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Ken Borland

Positive Klaasen makes a move into Test squad 0

Posted on March 04, 2017 by Ken


Titans wicketkeeper/batsman Heinrich Klaasen was celebrating a first call-up to the South Africa squad for their Test series against New Zealand on Friday, convenor of selectors Linda Zondi saying a “positive presence at the crease” had played a large part in his selection.

Klaasen has looked a top-class talent since his days with the dominant Tuks Varsity team and he now follows his skipper from his student days, Theunis de Bruyn, into the Test squad as one of the back-up players, having scored 635 runs in four-day cricket this season, at an average of 48.84.

Zondi confirmed that it was a close-run thing between Klaasen and Rudi Second of the Knights, who scored 684 runs at 52.61, with the 25-year-old Klaasen being considered a closer match in terms of approach to Quinton de Kock, the player he is understudying.

“It was a very close call and it could have gone either way. Rudi is a very experienced player and is definitely not out of our plans, but we just felt that Heinrich has a positive presence at the crease, he’s tidy behind the stumps and there’s something about him.

“He’s a good striker of the ball, a fearless cricketer. We’ve watched him a lot and we feel he can play the same role as Quinton de Kock,” Zondi told Saturday Citizen on Friday.

While the presence of players such as De Kock, Kagiso Rabada, Duanne Olivier, De Bruyn and Klaasen makes it a young squad, the selectors have also recalled veteran Morne Morkel, the 32-year-old who has not played a Test in more than a year.

Morkel is only two 50-over games into his comeback from serious back issues, but Zondi said they wanted some experience around to guide a young attack. Vernon Philander has played 40 Tests, but Keshav Maharaj (4), Wayne Parnell (5), Rabada (14), Olivier (1) and Chris Morris (2) have played just 26 Tests between them.

“We’ve been guided by our medical team with Morne and he’s 100% fit. We want him to play more games, but his extra experience is required, because we don’t want to be caught out if anything happens. We’re quite comfortable in terms of all-rounders, so Morne must just go there and compete, providing us with extra variety,” Zondi said.

Squad: Stephen Cook, Dean Elgar, Hashim Amla, Faf du Plessis (Capt), JP Duminy, Temba Bavuma, Quinton de Kock, Vernon Philander, Keshav Maharaj, Wayne Parnell, Kagiso Rabada, Duanne Olivier, Morne Morkel, Chris Morris, Theunis de Bruyn, Heinrich Klaasen.

Koro Creek’s Ahlers takes the Investec bonus pool 0

Posted on April 22, 2016 by Ken


The members of Koro Creek Golf Estate in Modimolle are probably still celebrating after their representative, Jaco Ahlers, claimed the second-biggest paycheque on the Sunshine Tour by winning the Chase to the Investec Cup final at the Lost City on Sunday, thereby winning the R3.5 million bonus pool for topping the standings at the end of the season-long competition.

While Ahlers was celebrating the best day of his golfing career, there was bitter disappointment for Jaco van Zyl, who lost in a playoff that was only decided on the third trip down the 18th hole, and for overnight leader George Coetzee, who bombed out of contention with a double-bogey on the 17th.

Playoffs are nervewracking affairs at the best of times and Van Zyl recovered magnificently on their second trip down the 18th after putting his drive into the water down the right-hand side of the fairway and then leaving his third in the hazard in front of the green. But he did not get lucky a second time when his third playoff drive went in the same spot and his third shot, after dropping, was in the water in front of the green.

Ahlers, having slotted a pair of five-foot putts to halve the first two playoff holes, calmly slotted a six-footer for par to claim the spoils and continue his excellent record in playoffs.

“I was pretty calm. Three months ago I won a four-hole playoff to win the Cape Town Open and my first win in 2009 also came in a playoff, so that gave me confidence. It’s amazing to win and I still haven’t had time to think about it, really. I just wanted to win, I wasn’t thinking about the money, but we have just bought a house so it will help,” Ahlers said.

Although Van Zyl was not able to clinch the deal, he was philosophical about the loss, saying the 18th was not the sort of hole that suited his game and all he could think about was ‘do not hit the ball right into the water’.

The 13-time Sunshine Tour winner played superbly, however, just to make the playoff with four birdies in the last five holes.

Ahlers matched Van Zyl, an eagle on the fourth, with two birdies either side of it, and three birdies in a row from the 11th laying the foundation for his 66.

Coetzee still had a share of the lead after his third birdie of his round on the par-four 14th, but he was not able to hang on to it as a wretched drive on the 17th, which was so far left it was almost in the Pilanesberg Game Reserve, led to a double-bogey.

Even a remarkable birdie on the 18th was not enough. His drive was far left in the waste bunker and a well-struck wood from there just ran out of green and went into the water. Coetzee dropped and then sank his fourth from the fringe.

*Lee-Anne Pace was not challenged over the three days of the Investec Cup for Ladies and strolled to an eight-stroke victory on Sunday, also winning the bonus pool for the second year in succession.

Time for a daring change in ODI captaincy? 0

Posted on May 08, 2013 by Ken

As South African cricket spends the week celebrating the remarkable leadership career of their greatest Test captain, Graeme Smith, it is perhaps time to also consider a daring change in captaincy for the limited-overs team.

When the first Test against Pakistan starts at the Wanderers on Friday, Smith will head out for the toss for the 100th time, the first captain in the history of the game to reach the milestone. He will turn 32 on the same day and Smith is universally respected as a leader and batsman, even more so outside of South Africa.

While the focus will rightly be on how Smith has led South Africa to the pinnacle of Test cricket, it is worth remembering how it all started.

In March 2003, then selection convenor Omar Henry announced that the 22-year-old Smith, who had played just eight Tests, would be the successor to Shaun Pollock following the dismal showing at the World Cup South Africa hosted.

It was a daring gamble, but the physically imposing Smith had already shown the strength of character that marked him out as a leader of men. Nearly 10 years later, he is still at the helm of a ship that has survived some stormy seas to become the undisputed champion of Test cricket, as dominant away from home as they are in South Africa.

After leading South Africa in 149 ODIs, Smith handed over the reins to his anointed successor, AB de Villiers, 18 months ago.

De Villiers, one of the finest batsmen of the modern era, a team man to the core and blessed with a certain charm, has little previous captaincy experience, however, and whether he is the right man to be Smith’s long-term successor is now in doubt.

De Villiers, selection convenor Andrew Hudson and coach Gary Kirsten all believed  AB could do the job, but there is no harm in admitting that was a mistake and moving on to allow him to concentrate on being a key, match-winning batsman for South Africa and keeping wicket in the limited-overs games.

Choosing leaders can be hit-and-miss – Mark Boucher, Nicky Boje and Jacques Kallis have all tried their hand at it when Smith has been injured – and this is also proven by the case of Hashim Amla.

A leader all through his school days at Durban High School, Amla captained the Dolphins when he was just 21 and national recognition followed suit in 2011 when he was named vice-captain of the Proteas.

But yesterday Amla confirmed that he was seriously considering relinquishing that post, because he was not willing to be captain of the team when the selectors turned to him in the wake of the suspension of De Villiers for a slow over-rate offence.

“I’m considering stepping down from the vice-captaincy, there’s no point in being vice-captain if I’m not willing to be captain. I turned down the captaincy when AB wasn’t there because I wanted to concentrate on my batting,” Amla admitted in Sandton on Tuesday.

There is a maze of on-field and off-field responsibilities a captain has to negotiate and the local boo-brigade that consistently snipe away at Smith will hopefully realise just what a phenomenal skipper he has been when they consider he has carried that burden for 10 years, while the likes of Amla and De Villiers, both quality men, are struggling with it after just 18 months.

The ODI series against New Zealand saw De Villiers go on record as saying he found it tough to concentrate on all the decisions he had to make in the field (as his over-rate disaster showed) as well as keep wicket and focus on his key batting role.

Faf du Plessis stood in when De Villiers was suspended after the first game and perhaps that is the route the selectors should now go down on a permanent basis when the Proteas are in green. It wouldn’t even be as much of a gamble as Smith’s appointment was.

Du Plessis was AB’s captain at Afrikaans Hoër Seunskool (Affies) and was impressive in leading the SA A side last year, and was cool and calm in the field against New Zealand last week.

With Du Plessis taking over the captaincy, De Villiers could play as the limited-overs wicketkeeper/batsman because that move was a success, the 28-year-old averaging 77 since taking over the gloves, while South Africa have won 32 of the 42 ODIs they’ve played with him behind the stumps.

The Test captaincy is another matter and Smith can hopefully soldier on until 2015 – the year of the next World Cup, when he may well hang up the boots. De Villiers is also then likely to have to fill the number four batting slot vacated by the retirement of Jacques Kallis, so the task of keeping wicket as well will surely be too much for someone who will be 30 and does not have the most stable of backs.

And if De Villiers is not ready then for the skipper’s armband, Du Plessis will have had two years of experience in the limited-overs game.

There has also been plenty of gnashing of teeth over what will happen to the South African team when the awful day of Kallis’s retirement finally dawns, and De Villiers doing the wicketkeeping job permanently has been mentioned as one of the cures to losing such an incredible all-rounder.

But De Villiers should rather have the responsibility, because he has the ability, to replacing the thousands of runs Kallis scores.

The Australians dominated world cricket in the 1990s and 2000s without a genuine all-rounder and the Proteas should look to specialists to do the same. Six specialist batsmen (Dean Elgar, Alviro Petersen, Amla, De Villiers, Du Plessis and JP Duminy; the latter pair both part-time bowlers too), a wicketkeeper/batsman (Thami Tsolekile or one of the younger contenders), and four specialist bowlers (Robin Peterson, Vernon Philander, Dale Steyn and Morne Morkel) will give South Africa a team that is still highly capable of being the best in the world.

Their current captain, Graeme Smith, has laid the platform for a period of sustained dominance, but what of the person behind all those runs (the most ever in successful fourth-innings run-chases) and victories?

Kallis is eminently qualified to speak on Smith’s character: “It’s incredible to achieve what he has, after taking over at his age. He has proven a lot of people wrong, he has faced down so much criticism and he has always led from the front. I don’t think 100 Tests as captain will ever be done again.

“If he says the team needs to do something, he’s always the first guy to go and do it. As the opening batsman, he sets the tone, he takes on challenges and he never backs down. At certain times he’s in the opposition’s face and at others he’s just absorbing pressure. He’s learnt which character to be at certain times, and that’s the biggest improvement in his captaincy,” Kallis said on Tuesday.

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