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By Lesedi Mnisi

The 2022 Maties cricket team has added a new trophy to their case. They are Stellenbosch University (SU) ‘s first cricket team to win the Varsity Cricket Tournament. The Maroon Machine bagged their first-ever Varsity Cricket championship title at the Festival of Varsity Sports from 3 – 5 October. The reigning champions of the tournament, the University of Pretoria (Tuks), hosted the event. The Maties team left the tournament with a five-wicket victory against North-West University (NWU) ‘s Eagles.

Throughout the tournament, the Maroon Machine showed high levels of control and discipline. Under the leadership of captain Lehan Botha and Head Coach Ryan Bailey, and with support from their management team, they remained focused on their goals.

“We are incredibly fortunate to have such a dedicated management team for Maties cricket. Coach Bailey and Grant van Velden did some incredible work behind the scenes analysing the other teams we were expected to compete against during the tournament,” said Don Glover, the finisher of the Maties team.

The Maroon Machine partook in a 12-week preparation program during their pre-season for the Varsity Cricket tournament. Their victory results from three to four months of six a.m. gym sessions and late nights at the Paul Roos indoor centre. This championship is undoubtedly well-deserved. 

They also attained support from a 21-strong high-performance squad as well as volunteers from the Maties Cricket Club who, according to Kaden Solomons, “sacrificed [their] time to help [the team] prepare for the Varsity Cup.”

After beating the TUKS, the Maties team went head-to-head against the NWU Eagles in the tournament’s final match. NWU won the coin toss and chose to bat first. 

The final was off to a rocky start for Maties as NWU scored 118 runs and only lost one wicket; however, the game swung right back into their favour by the wrist-spinning player of the tournament, Benjamin Ward. Although the game did not begin on a favourable note, they still attempted to “stay in it for as long as possible,” according to Valentine Kitime.

“In T20 cricket, we expect that there will be times when we are put on the back foot and will need to fight to get into the game. Luckily,  a fighting spirit is a major trait of everyone [in our team], no matter the game’s situation,” said Glover.

Solomons revealed that the team’s motto for the tournament was “stay in the fight”. This undoubtedly helped carry them through difficult matches, eventually leading to victory. One can deduce that each player played to the best of their ability, seeing as four players from the Maties team secured a place in the Varsity Cricket team.

George van Heerden was the Maties team’s best batsman of the tournament. He scored 207 runs at an average of 51.8, a strike rate of 145.77 and a high score of 46. Ward, the player of the tournament, portrayed an awe-striking hattrick of four wickets in one over in the semi-final game against Tuks. Philip Kleynhans was a premier pacer for the Maties team, and Glover, the Maties team finisher, had a strike rate of 186.27, hitting seven fours and six sixes.

Although the Maties team has more than proved their abilities with this victory, they are back in work mode as they prepare for the University Sports South Africa (USSA) week in December 2022. This talented and dedicated team puts hard work and sacrifice at the forefront of their focus. We look forward to seeing them outdo their Varsity Cricket tournament performance at the USSA week.

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