Standard Bank Pro20 cricket has taken the South African sporting arena by storm.
Cricket South Africa (CSA) yesterday released statistics showing that this form of the game has broken all spectator records for domestic cricket.
Out of a total of 686000 cricket fans who enjoyed 69 cricket matches staged around the country during the 2006/7 season, over a quarter attended the Pro20 Series.
A record 22849 supporters attended the final between the Highveld Lions and the Nashua Cape Cobras at Liberty Life Wanderers on March 23, when the Lions mauled their opponents, taking the title by six wickets.
The size of the crowd at the final was the largest in the history of local events, rivalling attendance at the tri-nations battle between SA and India at the end of 2006 and the SA-Pakistan clash in early 2007 - both games being played to a sold-out Wanderers.
In a survey conducted by the Management Sciences Group in 2006, 90 percent of cricket fans found the three-hour 20-over format as "wonderful entertainment" and they particularly liked the "atmosphere at the well-organised and action-packed" games.
Commenting on the results, Cricket South Africa's CEO, Gerald Majola, said: "The Pro20 Series record attendance figures confirm our predictions that it would be an exciting appetiser to the inaugural ICC 2007 Twenty20 World Championship, which will be hosted in South Africa in September."
The popularity of the Series is also confirmed by results from the same survey which show that 37 percent of all fans have attended matches since the series was launched in 2004. A significant achievement for an event which is still in its infancy, especially when compared to 41 percent for Test cricket and 22 percent recorded for 45 overs cricket.
Director of sponsorships at Standard Bank, Marius Vorster, said: "We are thrilled by the support we received from cricket lovers around the country. It is envisaged that these numbers will grow in the new season as South Africa proudly host the bumper event." Planning is at an advanced stage at CSA and tickets will be available towards the end of April.