All set for historic edition of Pineapple Cricket Tournament

Date:

“We are literally ready to go … and we are waiting for the tournament to start.”

Those are the encouraging words from Pineapple Cricket Tournament secretary Megan McCallum as the 120th edition of the iconic spectacle draws ever closer on Saturday March 2.   

The venues that will once again showcase the Ndlambe region’s pride and joy as it concerns what can be described as the institution that is Pineapple Cricket, are receiving their final tweaks for the spectacle that hits off from  March 2 to March 9.

Pineapple Cricket committee president, Dave Duncan, who is among the tournament’s trailblazers both as player and administrator, has the job of ensuring all arrangements are in place as another historic milestone draws near.

 “Preparations are going very well, better than ever before in fact, especially now that Peter Amm and his son, Simon [of Salem CC] have taken on the responsibility of improving all our fields for the tournament, it frees up  people to focus on other preparations,” said Duncan.

The event’s secretary Megan McCullum says the venues were looking “amazing” as the 24-team tournament D-day edges closer.

“At the Hospital fields the concrete [that developed a crack] has been repaired, a new carpet laid, field cut, and areas completely cleared under trees for spectators. The pitch itself has been marked [as well as boundary areas] and, scoreboards have been erected.”

Tott was present when workers cleared the thicket on the embankment of “noxious weeds” and thorny bush at square-leg and mid-wicket positions where the ball often disappeared to. The difference was evident once the bush was cleared  – and will make finding the ball much easier and use up less time should it clear the boundary.

“At Hilpert the fields had been levelled out, scraped and cut twice, with antheaps and moleheaps all gone. The concrete pitch was cleared, the ditch cleared and trimmed, and a new carpet laid at the pitch area – and marked out,” said McCallum . The field was cut, boundaries marked and scoreboard erected.

The fields at the Air School have been levelled, scraped, cut twice, weeds removed, boundaries marked and scoreboard erected. 

The scheduling of the A and B section final at the PA High School Fields on March 9  for the first time in Pineapple’s history this year, came about after the committee acted on feedback from 1st team players that the PA Country Club venue had become “too slow for scoring”.  

Duncan said the PA Country Club ground had become a bone of contention” over the years regarding its slowness overall in terms of run-scoring and the outfield. “We have a combination of an uneven pitch and a slower outfield there,” said Duncan. 

“It is not nice for the supporters, not nice for cricket … it actually makes for poor cricket.” 

 “We are hoping our efforts [changing pitch and cutting of outfield with verticut] will translate into more runs this tournament. If we can get it up to the standard for attractive and competitive cricket, then we can move back in the future to playing the 1st team Pineapple fixtures at the Country Club.” 

The exciting part of the new scheduling that it is the first time in Pineapple’s history that the two finals [A & B section] will be played on the same day [March 9] at PAHS fields.“This is an awesome development and will make for exciting spectator entertainment,” vowed McCallum. 

The Country Club venue will host the Invitational semi-final on Friday March 8 and the A league Plate final on March 9. B section matches will also be played at the venue throughout Pineapple week.  

Said Duncan: “We can be very proud of the oldest, longest-running cricket tournament in South Africa by far – and in Africa. I think the tournament is in a wonderful place. We have a lot of young guys who have come back to the farming communities, and have taken control of country clubs and with that comes a whole new vibe and energy to the game of cricket.”

Duncan said the spirit of volunteerism is something to be admired when it comes to Pineapple Cricket as organisers and volunteers do not get paid for their services.

Duncan said all the sponsors were playing a crucial role in helping to keep the spirit of Pineapple Cricket alive.

“We have Kowie Toyota and Spar Rosehill Spar coming together to co-sponsor the event … it’s fantastic to see them doing that. They are already heavily involved in this community and without all the sponsors we won’t be able to do this.”  

Duncan encouraged the community of Port Alfred and beyond to join in the spirit of Pineapple Cricket by attending matches and enjoying the entertainment on offer.

In the latest development,  MaCullum confirmed that former Proteas selector and player Hugh Page, will be the guest speaker at the prize-giving on Monday March 4 at PA Country Club.. Page is a replacement speaker for the late SA cricket legend, Mike Procter, who died two weeks ago.

“We have also received confirmation from AD Birrell [coach] that three players from the EC Sunrisers will be attending the event but we don’t have the names of the players as yet unfortunately.”

The EC Sunrisers franchise have blazed a trail in Cricket SA’s  SA20 tournament by winning the first two editions and gaining themselves a legion of fans. 

The tournament can’t be played without the teams being available of course, and Cuylerville CC  captain Brandon Handley whose club is defending the A section trophy this year, said Pineapple Cricket had a special place in his heart.

“There can’t be too many tournaments like this left in the country so we are very very grateful and lucky to have it we really are.”

Handley who is playing his 14th season of Pineapple, said the 120- year Pineapple legacy had a lot to do with the “culture” of cricket in the area.

“We have a small strong community and I guess everyone pulls together, and we are very lucky the community supports it, because without the support of the farming community and the towns around it, a tournament like this won’t happen. We need to keep it going not just for us, but for future generations. We owe it to our fathers and grandfathers who all played Pineapple, to continue the legacy.

“Pineapple has a huge impact and I think it will be even bigger with the new plans they got going forward. Port Alfred gets a bit of a boost and it has a positive impact on the town.” 

Handley is quietly confident that as defending champions they have a good chance of bringing the silverware home again.

“We have a good chance, as we have pretty much the same make-up of the side of last year; our team make-up lends itself to tournaments. The smaller fields are to our advantage and we have a strong bowling attack which is very important in the tournament. If we play good cricket over the first three games and we can make it to the Friday [semis] and play two games of good cricket, we have a good chance,” added Handley

There is entertainment lined up for every day of the week at the prize-giving tent based at the PA Country Club. Greg Short is scheduled to provide the music on opening night on Saturday,  DJ Frankie is on stage on Sunday and Monday’s entertainment  is an “oldies night”.  The now familiar East V West Legends fixture takes place earlier in the day at the venue.   There are also food stalls available and the now familiar beer tent for thirsty spectators. The public is requested to join in the “pineapple dress theme” on Friday March 8. Entry is free to the public – except from 6.30pm on Friday March 8 and Saturday March 9 where a charge of R50pp applies.

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