The innovative 3Team Cricket marked the return to live sport in South Africa for the first time since March as the inaugural Solidarity Cup, presented by Rain, served up an entertaining new format in Centurion on Saturday.
The match, which was put together to raise funds for the Hardship Fund, a joint Cricket South Africa (CSA) project aimed at providing relief to those within the cricket industry affected by COVID-19, was won by the Takealot Eagles.
The AB de Villiers-led outfit profited from another gem by their captain, whose swashbuckling century stand with the equally attacking Aiden Markram went a long way towards cementing the gold medal.
The two, who struck 61 off 24 balls and 70 off 33 balls respectively, helped their side amass 160 for four across the two halves of six overs each that they faced.
That put them 22 runs clear of the 138 for three posted by silver medallists Mr D Food Kites and 47 ahead of the OUTsurance Kingfishers (113/5), the team that ended with bronze.
It was an anxious return to play for everyone involved after more than 100 days of no sport and a lockdown enforced due to the coronavirus pandemic.
That also meant that the stands, usually packed to watched South Africa’s cricketers at the famous Tshwane venue, were empty.
But that mattered little as the players – all sporting black armbands and then taking a knee in support of the Black Lives Matter (BLM) movement – delivered an excellent exhibition.
Batting first in the opening half after winning the toss, or selecting ball one in a draw, the Kingfishers reached 56 for two at halfway.
And, with the Eagles (66/1) and Kites (58/1) all reaching similar scores after six overs, it meant that just 10 runs separated the teams at halfway.
Critically it was De Villiers and Markram who were still not out for their sides at the changeover, and the skipper got things going by lashing 20 off the first over back that got them going.
Markram hit 50 off 27 balls, followed by De Villiers’ half-century in only 21 deliveries as they finished in a powerful position.
The Kites were in next and still had Jon-Jon Smuts in, but he fell for 48 and with it the hopes of his team as the scoreboard pressure took its toll.
Dwaine Pretorius, the man with the quickest half-century of the day, 50 off only 17 balls, did momentarily give them hope, but his effort proved a mere consolation.
As for the Kingfishers, the fact that they lost both openers Janneman Malan (31) and Reeza Hendricks (21) towards the end of the first half left them with a mountain to climb. Faf du Plessis was their last hope but ended with 28.
The pick of the bowlers on the day was Andile Phehlukwayo of the Eagles with two for 24, but Glenton Stuurman (2/26) was hugely impressive alongside the likes of Bjorn Fortuin (1/20) and Anrich Nortje (2/27).
A 3TC match is contested between three teams of eight players each and is played over 36 overs in two halves of 18 overs with a break at halftime. In the second half, teams bat in order of the highest scores in the first half. If scores are tied, the first half order is reversed.