It is a significant milestone as the Oppenheimer Michaelmas Cricket Week, so splendidly hosted as always by Maritzburg College, celebrates its 60th birthday from September 21 to 24 during this year’s festival of all that is great in South African schools cricket.
So many participating first XI schoolboy cricketers, coaches and managers have mentioned that these four special days are the highlight of their cricket year.
And it is to the camaraderie of this gathering of schoolboy cricketers, coaches, managers, umpires and spectators that long-time sponsor Jonathan Oppenheimer always refers in his annual message.
DAY 1 AND DAY 2 FIXTURES
One of the central precepts in making Michaelmas such a kaleidoscope of memories is the team of people who run the festival, headed by Maritzburg College deputy headmaster, co-curricular, Brandon Swart and co-curricular administrator Stacey Emerson.
The festival runs like clockwork – or as close as you can get, given the vagaries of the weather and suchlike.
Camaraderie aside, the standard gets higher and higher every year and the quality of the contests gets tougher and tougher, but while results are important there is one longer-lasting durable that never changes – the spirit that is so palpably evident in the exchanges between the boys, coaches, managers, umpires and unfailingly diligent festival support staff.
DAY 3 AND DAY 4 FIXTURES
It is also a unique cricket event in that all 10 of the KwaZulu-Natal province’s leading schoolboy first XIs are represented in one festival.
Hosts Maritzburg College and – in no particular order – Clifton College, Durban High School (DHS), Glenwood, Hilton College, Kearsney College, Michaelhouse, Northwood, St Charles College and Westville all play against some of the very best schoolboy cricket first XIs in the country.
The school first XIs from outside KZN taking part in this year’s 60th Oppenheimer Michaelmas Cricket Week are, in no particular order, St Stithians College, Pretoria Boys’ High School (PBHS), Grey College, King Edward VII School (KES), St David’s Marist Inanda, St Albans College, St John’s College, Jeppe, St Andrews College (Grahamstown), Afrikaanse Hoër Seunskool (Affies), Hudson Park (East London)
and – in terms of the decades that the likes of KES have been at Michaelmas, a relatively new and invaluable addition in the form of the Cricket South Africa Talent Acceleration Programme XI (colloquially know as CSA TAP) a side that has taken the honours against the long-standing Michaelmas teams on numerous occasions.
Of much import, too, is the quality of cricketers that have passed through the Week who have gone on to great things.
Ali Bacher and Graeme Smith (KES), Kepler Wessels and Hansie Cronje (Grey College), AB de Villiers and Faf du Plessis (Affies), and Hashim Amla (DHS) are some of the Michaelmas cricketers over the past 60 years whose post-school careers have led them to become SA national team captains.
And just some of the Michaelmas cricketers who have gone on to reach the pinnacle of the game and delight audiences around the world include Barry Richards (DHS), David Miller, Kevin Pietersen and Jonty Rhodes (Maritzburg College) and Quinton de Kock (KES).
Just 8 days to go and we are into Day 1.