It’s no secret four-day cricket worldwide is regarded as the poor cousin to the flashier limited-overs versions of the game.
Initially it always took a backseat to the 45 and 50 over formats, and then slipped even further down the pecking order when Twenty20 cricket set the world alight.
It’s understandable it doesn’t attract the same crowds and attention of pyjama cricket, but that in itself is a big pity because it is the heart and soul of the sport. If you have a healthy first-class system, your cricket is in a good place.
Australia was the prime example for many years as they had a powerful Sheffield Shield competition, resulting in their national team dominating the game for close to two decades.
Look no further than Michael Hussey, ol’ Mr Cricket, who amassed 15 313 first-class runs before finally earning a Test cap at the age of 30. He went on to become a major success for his country, averaging over 50 in 79 Tests. He knew his game inside-out due to the hard yards he put in on the domestic scene.
That’s why the exciting conclusion of Cricket South Africa’s Four-Day Franchise Series on Thursday evening was exactly what the game needed.
On the final day of the 10-round competition, the second-placed Lions needed to beat the Warriors in Potchefstroom and hope the Dolphins and table-topping Cobras played to a draw in Pietermaritzburg if they had any chance of lifting the trophy for the first time since 2014/15.
In Potch, the Lions – trailing the Cobras by a few bonus points – had set the Warriors a total of 330 for victory. When an afternoon thunderstorm forced the players off the field with the Lions needing a further seven wickets, the trophy looked like it was heading to Cape Town after the Cobras match finished in a draw.
Back in Potch, the players returned to the field. When the last hour was called just after 5pm, the Lions still needed two wickets.
With just 12 balls to go, up stepped part-time spinner Wihan Lubbe, who had a disastrous match with two ducks. With his third ball, and the 10th last of the day, he bowled Warriors No 11 Sithembile Langa. The Lions had done the unthinkable.
It’s sad to think the four-day competition doesn’t even have a sponsor. Hopefully, magical moments like these will change that.