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Ken Borland



Those were the days of struggle & now Benkenstein is back 0

Posted on November 29, 2017 by Ken

 

New Proteas batting coach Dale Benkenstein’s last involvement with the national cricket set-up was 15 years ago, in October 2002, when he played his 23rd and final ODI for South Africa against Bangladesh in Benoni, perhaps a suitably low-key finale to an international playing career that promised much but was never brought to full bloom.

Those were the days when South African cricket was still recovering from the demise and tragic death just four months previously of Hansie Cronje, the much-admired captain who was then exposed as a match-fixer.

Those were also the days when the World Cup curse was really starting to engulf the South African team – Benkenstein was watching from the changeroom as a non-playing squad member when they threw away their 1999 semifinal against Australia in farcical circumstances and was a spectator at Kingsmead in 2003 when the shambles over their understanding of the Duckworth/Lewis calculations knocked them out of the tournament.

Benkenstein, having marked himself out as a natural leader with his captaincy of the SA U19 side, was given the reins of a star-studded Natal team at the age of just 22 and did such a great job that he quickly became the heir apparent to Cronje in the national team.

But those were also the days when there appeared to be a tendency for the existing captain to suppress the development of his closest rival: Under Cronje’s watch, Benkenstein was never really given a fair chance to establish himself in the national team. He would play one or two games and then be left out, or would be shifted up and down the batting order, in a manner that seemed to suggest life was being made as tough as possible for him.

Neil McKenzie, similarly, seemed to struggle to hold down a place while Shaun Pollock was skipper and it was Graeme Smith who finally ended the trend as he actively pushed for McKenzie’s return to the national team.

Benkenstein did have his shortcomings as an international batsman – but almost all batsmen at that level have weaknesses which they work hard to avoid being exposed. But those very flaws help make the 43-year-old an excellent batting coach because he understands the dynamics of technique and the massive importance of the mental side of batting, having wrestled with those issues himself.

The best coaches are often not the former players with the best records, simply because they have empathy for the struggling cricketer, and Graham Ford, who played such a key role in the development of players such as Benkenstein, Pollock, Jonty Rhodes and Lance Klusener at Natal, is the prime example of that.

Benkenstein and the new Proteas head coach, Ottis Gibson, are former team-mates at Durham, the English county that was only elevated into top-level cricket in 1992, and it was the arrival of the Natal captain that ended years of disappointment and elevated them into a force in the UK. So the West Indian is well aware of his new batting coach’s inspirational qualities, and he and Benkenstein added 315 for the seventh wicket in 2006 to avoid relegation. Gibson played a major role with the ball in the trophies won thereafter.

Given that South Africa’s World Cup struggles are symptomatic of muddled mental skills at key times, the arrival of one of the clearest thinkers on the game can only be a positive.

But one hopes that the skills of McKenzie, another ex-Protea who brings immense value to the changeroom, will not be lost to South African cricket now that Benkenstein has taken his place in the national set-up.

The appointment of Malibongwe Maketa as the assistant coach is also pleasing as the development of Black African coaches is vital if the transformation of South African cricket is to progress, but one obviously feels for Geoff Toyana, the Highveld Lions coach who seemed certain to be involved with the national team in some capacity.

The acquisition of a few more domestic trophies will certainly keep Toyana’s name in the conversation to succeed Gibson, however.

https://www.pressreader.com/south-africa/the-citizen-gauteng/20171125/282325385282186

AB returns to former glories 0

Posted on March 22, 2017 by Ken

 

AB de Villiers batted with all his former panache and authority upon his return to the domestic scene as he steered the Titans to a commanding seven-wicket win with 21.5 overs to spare over the Warriors in their Momentum One-Day Cup match at Willowmoore Park in Benoni on Tuesday.

The bonus point win returns the Titans to the top of the standings, leading the Dolphins by four points ahead of the final round of fixtures.

While the Titans will host the fading Cape Cobras at Centurion on Thursday, the KwaZulu-Natalians face the daunting task of beating the Knights with a bonus point in Durban in order to claim first place and a home final. And obviously the Cobras must beat the Titans.

While de Villiers utterly dominated the Warriors attack as he stroked a sublime 75 not out off 62 balls, the Titans were only chasing 148 thanks to the brilliant work of their attack, with another returning international, Chris Morris, leading the way with three for 30 in eight overs.

Morris set the tone as his second ball of the match curved like a bow and bowled Gihahn Cloete for a first-ball duck.

With Morris conceding just nine runs in his first four overs, Lungi Ngidi then put the Warriors further back with a double-strike in the sixth over.

Colin Ingram (4) latched on to a poor, short ball down leg, but swung it in the air to fine leg, where Junior Dala made good ground around the boundary and took a super catch.

Ngidi then produced a beauty four balls later to have Colin Ackermann caught behind for a duck, getting bounce and away movement from an excellent length.

Having won the toss and elected to bat, the Warriors were 18 for three inside the first half-hour, but Jon-Jon Smuts and Yaseen Vallie then added 66 for the fourth wicket. It wasn’t hang-on-to-your-hats breathtakingly quick, coming off 87 deliveries, but it did stop the bleeding.

Smuts, coming off successive centuries, scored 39 before getting a little tickle on a Malusi Siboto delivery that was sliding down leg and being well caught by wicketkeeper Heino Kuhn, and off-spinner Aiden Markram then won a short battle with Lesiba Ngoepe, having him smartly stumped by Kuhn for two.

Morris then returned to deliver another top-class spell of fast swing bowling, Vallie, who had scrapped his way to a dogged 44 off 61 balls, being caught behind and then Kelly Smuts being bowled for a duck as he shouldered arms to a superb delivery to the left-hander from over the wicket, pitching off and then swinging enough to hit the off stump.

The Warriors were a parlous 117 for seven, but Jerry Nqolo added 26 to the total and there was 16 from Andrew Birch before the visitors ran out of luck on 147 all out, Dala claiming two wickets with short balls and Ngidi picking up a third as he finished with fine figures of three for 32 in eight overs.

Wrist-spinner Tabraiz Shamsi was able to build on the pressure created by the pacemen as he squeezed the Warriors batsmen further by bowling his 10 overs for just 28 runs.

The star attraction De Villiers came to the crease with the Warriors still in the game, having just reduced the Titans to 47 for two, Birch striking early by having Jonathan Vandiar caught in the slips for one, and Aya Gqamane then dismissing Kuhn for a busy 23.

De Villiers was dazzling from the outset, hitting his second and third deliveries for sumptuous boundaries and, even though Aiden Markram being bowled by a grubber from Birch for 23 in the next over provided some food for thought, the global superstar just cruised through the rest of the innings.

There were seven fours and a six in his 40-ball fifty, as De Villiers covered the entire map of the Willowmoore Park outfield with strokes of extraordinary placement and timing; Farhaan Behardien but a support act as he made 24 not out in their unbeaten stand of 87 off 94 balls.

De Villiers finished with 75 not out off 62 deliveries, with 10 fours and a six, proving once again that he has more talent in his big toe than most batsmen on their best day.

http://citizen.co.za/sport/sport-cricket/1464011/ab-de-villiers-returns-to-former-glory/

Morkel & Titans back in Benoni & in great form 0

Posted on November 18, 2016 by Ken

 

Willowmoore Park in Benoni will play host on Friday night to the top-of-the-log CSA T20 Challenge clash between the Titans and the Knights, with Titans captain Albie Morkel leading his high-flying team at the ground where it all started for him back in 1999, and currently enjoying great individual form.

The Titans have won both their opening games with Morkel playing pivotal roles: first with the ball against the Highveld Lions when he claimed three for 12 in four outstanding overs, and then on Wednesday night with the bat when he steered his team to victory over the Cape Cobras with 34 not out off 16 balls.

“Albie sometimes plays himself down, but he’s a very valuable cricketer and the head of the side. He wants those pressure situations and he showed that again against the Cobras, winning the game for us with the bat, having done it with the ball in the previous game,” Titans coach Mark Boucher told The Citizen on Thursday.

Heinrich Klaasen, who was pushed up the order to open against the Cobras with some success as he scored 46, is likely to be partnered by Grant Mokoena on Friday as Henry Davids has strained a hamstring.

“We’ve been under pressure in both games because we lost a couple of quick wickets up front, but we still managed to get the middle-order firing. So it will be very exciting if we can get a good start,” Boucher noted.

Willowmoore Park has thrown up more than her fair share of tricky pitches for batsmen – in last season’s game in Benoni against the Knights, the Titans could only manage 136 for nine and were beaten by a spectacular all-round performance by West Indian Andre Russell (4-11 & 66*).

Russell is no longer in the Knights team but they have star quality in returning captain Theunis de Bruyn, fast bowlers Marchant de Lange and Duanne Olivier, and middle-order batting star David Miller.

“I just want a good cricket wicket for us to hopefully take advantage of, we’ve got both pace and spin covered. This is one game I’m really looking forward to because the Knights beat us in the four-day competition and they look like a side that will challenge for top spot. So we will be tested and we need good intensity,” Boucher said.

Friday night’s other game is in the fairest Cape, although there will be no love lost between the Cobras and the Warriors as they clash at Newlands.

The embattled Cobras have lost both their T20 games thus far, heaping more pressure on themselves, and they will be desperate to get their first win of the season in any format.

Bavuma opening? That’s not the only weirdness we’ll see 0

Posted on September 12, 2016 by Ken

 

Temba Bavuma will open the batting on his ODI debut for South Africa in Benoni on September 25 having done that job in just two of the 69 List A games he has played in his career, but that’s not likely to be the only selection weirdness we see in the Proteas’ limited-overs teams this season.

That’s because, in order to meet the new quotas that will apply as an average at the end of the season across all three formats, it seems the national selectors will follow the sensible option of ‘loading’ the limited-overs teams in order to give themselves more leeway when it comes to Tests.

The targets they have to meet at the end of the season are 54% players of colour and 18% Black African players – measured as 27 matches with 11 players a side, therefore 297 individual playing opportunities, of which 161 must go to players of colour, including 54 appearances by Black Africans.

The last time Bavuma opened the batting in a List A match was actually in February, in the Lions’ Momentum One-Day Cup match against the Knights in Mangaung, when he scored just five before being caught behind off the evergreen Dillon du Preez.

Prior to that, the only time he had opened was back in March 2010 for Gauteng against Northerns in the CSA Provincial competition at the L.C. de Villiers Oval at the University of Pretoria. He scored 18 off 20 balls before being caught behind off Tumi Masekela. His opening partner that day was Grant Mokoena, and that’s not the only thing they have in common as they both scored sparkling centuries this week in the eKasi Challenge between the Lions and Titans at the Soweto Cricket Oval. Both hundreds were of sufficient quality to disprove the nonsense that there are no talented Black African batsmen around.

I am not criticising the quotas now imposed by Cricket South Africa at national level – I can see their need, I’m delighted that we are now being honest about them and don’t know how else much-needed transformation can happen at a reasonable pace – but I would like to point out that they are a double-edged sword.

While someone like Mokoena has undoubtedly benefited from the targets imposed at franchise level last season – he played more first-class matches than he had ever before and had his highest tally of runs as well as his best 50-over campaign – the other side of the equation is how established players like Bavuma could find themselves shifted into unfamiliar roles to fill gaps.

Is it fair on a wonderful craftsman like Bavuma, who showed against New Zealand how he has become a key figure in the Test line-up, to make his ODI debut in a once-off game batting out of position? The squad for the series against Australia that follows has already been named, so even if the 26-year-old scores a double-hundred against Ireland, Hashim Amla will take his place in the next game.

And what if Bavuma gets a good ball up front and is dismissed cheaply? What if he struggles to 12 off 38 balls on a Willowmoore Park pitch that can be tricky in the first hour? Will it dent the selectors’ confidence in him?

Bavuma has shown already that he has incredible mental strength so I don’t think it will dent his confidence, and he really is batting beautifully at the moment. When he gets on top of the bowers as he did against the Titans in Soweto, he is a wonderful strokeplayer, but just as impressive is the tenacity he showed in the second innings of the second Test against New Zealand to score 40 not out.

Andile Phehlukwayo will also make his ODI debut later this month and he is a real talent for the future. Also gifted with a great temperament – as displayed in his excellent death bowling – he will also get a chance against Australia. If he does not immediately succeed in this tough first assignment at the highest level, I hope he is not tarnished with a reputation for not being up to it, seeing as though he is only 20 years old!



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