Fans to return to Mangaung Oval

The last international cricket played in Bloemfontein was on 4 March 2020, when the Proteas beat Australia by six wickets to win the 2nd One-Day International. PHOTO: JOHAN PRETORIUS

The Free State Cricket Union is gearing for a busy summer that will see the Mangaung Oval in Bloemfontein hosting domestic games in various domestic competitions as well as India A from next month.

More importantly, for the first time since March 2020, fans will be allowed to attended sporting matches in South Africa, and this is something that excites the union.
On Monday, the Department of Cooperative Governance approved the opening of sporting stadiums for all sporting codes across South Africa.

There are, however, conditions and this will be that for now, no more than 2000 people will be allowed to attended matches and they will have to be vaccinated.

While 2000 spectators are not a lot, it is a major step in the right direction and fans cheering for tries, boundaries, wickets and goals, will certainly be much better than the ambiance being broadcast over the PA systems, as has become the norm since sport reopened for matches last year.

India A coming to Bloemfontein will also be something special as the depth of the sport in the country on the subcontinent is so immense that they can select at least three teams that will be able to compete with any national team across the globe.

The CEO of Free State Cricket, Johan van Heerden, told Bloemfontein Courant that they are certainly excited and are looking forward to hosting teams and spectators.

“It’s fantastic news. Having 2000 vaccinated people in the stadium is exactly what we need to kick-start cricket again.

“India A coming to Bloemfontein will definitely be one of the stronger sides, and that is how they’ve always prepared for a Test series. They will use it as intensive training before going up against the Proteas.

“This will be no different when they come to Bloemfontein. The SA A team will also most probably have a lot of Proteas representation within that squad.”

The star Proteas batsman, Aiden Markram, speaking from Dubai where he is preparing to the upcoming ICC T20 World Cup in the United Arab Emirates and Oman, told Bloemfontein Courant, that as players, they too are excited.

“I wasn’t even aware of that, but I saw in the past few weeks that there was talk of this happening. That’s actually awesome news to hear. As players we always relish playing in front of crowds and we know that the crowds in South Africa always really support us well and really love the game of cricket.

“It will be nice to have them back in the stadiums. I’m assuming that it won’t be full capacity, but at least some supporters are better than none at all. It’s a win-win for everyone. We love performing in front of them and they’ll have an enjoyable time watching us perform.”

The first match back in Bloemfontein for the Itec Knights where fans will be allowed back, will start on 29 October when they will be hosting the Rocks from Paarl. The first unofficial Test between South Africa A and India A will begin on 26 November. – MORGAN PIEK