From 25-30 January the second edition of the Varsity Cricket tournament took place at the Senwes Stadium in Potchefstroom. For almost a week seven university cricket teams looked to dethrone the winners of the first edition of the competition and two-time Red Bull World Champions, UP-Tuks. The battle for a spot in the final was by no means predictable and had UP-supporters on the edge of their seats.
The road to success began with a convincing log match win against North- West University (NWU-Pukke) in a reduced-overs match. A double header the next day had the defending champions come up against the University of Cape Town’s Ikeys and the University of the Free State, with the Pretoria team winning both fixtures. UP-Tuks faced their first obstacle on day two as they suffered a defeat at the hands of University of Stellenbosch (Maties). They were able to recover and comfortably beat Nelson Mandela Metropolitan University by 6 wickets before a second defeat against University of Johannesburg (UJ) in the final log round. After qualifying in third place for the semi-final, UP-Tuks were able to stay composed and pull off a comprehensive 55-run win against NWU-Pukke, before progressing to the final.
The final presented itself as a mismatch with underdogs UWC surprising everyone. Former UP-Tuks cricket coach Pierre de Bruyn was confident before the game began and simply said, “It is going to be very hard to beat two-time world champions.” The world champions batted first and with contributions from Gerry Pike, who managed 45 runs off 48 balls, the innings was soon stabilized after the early loss of a wicket. When Jones managed over 50 runs for the second time that day, with 56 from 35 balls, a competitive score of 174/5 was set for UWC to chase. The Cape side was sent home with a difference that dampened their spirits, restricted to 153/6 as UP-Tuks won by 21 runs. This victory means that UP-Tuks will regain their opportunity to reclaim their Red Bull World Championship title for the third time in Sri- Lanka later this year.
The Pretoria side were unrelenting despite the upsets and standout performances from players like Vincent Moore and Evan Jones had the crowd on their feet throughout the tournament. Both players made the Varsity Cricket Dream Team, with Moore becoming the leading wicket taker with 13 wickets to his name. Jones was deemed the top batsmen with 391 runs, including two 50s and the only century, which was scored in the semi-final. The inclusion of team cheerleaders also added to the overall atmosphere as they were competing for the Varsity Cheerleading title, where UP placed third.