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Eagles look for perfect start

The Standard Bank Pro 20 competition, which starts on Tuesday when defending champions the Eagles host the Eastern Cape Warriors, provides the perfect aperitif ahead of the summer's cricketing highlight, the 2007 World Cup.

With South Africa having overtaken Australia as the number one ranked team in one-day internationals, excitement is running high ahead of the Caribbean festival. The only problem is, cricket lovers have to wait until March 16 for South Africa's first game.

Fortunately, the Standard Bank Pro20 fits perfectly into the gap.

Twice champions, the Eagles will clearly have a fight on their hands for a third title with the Cape Cobras and Titans looking primed and ready for action in the high-pressure extreme limited-overs format.

On the face of it the Eagles look to have a soft start to their defence with a home game against last season's wooden spoonists but the Warriors, who lost all five of their matches last season, have rung the changes this year, and with some success.

HD Ackerman, Zander de Bruyn, Murray Goodwin and Lonwabo Tsotsobe all contributed to them reaching the MTN Domestic Championship final and fourth place in the SuperSport Series.

Two of the Eagles' biggest stars of last season, Loots Bosman and Roger Telemachus, will be sidelined as they are World Cup-bound, while Cliffie Deacon is currently out with injury. But the champions still have plenty of depth with Morne van Wyk, Davey Jacobs, Thandi Tshabalala and Johan van der Wath all accomplished Pro20 performers.

The Cobra are the current 45-over champions, but will need to tighten up on their disappointing displays in the SuperSport Series when they open their campaign against the Lions at the Wanderers on Friday.

The Titans join the action on Sunday when they host the Eagles and they have shown for the last couple of seasons that they have players for every season - and format. Alfonso Thomas will be looking to nourish his dream of eventually playing ODI cricket for South Africa.

The Dolphins, who visit the Warriors in East London on Friday, and the Lions will also want to make their voices heard, although their previous campaigns have gone wrong at crucial times.

For those who like their cricket raw and uncomplicated, Pro20 will be just the tonic.

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