Paarl Rocks celebrate the taking of Chris Morris of Nelson Mandela Bay Giants' wicket 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, South Africa. Picture: RICHARD HUGGARD / GALLO IMAGES
Paarl Rocks celebrate the taking of Chris Morris of Nelson Mandela Bay Giants' wicket 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, South Africa. Picture: RICHARD HUGGARD / GALLO IMAGES

Eight times in the 10 match days in this year’s Mzansi Super League (MSL) the team at the top of the standings has been either the Nelson Mandela Bay Giants or the Paarl Rocks.

And so it was after the top-of-the-table clash between the teams at St George’s Park on Wednesday. Times two.

The Giants suffered their first defeat‚ by 31 runs‚ in their six matches in the campaign at the hands of a Rocks side who have also lost only once. But the home side managed to deny the visitors a bonus point — which means both are in first place on 19 points each.

Whatever the result in Thursday’s game between the Cape Town Blitz and the Durban Heat at Newlands‚ that cannot change.

Victory for the fourth-placed Blitz will put them two points behind the leaders‚ but they would claim the Tshwane Spartans’ third place. The Heat — the only remaining winless team still in contention‚ who have had three of their five matches washed out — cannot get out of fifth spot even if they win.

The Rocks wasted chances to go top alone on Wednesday‚ which they would have done had they limited the Giants’ total to less than 133.

In the 19th over of their reply to the Rocks’ 166/7‚ the Giants slipped to 128/9 and looked in danger of conceding the bonus point. But in the same over Hardus Viljoen could not hold a difficult chance in his follow through and Tabraiz Shamsi lost another in the lights.

That put the Giants on 132/9‚ and the first ball of the next over — bowled by Junior Dala — slipped down the legside to take the home side to the magic number.

The Blitz’s Janneman Malan is fifth among the runscorers with a best effort of 99 not out‚ and the Heat’s David Miller is eighth despite having had only two innings.

Durban’s Keshav Maharaj‚ one of only 10 bowlers in the tournament who has an economy rate of less than 6.5 runs an over‚ and Cape Town’s Dale Steyn top the wicket-taking list with Dala with 10 strikes.

Another important stat will come from the stands‚ which have been conspicuously empty for the first two MSL games played at Newlands. Only 3,671 — less than 15% of the ground’s capacity — turned up for the first of them‚ against the Jozi Stars on November 14.

And that was despite the fact that only seven of the 22 players in action were not internationals‚ and that stars like Quinton de Kock‚ Steyn and Chris Gayle were involved.

It is a sobering reality that SA’s franchise T20 matches frequently drew bigger crowds than the supposedly superior MSL.