If you love watching cricket and want to travel around South Africa in a few months’ time, then we have some news that really will kill two birds with one stone.
T20 cricket has become hugely popular all over the world, with cricket bosses busy counting their profits. It’s not unusual to find people asleep while watching Test cricket but that’s not the case with T20 cricket, with grounds packed out, energetic and exciting. It’s no surprise then that South Africa wants to host first Africa T20 tournament.
by Celso Flores
The 13 provincial sides in South Africa will be joined by three international teams, namely Zimbabwe, who played in the recent World Cup, Kenya and Namibia. The 16 teams will be split into four groups at venues around South Africa. This should ramp up interest among fans, leading to high attendances and subsidiary profits in terms of food and drink, gambling on the teams, and potentially TV rights.
Matches at Willowmoore Park in Benoni take place between September 4-6 featuring Easterns, Northerns, Western Province and Zimbabwe. From the 11th to 13th you can head to Senwes Park in Potchefstroom to see the Pool B matches featuring North West, KZN Inland, Border and Boland. The exciting cricket continues on the 18th-20th as Griquas, Namibia, KZN and Eastern Province battle it out at the Diamond Oval in Kimberley and then from the 25th to 27th the action moves to the Mangaung Oval in Bloemfontein as Free State take on SWD, Gauteng and Kenya. There will be two matches every day during the pool stages. You’ll have a few days to enjoy yourself before the semi-finals on October 3, with the final taking place the following day.
So what better chance is there for you to take a holiday in South Africa and see all the sights as well as the sixes. There will be two matches played each day so there are plenty of opportunities to witness some great sporting action and some of the best players in the world battling it out.
T20 is a Whole New World
The game of cricket has been steadily changing over the past decade. While some traditional fans prefer watching a Test match that can go on for five days and still end in a draw, a lot more fans fancy a quicker version of the game.
T20 cricket sees a complete game played in just a few hours and now the first ever Africa T20 Cup has been announced. This is a crash, bang, wallop version of the game, with batsmen hitting sixes all over the place and bowlers wondering why batsmen always pick on them. For the fans, though, it’s a fantastic experience. Packed out crowds cheer like there’s no tomorrow as the batsmen hit one boundary after another and go crazy when their side takes a wicket. Of course, if the match is televised then you always need to be on the lookout for the camera to point in your direction so you can cheer and wave like a lunatic for a few seconds.
And there are plenty of betting opportunities with T20 games. Every ball is like a different game and there’s money to be won and lost all the time. Will the batsman hit a four or a six? Will it be a dot ball? Will a wicket fall and if it does who’ll be dismissed and how? You could spend an entire match placing bets.
One bonus of the T20 Africa Cup is that the games are being played at some venues that you might not always consider visiting as they don’t regularly stage international matches. As the games are being played over T20 rules, that means that two birds killed with one stone rule again comes into play. Short games mean more time to explore the city and its many attractions.
Mangaung Oval Bloemfontein
The ground first hosted a one-day international in 1992 and was given full Test status eight years later. That year, Test match history was made when Allan Donald became the first South African to take 300 test wickets. Going to this ground really is a fantastic experience, with a carnival atmosphere guaranteed with plenty of colourfully dressed fans sitting on the grassy banks. The ground is also just ten minutes’ walk from the city centre and Bloemfontein coach station is adjacent to the ground, so it won’t take you too long to get there and back.
Bloemfontein is the Capital City of the Free State Province in South Africa and is known as the ‘City of Roses’. That’s not surprising because even though it’s situated in an area of dry grassland, Bloemfontein is jam-packed with thousands of rose bushes with more than 4,000 rose trees in King’s Park.
Roses aren’t the only reason to visit King’s Park because it’s also the home to Bloemfontein Zoo. There are lots of the usual sights to see in the zoo but also a liger – a cross between a lion and a tiger. Now that’s something to tell your friends about when you get home.
Finding somewhere to stay isn’t going to be a problem, with a great choice of accommodation to choose from. Best to book up early, though, because the African T20 Cup is bound to be popular.
If it’s history that turns you on, there’s a whole host of sites to visit during your stay in Bloemfontein. Highlights include the National Afrikaans Literature Museum and to keep in with the sporting theme of your visit, why not pop into the Choet Visser Rugby Museum to see one of the biggest private collections of rugby memorabilia in the world.
Other famous parks in Bloemfontein include Naval Hill, where your sight-seeing experience will go into overdrive with an excellent view of the town. There’s also the Franklin Game Reserve, one of just two city wildlife reserves in the world. The other is in Japan and they’re not really known for their cricketing skills.
There’s just so much to do in Bloemfontein that you’ll be glad the T20 matches don’t last that long. Don’t just watch sport, you can play it too at the Maselspoort Resort on the banks of the Modder River.
Matches are also being held at the Senwes Cricket Stadium in Potchefstroom. Again, this is a venue that’s rarely used for the big matches and has only hosted one Test match back in 2002 but has hosted World Cup matches in the past.
The city is situated on the banks of the Mooi River and is around 75 miles west-southwest of Johannesburg.
No holiday is complete without some retail therapy so a trip to the Mooirivier Mall is definitely on the cards. This isn’t just a case of spending your holiday money in the vast array of shops but you can fit some sight-seeing in at the same time. It’s the first building in South Africa to have been built over a river. It has glass flooring so you can stare down at the river.
While you’re waiting for the next T20 match to take place, how about racing around on a quad bike or going horse-riding. Those are just two of the activities on offer at the Buffelsvlei Wild Animal Park. This is near Boskop Dam, just outside of Potchefstroom, and as well as seeing zebras, giraffes and a whole lot more, there’s also the chance to go paintballing and clay-pigeon shooting.
Also highly recommended is the OPM Prozesky Bird Sanctuary, which is near the south end of town not too far from the golf course. It is home to more than 200 bird species as well as otters and other small rodents. So watch some ducks at the cricket, and then see some birds here! Then again you could go for a round of golf and home to get an eagle or an albatross.
Take a trip down Oak Avenue with one oak tree after another as they take you from the Agricultural College to the Lakeside Holiday Resort. This is one of the longest avenues of its kind in the Southern Hemisphere and the trees are over a century old.
This is the home of Easterns Cricket and founded back in 1924. Its name comes from all the willow trees that surround the ground. England legend Denis Compton (below) scored a triple century here in 1948 but the ground has changed a lot since those days. The ground now has a 20,000 capacity so you can imagine the amazing atmosphere in the ground when it’s full.
Benoni is on the East Rand in the South African province of Gauteng. You’ll find lots of students here and horses. In fact it’s got more horse stables per square kilometre than anywhere in the southern hemisphere. It is known as the City of Lakes and in the 1990s hosted the WOMAD Festival. If you go there and think you recognise the surroundings then that’s because the city was featured in the movie Crazy Monkey: Straight Outta Benoni.
If you have children going to South Africa with you, they are bound to have a great time. Cricket matches make sure that the young ones who might not be quite as obsessed with the game as their parents, have something to keep them busy. That’s not just the next ice cream or burger. Totally unmissable if you’re heading to Benoni is a visit to the Bunny Park. As you might have guessed this is home to hundreds of rabbits, and probably more while you’re reading this. You can actually feed the animals at this great venue and as well as rabbits there are cows, donkeys, goats and chickens.
Ever heard of sandboarding? Well it’s one of the newest outdoor sports and similar to snowboarding but on sand, although you’ve probably worked that out already. Mount Mayhem is situated in Boksborg and just wait until you feel the adrenaline rushing through your body as you get strapped down and start gliding over the sand. After all that, a relaxing time at the cricket will be right up your street.
Would you fancy going all the way to South Africa just to see a Big Hole? Well it’s not any Big Hole, but The Big Hole which can be found in Northern Cape and close to Kimberley, the capital of the province. The area is famous for its diamond mining, so when you head there to watch some African T20 matches at the De Beers Kimberley Oval, visiting the Big Hole is an essential part of your journey to the Northern Cape Province.
The Big Hole is the largest hole excavated by hand and yielded nearly 2,720kg of diamonds. When it finally closed down $50m was spent turning the former mine into a tourist attraction including the Mine Museum and now attracts visitors from all over the world. From a suspended platform you can stare down into nothingness. OK, it might not sound enthralling, but this is definitely a case of having to be there to really understand its beauty.
If staring into a Big Hole doesn’t quite get you going then there’s plenty more to do in the area and this includes one of the country’s oldest pubs. Yes a pub, that’s more like it, isn’t it? ‘The Star of the West‘ isn’t far from the Mine Museum and was built in the 1870s and the Kimberley tram stops outside. If it was good enough for thirsty diamond miners then it’s good enough for a few pints while listening to a honkytonk piano before heading off to the cricket for a few more. Oh and the even better news is that the toilets have moved on from the days when they were just old buckets in a dark corner. They’ve got a light in the corner now. No, don’t worry, they’ve got modern toilets now, honest.
There you are then, an action-packed few weeks in South Africa watching some top class, high-octane cricket and seeing some of the greatest sights the country can provide. Just make sure you duck those cricket balls when the big-hitting batsman hit the ball in your direction.