By Emmanuel Ekene Okere
After initially struggling to find their feet, Maties Cricket have knocked it out of the park in the Boland Cricket premier league championship. Even with one more match to go, the team have already achieved an overall victory after beating Wellington in their previous match.
This was an unusual, compressed league season, which consisted of nine games and saw teams in the Boland region batting and bowling it out. The league comprised teams from the Cape Winelands, Overberg and West Coast District regions. Maties sports manager Keagan van Aarde explained how difficult a season it was for the Maties side, because of having to return early in the year. “We had a difficult start to our season, as we had to return on [8 January] with minimal students back, and this made it difficult to field our strongest team.”
He went further to add, “With our successful recruitment plan, we also had five players taking part in the ICC [International Cricket Council] Cricket under-19 World Cup representing South Africa. The squad’s depth was tested, but I can confidently say with all the challenges our players took their opportunities, which led to a very successful campaign.”
Van Aarde praised the team’s collective effort and looks forward to the new season as they work to come back even stronger. The team coach, Ryan Bailey, congratulated his players and could not contain his joy as his side made him proud despite a slightly shaky start to the campaign. “We started the tournament when Stellenbosch was literally a ghost town. Students were not back yet and we had to play cricket.”
The team’s captain and batting all-rounder, Lehan Botha, a second-year BCom (Management Sciences) student, excitedly said that “winning the league is most certainly a great feeling, and it makes the long hours in the sun a little more worth it, especially with a young side”.
“We beat the previous season winners, Vredenburg Saldanha, away from home with a bonus point, which was a big win for [Maties Cricket],” he added.
After this milestone, the maroon cricketers now dive into the club championship—which includes the league winners from around the country—where they will be looking to bring the trophy to Stellenbosch. Before that, however, they must still complete their last game for this season’s campaign, despite having already won the league. When asked about what is next for the team, Bailey highlighted the need to finish the campaign and then prepare for a bigger task. “The final game is this weekend, and thereafter we look to the cup championship title,” he finished, also hinting at Varsity Cricket as well as the University Sports South Africa (USSA) tournament later in the year.
Bailey also calls for our new and inspired Maties to join the cricket team and improve their game and overall play. “If you want to play cricket, feel free! Contact us, [or] contact the Stellenbosch University sports office, and they will redirect you to the cricket office.”
Practices take place at the Coetzenburg cricket ground at 17:00, with the men’s training on Tuesdays and Thursdays, and women’s on Wednesdays and Fridays.