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Ken Borland

The importance of getting those yorkers in in the death overs 0

Posted on February 28, 2017 by Ken


South Africa’s loss in the second ODI in New Zealand this week once again brought home the importance of death bowling in tight finishes. The Black Caps were able to get their yorkers in to great effect in the last few overs and won by six runs, a margin of defeat that flattered the Proteas because they hit the last two balls for fours when they were already out of contention needing 15 off two to win.

For my money, there has been too much emphasis in recent years in South African bowling strategy on bowling the ball into the pitch, varying pace, using the short ball etc. Tim Southee and Trent Boult simply got the ball in the blockhole when it really mattered and the batsmen found it impossible to do anything more than jab the deliveries away.

Sure, if there’s a set batsman in at the time then they can make the margin for error infinitesimally small by moving deeper into their crease or stepping out, but it’s been a long-standing weakness of South African bowlers that they cannot consistently get the yorker in. Perhaps because back at home in domestic cricket on pitches of bounce and seam movement there is less necessity, but in international cricket they get exposed.

This week I sought the wise counsel of Gordon Parsons, the bowling coach of the Highveld Lions team that won the 50-over competition last season, so they must be doing something right.

“The more things change in the game, the more they seem to stay the same. And I’m very much of the belief that nothing’s changed when it comes to a good yorker still being the best ball at the death. If a bowler can master three different variations then he’ll be a quality performer. Trying six, seven, eight different deliveries just complicates the mind and sometimes I feel using variations is an excuse for a lack of execution of the regular skills,” Parsons, the taker of 356 limited-overs wickets at an average of 30.75 and an economy rate of just 4.07, said.

“Sometimes bowlers hide behind the slower ball, but how many deliveries hit the same spot? The best bowlers do the simple things really well – look at Imran Tahir, who is the world’s number one limited-overs bowler and basically bowls wicket-to-wicket. He’s become better the simpler he’s made it. Bowlers have got to keep it simple,” Parsons, who took 809 first-class wickets in a 19-year career for two English counties and three South African teams, said.

The last time the Proteas were in New Zealand was for the 2015 World Cup and for the seventh time they fell short at the ICC’s premier tournament, conceding 9.8 runs per over in the last five overs of their fateful semifinal against the Black Caps.

With Tahir at number one and Kagiso Rabada ranked seventh, South Africa have the makings of a decent attack, but neither of them are known for their death bowling, both instead proving brilliant at breaking partnerships in the middle overs.

Rabada does have a lethal yorker, which I’d like to see him use more, and Chris Morris and Wayne Parnell could both be pretty effective if they can get swing and find the blockhole more consistently. Andile Phehlukwayo has the variations, but the same applies to him.

I saw an interesting statement this week from a radio sports broadcaster that the current attack is South Africa’s best ever in ODI cricket, but for me, the 1996 World Cup line-up of Allan Donald, Fanie de Villiers, Shaun Pollock, Craig Matthews, Pat Symcox and Brian McMillan, with Hansie Cronje and Jacques Kallis as the sixth and seventh bowlers, is hard to beat.



Past wounds add spice to ODI series v NZ 0

Posted on January 08, 2013 by Ken

One-day internationals between South Africa and New Zealand always seem to have added spice, mostly because on the odd occasion the Black Caps have managed to win, they have often been the key games that have hurt the Proteas the most.

Of the 55 ODIs the two countries have played against each other, South Africa have won 33 and New Zealand 18, with four no results.

World Cup matches have been particularly happy occasions for the Kiwis, starting back in 1992 when they played an ODI against South Africa for the first time, at Eden Park in Auckland.

Kepler Wessels’ team, fresh out of isolation, were pummelled by seven wickets with 15-and-a-half overs to spare as New Zealand brought a fresh approach to limited-overs cricket.

South Africa did win their 1996 World Cup meeting in Faisalabad, thanks to their superb fielding and a fiery half-century from Hansie Cronje, and swept to victory at Edgbaston in 1999 after a brilliant all-round display by Jacques Kallis.

But since then, the Black Caps have notched three successive World Cup wins, with the trouble starting in Johannesburg in 2003 when Stephen Fleming’s great 134* powered New Zealand to victory and overshadowed Herschelle Gibbs’s wonderful 143, leaving the hosts on the brink of elimination and giving the visitors their first ODI win in South Africa.

New Zealand also took the spoils on the tropical island of Grenada, just off South America, in the 2007 World Cup, winning by five wickets to clinch a semi-final berth.

The 2011 World Cup defeat in Dhaka was perhaps the saddest of the lot because South Africa were riding high, their form steadily growing as they reached the quarterfinals, before Jacob Oram brutally chopped them down on a deteriorating pitch.

It felt like the apocalypse but, to their credit, South Africa rebounded by whitewashing the Kiwis 3-0 in New Zealand less than a year later in their most recent ODI meeting.

Despite all the World Cup pain they have inflicted, it is clear New Zealand will be up against it in the three ODIs between January 19 and 25. They have limped their way to just two victories in 18 previous matches against South Africa here, but perhaps it will suit the tourists that the games will be played in the smaller venues of Paarl, Kimberley and Potchefstroom.

With Ross Taylor, his captaincy having been called into question, on sabbatical, New Zealand will rely heavily on new skipper Brendon McCullum to lead the batting, while there will also be a heavy load on the shoulders of 34-year-old all-rounder Oram.

The attack is also missing key experience with spinner Dan Vettori out injured, but there is potential aplenty in young seamers Tim Southee and Trent Boult, while veteran Kyle Mills usually enjoys conditions in South Africa.

The ODI series kicks off on Saturday a.m., January 19 in Paarl and South Africa will no doubt be eager to repay one of their arch-enemies for all that World Cup misery.

But it is clear the Proteas ODI squad is still a work in progress, with coach Gary Kirsten having an eye firmly on the next World Cup final at the end of March 2015, probably in either Sydney or Melbourne.

At the moment, there are places open in the team, with perhaps a third of the squad still not settled, but there is no reason to fear that. Kirsten and the selectors should have an amnesty from criticism as they sift through the potential talent and they will no doubt have plans to introduce some new faces in this series.

And, with Paarl, Kimberley and Potchefstroom renowned for being three of the driest places in the country, rain is unlikely to interfere with those plans!


Weight of history against NZ – Rutherford 0

Posted on January 03, 2013 by Ken

The weight of history will be against New Zealand as they take on South Africa in a short two-Test series in the new year, the Black Caps having won just three of their 21 previous Tests in this country.

Ken Rutherford was the last New Zealand captain to win in South Africa – the 137-run victory at the Wanderers in November 1994 – and he acknowledged that the visitors will be facing an uphill struggle.

“On paper, New Zealand are clearly up against it, it’s a bit like Scotland playing the All Blacks. It will be a huge challenge against the world’s number one team. South Africa have half-a-dozen world-class players in Steyn, Morkel, Smith, De Villiers, Kallis and Amla, while the current New Zealand team maybe just lacks a bit of star quality,” Rutherford said.

But despite their failure to win very often against South Africa, New Zealand have always proven tough opposition and a major reason for that is the quality of leadership they have had through the years. Rutherford was an astute captain from 1992 to 1995 and was followed by the cerebral Stephen Fleming and another great thinker in Dan Vettori. They might not have had the same depth of talent as most other international teams, but the Kiwis played smart cricket and made the most of the skills at their disposal.

“New Zealand only played their first Test in 1930 so the history of New Zealand cricket is really less than a hundred years old and in that time they’ve only had half-a-dozen truly great players – Glenn Turner, Richard Hadlee, Martin Crowe, Bert Sutcliffe, John Reid and Dan Vettori – and to a lesser extent, Stephen Fleming and Shane Bond. Having even just one real star makes a difference to a team and New Zealand teams without those have had to find other ways of competing,” Rutherford said.

The 47-year-old is now based in Johannesburg and is involved in the horse racing and sports betting industry and the Wanderers victory he presided over 18 years ago is a prime example of good captaincy making the difference, even though Rutherford modestly suggests New Zealand triumphed because they won the toss.

“I remember that match well and the key was winning the toss, to be honest. We had every intention of bowling first because it was a grey, overcast Joburg morning. But the pitch was dry and had cracks on it on day one, and as Hansie Cronje tossed, out of the corner of my eye I saw the sun peeping through the clouds and decided ‘bugger this, we’re going to bat’.

“When I got back to the changeroom, wicketkeeper Adam Parore had the pads on and the bowlers were getting ready. I had to tell the openers, Bryan Young and Darrin Murray, to hurry up and put the pads on because we were batting! There was an audible silence in the changeroom … “ Rutherford recalled.

Ross Taylor is the current owner of the New Zealand captaincy and he will need to show similar quick-thinking on his feet if the visitors are to beat South Africa at home.

The 28-year-old Taylor is averaging over 40 since taking over the captaincy in November 2011, but he will need more runs from the rest of his batsmen.

“New Zealand’s first-innings average recently has only been about 320 and, these days, if you’re not scoring 400 in your first innings, you’re just about out the game. New Zealand haven’t batted well enough recently, especially in the first innings, and they need more runs, that’s the key. Their fortunes over here will revolve around how they bat,” Rutherford said.

The former Transvaal and Gauteng captain singles out Martin Guptill and Kane Williamson as two young batsmen he expects more from.

“I see a lot of talent and ability in Guptill and Williamson, they are the future of New Zealand batting, but they need to perform at the highest level.

“Williamson has only averaged 27 in his last 10 Tests, while Guptill and James Franklin look like a million dollars in first-class cricket but haven’t quite been up to it in Tests. They need to make the step up from being very good first-class players, but obviously it’s a mental or confidence issue.”

Rutherford also believes the likes of Williamson and Guptill should not be playing in T20 cricket, because of the damage it does to their techniques.

“It’s a travesty that they’re playing in the T20 side, but maybe they can’t afford not to. In that case, it’s all about NZ Cricket managing their resources better.”

Rutherford, who once scored 317 in a day for the New Zealand tourists against the Brian Close XI at Scarborough in 1986, believes the Black Caps have much to look forward to when it comes to their bowling attack.

“Tim Southee is exciting, while I like the look of Trent Boult, the left-armer who swings the ball and has a bit of pace. He’s only going to get better. Doug Bracewell is also a useful bowler and then there’s Vettori, so that’s four decent bowlers,” Rutherford said.

With South Africa electing to play the two Tests in Cape Town and Port Elizabeth, New Zealand will also be spared the pace-friendly conditions on the Highveld. On their previous tour to South Africa, they were beaten by 358 runs in Johannesburg and by an innings and 59 runs at Centurion.

“It’s quite a positive for New Zealand to be playing in Cape Town and Port Elizabeth. At both venues, they’d like to win the toss and bat and I’d like to think our batsman will come into our own in those conditions. Winning the toss there will give us an advantage and I hope our batsmen battle through,” Rutherford said.

The slower pitches at Newlands and St George’s Park mean left-arm spinner Vettori will be a key figure for the Black Caps.

“Dan is a good example of a player you can build a team around. Perhaps the one criticism of him is that he doesn’t bowl sides out on the fourth or fifth day to turn a Test or win the game. In 15 years of Test cricket, how often has he done it? But that’s a bit unfair because teams understand that he’s the key and treat him with great caution.

“There’s no downplaying Dan’s value to the team and clearly New Zealand will want him fit and bowling well for the series here,” Rutherford said.

According to Rutherford, the hosts’ greatest strength is the ability of their star players to change the course of a Test in the space of a session.

“South Africa have individuals who can take the game away from you. But New Zealand haven’t played good Test cricket for a while because they haven’t yet recognised that in one hour, someone can take the whole match away from you, they’re less able to spot those opportunities.

“But compared to South Africa, New Zealand don’t play a lot of Test cricket, maybe five or six games a year compared to a dozen. It takes a while to understand the game at that level, the ebbs and flows and being able to grasp the crucial moments.”


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