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Ken Borland



A weekend in August the most important in SA cricket’s turnaround 0

Posted on January 01, 2017 by Ken

 

It was the year of the remarkable turnaround in South African cricket and perhaps the most important weekend of 2016 was the one the national team spent at a “culture camp” in Johannesburg in August.

South African cricket was seemingly in freefall before that, the number one ranking in Tests lost due to a series defeat at home to England, yet another disappointment in a major ICC tournament as the Proteas were eliminated in the first round of World T20 in India and their ODI form was also ropey as they failed to make the final of a triangular series in the West Indies.

There was an atmosphere of doom and gloom, as transformation became an easy scapegoat, and national coach Russell Domingo was not expected to survive the year. An independent review was instituted and then scrapped.

Far more importantly, the greater squad got together and pledged that they had to be better, that ProteaFire was being extinguished and the flame needed to be rekindled. The players themselves took the responsibility to challenge each other and be better.

After flirting with the captaincy of Hashim Amla and AB de Villiers, Faf du Plessis taking the reins of both the Test and ODI side was also crucial and, being a more natural captain drawn to the job, he got the team going in ways that have not been seen in the last couple of years.

The Proteas were glorious in the second half of the year, winning their Test series against New Zealand and then becoming the first team to ever whitewash Australia in a five-match ODI series, before going across the Indian Ocean to their great rivals and winning the first two Tests to claim the series and become the first side since the great West Indies outfits of the 1980s/1990s to win three successive rubbers on Australian soil. You have to go back to the early days of Test cricket between 1884 and 1888 to find the only other team to achieve that feat – England.

If the year itself was memorable for the amazing turnaround in their fortunes, then the one match that epitomised the unity of purpose in the Proteas was the first Test against Australia in Perth.

After choosing to bat first, South Africa batted poorly, only reaching 242 thanks to Quinton de Kock’s 84 and a half-century from Temba Bavuma. Australia had raced away to 158 without loss in reply, before Dale Steyn dismissed David Warner but injured himself in the process, a fractured shoulder bone ruling him out of the rest of the season.

But with just two fit pacemen and debutant spinner Keshav Maharaj weighing in with three wickets, they managed to dismiss Australia for just 244. Du Plessis spoke later about the opposition being “shocked” by the comeback and the resolve shown by the Proteas, who dominated the rest of the game and won the second Test in Hobart by an innings.

De Kock was the Proteas’ outstanding player of 2016, scoring 695 Test runs at 63.18, second only to Amla’s 729 at 48.60, and continuing to plunder ODI runs such that he was named the ICC’s player of the year in the 50-over format.

On the bowling front, Kagiso Rabada continues to grow and ended as the Proteas’ leading wicket-taker and amongst the top six globally, while the excellent form of Vernon Philander and Kyle Abbott suggests that the end of Steyn’s great career, whenever it may come, will not necessarily leave a vacuum.

Australia’s unexpected collapse a warning to SA cricket 0

Posted on November 21, 2016 by Ken

 

Australia’s rapid implosion as a Test team, going from the number one ranked side in August to their current shambles, was unexpected but there have been warning signs in their cricket for a while and they are similar to the problems South African rugby is experiencing at the moment.

A focus on chasing money and the commercial aspects of the game has been allowed to mar the systems and structures that were in place to ensure that Australia’s Test team – as well as, at times, the Springboks – were always at the pinnacle of the game.

The Big Bash T20 league is obviously a wonderful, exciting occasion in the Australian sporting calendar, but it seems it has become the most important part of the cricket season, Cricket Australia’s priority and something that is pushing everything else on to the periphery.

There was a time that the four-day Sheffield Shield competition was Australia’s premier domestic tournament and the envy of the world; nowadays it seems almost an afterthought and pace bowlers are pulled out of games midway through by national team management using medical protocols that have little basis in actual cricketing wisdom.

The most amazing example of T20 taking over to the detriment of everything else Down Under will come in February. Six days before Australia play the first Test against India in Pune, starting what is an incredibly daunting tour for a struggling team, a three-match T20 series against Sri Lanka starts in Melbourne.

International cricket was always about the best from each country playing against each other, but either Australia send a second-string team to India or their reserves will be playing in the T20 series. The last T20 will be played the night before the first Test starts!

Some of the Australian media were understandably outraged by the scheduling and, in the wake of the series loss to the magnificent Proteas, they have given their team and administrators both barrels and deservedly so.

Other Australian media have, however, resorted to blame-shifting and a video focusing on South African captain Faf du Plessis doing two perfectly legal things – eating a sweet on the field and using his saliva to shine the ball – albeit at the same time, was always going to go viral and attract the interest of the International Cricket Council.

But if they do punish Du Plessis, what are they going to do about players using sunscreen and then wiping their sweat on the ball? How about the ubiquitous Australian practice of chewing gum on the field, that is also like steroids for saliva.

South African cricket is currently basking in a glorious, phenomenal third successive series win in Australia that is going to be remembered for a long time because of the resilience and team unity they have shown, especially in the absence of big guns AB de Villiers and Dale Steyn.

But we also need to be wary that our administrators aren’t going to go down the same route as their Australian counterparts; there have been enough instances of South African sporting administrators chasing the bucks instead of what is going to be best for the game for us to be cautious.

Which is why, when I see the Proteas and Sri Lanka will be playing the third Test in Johannesburg from January 12-15, and the two Gauteng teams, the Titans and the Lions, will be playing a potentially crucial Sunfoil Series game at exactly the same time, I wonder if our four-day cricket is also going to be neglected, leading to the demise of our wonderful Test side?

Surely it can’t be too hard for the schedulers to say: “There’s going to be a Test in Johannesburg that week, let’s make sure that both Gauteng teams are playing away from home?”

Let the Australian malaise be a warning to us, no matter how smug and happy we are currently feeling.

Northerns Cricket Union history 0

Posted on December 07, 2014 by Ken

Cricket may be the archetypal English sport, but there is a long history of it being played in Pretoria and one of the earliest mentions of the game in the city was in August 1874 when a Volksraad meeting was interrupted by Jim Nobel, President Burgers’ secretary, slogging a ball through the window of the chamber and narrowly missing the Speaker.

Those early Landvaders almost decided to ban cricket from the city square, but President Burgers and the attorney-general were both lovers of the game and the sport was given a reprieve.

Those pioneering Pretoria cricketers moved to a cattle compound on Widow Hoffman’s farm, in what is now Fountains Valley, in 1882 and their ground became known as Berea Park, where several Pretoria v Potchefstroom matches were held.

There was already a black cricket club playing in Elandsfontein, the Diggers, in 1898 and by 1937 there were more than 50 black clubs spread between Randfontein and Nigel.

Those were the days of the Transvaal Republic and the best cricketers from the Pretoria region would play for Transvaal, until 1937 when North-Eastern Transvaal was included in South African domestic cricket in its own right.

North-Eastern Transvaal’s first first-class match was played in December 1937, in the 25th edition of the Currie Cup, as they took on Western Province at Berea Park. Lennox Brown, who played in two Tests for South Africa in 1931/32, took five for 54 and William Lance, the father of Tiger, claimed three for 19 as the inexperienced home side limited the powerful Capetonians to just a 10-run first-innings lead.

Brown then top-scored with 42 in the North-Eastern Transvaal second innings, but the debutants ultimately went down by just three wickets.

North-Eastern Transvaal also often played in Benoni, at the same Willowmoore Park ground that has become a Titans stronghold in the present day, but they were considered a second division team and only played in the A Section of the Currie Cup again in 1960/61 and 1967/68.

In 1971, the North-Eastern Transvaal Cricket Union became the Northern Transvaal Cricket Union, and in 1979/80 they returned to the A Division.

But with all the socio-economic problems in South Africa and Berea Park now being nearly a hundred years old, Northerns cricket remained a hospital case and they needed a doctor to steer them into the bright future they now enjoy.

That doctor was chemical engineer Willie Basson and as chairman of the NTCU he began chasing what he would later describe as “a ridiculous dream” in 1981/82 when the search for a new home for the union began.

It was a momentous year on the field as well as the Northerns B side was entered into first-class competition for the first time, playing in the Bowl, and the senior team won for the first time in the A Section as they beat Eastern Province in Port Elizabeth under captain Norman Featherstone. English swing bowler Chris Old took eight wickets in the match and there were important 70s from Rodney Ontong and Vernon du Preez.

And in 1982, former Transvaal stars such as Lee Barnard and Noel Day arrived in Pretoria and would play vital roles in the rise of Northerns cricket. The other major acquisition was that of former New Zealand captain John Reid who was put in charge of the team and proved an inspirational figure working in tandem with captain Barnard.

The move to Centurion Park – the name was chosen after a Name The Ground Competition – happened from 1984/85 and it is the only cricket ground in the world to have given its name to the suburb that sprung up around it. The first match was played on November 15, 1986.

The 1980s was the decade when the rise of Northerns cricket really began and in 1984/85 they played in two of the three domestic finals. They beat Western Province for the first time in the Currie Cup semi-final, thanks to Mandy Yachad’s century and Eric Simons taking seven wickets and scoring a crucial 58.

The elusive first A Section trophy would only come in 1996/97 however, the same year the NTCU became the Northerns Cricket Union, when 59 years of waiting ended with Keith Medlycott and Mark Davis steering them to the Standard Bank League title, Mike Rindel breaking the record for the most number of runs in a season in the day/night competition and Rudi Bryson spearheading the attack.

Limited-overs cricket continued to be the main source of success for Northerns and the Titans franchise as they became known in 2004, with the team winning the 1998/99 Standard Bank League, the Pro20/T20 competition in 2004/05, 2007/08 and 2011/12, and the one-day competition in 2007/08, 2008/09 and 2013/14.

The Titans have won the four-day competition four times – in 2005/06, 2006/07, 2008/09 and 2011/12 .

The Northerns Cricket Union has become a place where the different language groups and races of South Africa pull together for the success of the team, and no franchise won more trophies than the Titans between 2004 and 2014.

This has obviously led to many players from the Pretoria region being selected for the national team and the likes of Dale Steyn, AB de Villiers, Faf du Plessis, Morne Morkel and Paul Harris have been integral to the rise of the Proteas to the number one Test side.

Off the field, the calm, visionary leadership of people like Basson, Alan Jordaan, Richard Harrison, Brandon Foot, Vincent Sinovich, Elise Lombard, Jesse Chellan, and now Jacques Faul, Patricia Kambarami and John Wright has been crucial to the success of the Northerns and Titans teams.

 

SA U19s struggle, honourable mention for Janneman Malan 0

Posted on September 12, 2014 by Ken

 

Compared to the efforts of his team-mates, Janneman Malan’s exploits on the South Africa U19 tour of England in August might have them considering erecting a statue in his honour at Waterkloof High School in Pretoria.

Malan was the only obvious success story to come out of a tour in which the SA U19s failed to win a game. The strong performance of the first four-day youth test, which was drawn, gradually gave way to a series of disappointing performances, especially by the batsmen.

Malan, however, batted superbly, passing 50 in six successive matches on tour, before being run out for 3 in the final ODI.

The optimism of the first two days of the series, when South Africa scored 433 in the first youth test at Fenners, Cambridge, thanks to Grant Roelofsen’s 149, and then reduced England to 199 for six, was in stark contrast to the end of the tour, with Lawrence Mahatlane’s new-look team suffering a 5-0 whitewash in the limited-overs games.

The determination of the English lower-order saw them save the first test and the frailties of the South African batting line-up then became apparent in the second test as they were bundled out for just 77 in their first innings in Northampton.

But with Hanco Olivier showing his mettle in batting for five hours in scoring 79 not out and Malan making 55 in three hours, South Africa were able to save the game and draw the test series as the fourth and final day was entirely washed out.

Malan, who scored 83 in the second innings of the first test, continued his brilliant run by making 56, 76, 52 and 51 in the first four ODIs, but his efforts were in vain as England took the spoils every time.

Keith Dudgeon sparked a late comeback by taking five wickets in the first ODI at Edgbaston, but South Africa had only posted an insufficient 227 and lost by two wickets with four balls to spare.

It was the closest match of the series as South Africa’s junior internationals were given the mother and father of hidings thereafter, twice in Nottingham and once each in Leicester and Derby.

The hosts won the toss in all five ODIs and certainly made it count, opening batsman Haseeb Hameed starting the series with two scores of 97 and then making 125 in the decisive third ODI; while number three Tom Alsop made a century in the second game and 57 in the third.

Pacemen Luke Wood, Josh Shaw and Will Rhodes were a handful for the SA U19 batsmen throughout the tour.

 

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