoming Bangladesh series. That is, of course, if Markram doesn't leapfrog both.

In closing, a farewell to Duminy. The veteran left-hander never fashioned the solid Test career that its start promised. He is done with first-class cricket now, and can solely focus on limited-overs competition, his captaincy of the Cape Town Knight Riders - and his philanthropic and business endeavours, where he's probably better suited, equipped and qualified than he ever was in the Test XI.

Written by Jonhenry Wilson for Hollywoodbets

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