Junior Dala of Nelson Mandela Bay Giants during the Mzansi Super League match between Nelson Mandela Bay Giants and Paarl Rocks at St Georges Park on November 27 2019 in Port Elizabeth. Picture: GALLO IMAGES/ RICHARD HUGGARD
Junior Dala of Nelson Mandela Bay Giants during the Mzansi Super League match between Nelson Mandela Bay Giants and Paarl Rocks at St Georges Park on November 27 2019 in Port Elizabeth. Picture: GALLO IMAGES/ RICHARD HUGGARD

For the Nelson Mandela Bay Giants‚ Wednesday’s game against the Paarl Rocks at St George’s Park was just another top-of-the-table clash in the Mzansi Super League (MSL).

Jon-Jon Smuts’s team has been first in the standings after six of the competition’s nine match days and second after two others.

Only once has it slipped to third‚ and that was seven match days ago.

The closest the Giants have come to losing any of their five games came when rain decided the issue in Centurion on November 13.

And a good thing‚ too‚ for the Tshwane Spartans who were 33/4 after 7.1 overs.

The Rocks have not been as dominant. They were in first or second place after the first three match days‚ but spent the next five in third or fourth spot.

They played themselves back into second position with their exciting two-run win over the Cape Town Blitz at Newlands on Sunday.

The Giants are‚ of course‚ in first place.

Festive atmosphere

Can it be a happy accident that the Giants and the Rocks play in front of two of the most animated crowds in the country? And that those spectators are drawn from smaller centres?

With its brass band and festive atmosphere‚ whatever the time of year‚ St George’s Park is among the most welcoming and pleasant places in world cricket.

That warmth has been rewarded with tight victories‚ achieved with four balls and one ball remaining‚ over the Blitz and Durban Heat‚ along with a less memorable 24-run win over the tournament whipping boys‚ the Jozi Stars.

The Rocks are based at the venue with the smallest capacity‚ which despite that has boasted the event’s biggest attendances — not least through innovative marketing ploys such as a dance competition and surely the most vibrant stadium music yet heard in this country.

In a tournament that is struggling for relevance among the cricket-minded public there are lessons to be drawn from what Paarl‚ in particular‚ has achieved.

Attempts are being made to learn those lessons. The first 1,000 spectators at the Heat’s match against the Giants at Kingsmead on Saturday will get in for only R1. At Newlands‚ tickets to Blitz games cost just R30 during the league phase.

If that sounds like desperation it probably is considering most crowd figures have been embarrassingly poor.

But at least the fans had new blood to cheer for on Wednesday.

Netherlands international Ryan ten Doeschate has replaced the injured Farhaan Behardien in the Giants squad‚ with promising all-rounder Ruan de Swardt stepping in for the hamstrung JP Duminy for the Rocks.

Their presence will not put a dent in the R100m loss the MSL is expected to make in 2019‚ which is R20m more than the competition is believed to have lapsed into the red in 2018.

If all that makes sense‚ the MSL should not exist. Even so‚ it does.

And that is enough for those who only cricket know.