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Ken Borland

Most daunting journey of all for well-travelled McLaren 0

Posted on November 01, 2017 by Ken


Ryan McLaren has travelled many miles in his cricket career but he is about to embark on his most daunting journey of all as the probable replacement for Jacques Kallis in South Africa’s Test side.

The 30-year-old has gone from being born into a famous Kimberley family through Grey College in Bloemfontein, stints as a Kolpak player in English county cricket for Kent and Middlesex, three IPL teams and on to play for South Africa.

Although the national selectors named a 15-man squad yesterday to take on Australia in the three-Test series next month, McLaren is the favourite to replace Kallis, coming in at number seven and providing the team with a fourth seamer.

National selection convenor Andrew Hudson spoke of “staying with the brand of cricket that has brought us such success” and that means a fourth seamer will be an integral part of South Africa’s game plan, which involves unrelenting pressure on the opposition.

But, as coach Russell Domingo pointed out, with no Kallis, having a fourth seamer means either dropping a batsman or not playing a spinner.

“We have to do away with the luxury of having seven specialist batsmen. Number seven will now probably be an all-rounder or a spinner.

“It’s very difficult to have seven batsmen, four seamers and a spinner. Something has to give, and I do like to have a spinner because it gives the team a lot more balance,” Domingo said yesterday.

It won’t of course be a Test debut for McLaren because he has appeared for South Africa in the ultimate version of the game before – against England at the Wanderers four years ago.

McLaren bowled tidily as part of a five-prong seam attack that ran rampant over England, dismissing them for just 180 and 169 as South Africa romped to victory by an innings and 74 runs to level the series. The left-handed batsman also scored 33 not out coming in at number eight.

Wayne Parnell also made his debut in that match and has also been included in the squad to play the Aussies. Although Domingo said he loved the 140km/h pace and left-arm variation that Parnell brings to the attack, McLaren’s greater consistency – he could do the holding role alongside Steyn, Morkel and Philander very well – and better ability with the bat should see him get the nod.

McLaren has the experience of already playing 40 ODIs and 10 T20s for South Africa and has become an integral part of the 50-over side in the last year. He’s a genuine all-rounder: In 103 first-class matches he has scored 3860 runs at an average of 30 and has taken 329 wickets at 25.47.

McLaren said he has no delusions of stepping into Kallis’s boots but is also confident that he can perform the role the national team requires of him.

“I’ve pretty much made peace with the fact that you can’t make comparisons between myself and Jacques. There’s only been one Jacques Kallis and there will only ever be one.

“So I’m just going to focus on the role I have to perform, which is batting seven and bowling second-change, which is pretty much what I’ve been doing most of my career.

“As an all-rounder, there’s always the physical demands of contributing in both disciplines, but it’s nothing new for me because I’ve been doing it for the Knights for many years – bowling 20 or 25 overs a day and batting.

“I will take some confidence from how I’ve performed well in ODI cricket in the last year, but Test cricket is a totally different game, it’s where every cricketer wants to be measured. And there’s no greater test than playing against Australia, so I’m excited for the challenge,” McLaren said.

The absence of Kallis will lead to another change in the batting order, with Domingo confirming that Faf du Plessis would be promoted to the number four spot, the place where greats such as Graeme Pollock, Sachin Tendulkar, Wally Hammond and Javed Miandad batted.

“It’s no state secret, Faf is the guy we have earmarked for number four. He made a big hundred at number four to save a Test recently and he bats there at franchise level. He’s a suitable replacement,” Domingo said.

Robin Peterson, the left-arm orthodox incumbent, is the only specialist spinner in the squad, but Hudson said the selection certainly did not mark the end of Imran Tahir’s Test career.

“Robbie P has put in some good performances lately and he did well in Perth at the back end of the last tour to Australia. He fits in with the style of cricket we want to play.

“But we know Imran Tahir can bowl with variety and an attacking leg-spinner on a turning pitch is still an option for us because we play a lot of cricket in the sub-continent. We certainly are not going past Imran,” Hudson said.

Domingo suggested that the pitches for the three Tests – in Centurion, Port Elizabeth and Cape Town – will favour the quick bowlers, setting up the most tantalising pace war between the two best fast bowling attacks in world cricket.

“We would like pitches that assist our bowlers. Our batsmen are well-versed in South African conditions, whereas in Australia the pitches are more in favour of the batsmen. In South Africa they favour the fast bowlers more and our batsmen are used to adapting to that,” the coach said.

Squad – Graeme Smith, Alviro Petersen, Hashim Amla, Faf du Plessis, AB de Villiers, JP Duminy, Dean Elgar, Ryan McLaren, Wayne Parnell, Thami Tsolekile, Robin Peterson, Vernon Philander, Dale Steyn, Morne Morkel, Rory Kleinveldt.

*Left-arm paceman Beuran Hendricks and off-spinner Simon Harmer will practice with the squad for the sake of preparation against Mitchell Johnson and Nathan Lyon.

Sharks were winners over Hurricanes in May to give them hope 0

Posted on July 19, 2016 by Ken


The Lions’ implosion will send the Sharks to New Zealand for a daunting SuperRugby quarterfinal against the Hurricanes in Wellington, but the KwaZulu-Natalians were convincing 32-15 winners over them in their league match in Durban in May.

The Hurricanes were full of confidence after putting 50 past the Lions the previous weekend at Ellis Park, but the Sharks cramped their space and fed ruthlessly off their many errors under the resulting pressure to thoroughly outplay them, giving them hope for this weekend’s rematch.

“It’s a good thing in terms of knowledge and confidence – we know how to beat them and we know that if we play well then we can beat them. But it will be a completely different kettle of fish this weekend because the Hurricanes are playing very well, I thought they were outstanding against the Crusaders, and Wellington is a very difficult place to go.

“They have some serious strengths that we have to negate first, their broken-field runners and offloads means that you have to be very good defensively and you have to play in the right areas. But we were good with ball in hand against them as well and you need to ask questions of the New Zealand sides. They have a drift defence so there are opportunities with that, and game-management is also important, you have to stick to your principles,” coach Gary Gold said on Monday.

Even though the stakes are higher this weekend, Gold said there was less pressure on his side in terms of not being distracted by getting bonus points to win their playoff race with the Bulls.

“There will be a little bit less pressure on us to score tries, to chase bonus points, which meant sometimes the team was trying to jog before they could walk. Now we’ve just got to win. We have to take our opportunities, that includes shots at goal, and build the scoreboard.

“But if you go into your shells and don’t have a go against the New Zealand sides then it can be a really bad day for you. So we have to go into the game with a positive mindset and ask questions of them,” Gold said.


Impressive pacemen see Titans to thrilling win 0

Posted on June 23, 2015 by Ken

An impressive performance by the Unlimited Titans pacemen saw them to a thrilling 12-run win on the Duckworth/Lewis Method over the bizhub Highveld Lions in their Momentum One-Day Cup match at Willowmoore Park in Benoni on Sunday.

The Titans, having been sent in to bat, posted a challenging 255 for nine in their 50 overs thanks to an inspired late blast from Qaasim Adams, but a three-hour delay caused by wet patches after a 20-minute rain shower, left the Lions with an adjusted target of 149 in 20 overs, which should have been an easy task given that they had all 10 wickets in hand when they resumed on 10 without loss after 1.5 overs.

But an aggressive approach from JP de Villiers, Ethy Mbhalati and Junior Dala, bowling just outside off stump and often getting steep bounce, blew away the Lions top-order as they crashed to 46 for four.

The Lions were grateful to Alviro Petersen for a counterpunching 48 off 36 balls otherwise they wouldn’t have had any chance of victory.

Petersen was dismissed, however, in the 15th over, after taking 16 runs off slow bowler Graeme van Buuren’s over and then promptly hitting a full toss to De Villiers running in from long-on.

De Villiers bowled out his four overs up front, finishing with excellent figures of two for 20, and Mbhalati (4-0-25-1) and Dala (4-0-19-1) were left to handle the closing overs. They weren’t scared to bowl short and extracted tremendous bounce from the grey-coloured pitch, making it very difficult for bowlers Matt McGillivray and Hardus Viljoen (16*) to score the 48 runs they needed off the last five overs.

Grant Thomson then sealed victory for the Titans in the glorious late afternoon sunshine, dismissing McGillivray (16) and Bjorn Fortuin (0) in the final over as the Lions closed on 136 for eight.

Adams showed what a fine batsman he is as his late hitting carried the Titans to a daunting 255 for nine.

The Willowmoore Park pitch provided the bowlers with assistance – especially in terms of steep bounce – and Adams provided a crucial late boost to the Titans innings with his 59 off 56 balls.

Veteran Jacques Rudolph showed that he is still on top of his game as he made a solid 77 off 105 balls at the top of the order.

Adams came to the crease with the Titans struggling on 146 for five, which soon became 181 for seven, but he played in measured fashion to make sure he was still in when the closing overs arrived. He then took a liking to Pumelela Matshikwe and McGillivray, finishing with four fours and two sixes as the Titans scored 52 runs in the last six overs.

The Titans had been sent in to bat and there was little sign of the troubles ahead when they reached 104 for one after 23 overs.

Henry Davids had been dismissed for 18 in the 15th over when he tried to sweep left-arm spinner Fortuin and was caught at backward square-leg, but Rudolph and Heino Kuhn then added a run-a-ball 52.

That promising partnership ended though when Kuhn swiped wrist-spinner Eddie Leie to long-off to be dismissed for 23.

Van Buuren came in and struck a couple of boundaries but was then trapped lbw on the back foot when he should have been forward, for 11, by McGillivray.

Thomson was then bowled for 10 as he tried to sweep Fortuin but missed, and the Titans had crashed to 146 for five when Mangaliso Mosehle (1) was bowled by the 20-year-old.

Rudolph soldiered on though, stroking seven fours and a six, but he was caught behind when McGillivray found the perfect length, as well as some extra bounce and nip away.

When Albie Morkel was bounced out for 2 by Viljoen, the Titans were in danger of being bowled out for less than 200, but Adams took charge and received stout assistance from De Villiers, who scored 26 off 18 balls.

There was something of a pall around the Lions camp after their dismal display against the Knights on Friday night, but they produced a better bowling display on Sunday.

McGillivray was able to make life hard for the batsmen as he bowled a super length, finishing with three for 49 with Adams carting him for two fours and a six in the penultimate over to tarnish his figures.

The young seamer had the last laugh though when he had Adams caught at long-off, Temba Bavuma taking a superb leaping catch.

Fortuin took three for 47, while Viljoen bowled well at the death to finish with two for 52, 13 runs coming off his first over courtesy of four wides, two of which went to the boundary.



Proteas: Trepidation a month ago; triumphant today 0

Posted on July 29, 2014 by Ken


It was a month ago to the day that Russell Domingo, Hashim Amla and AB de Villiers set off from O.R. Tambo International Airport on a new era for South African cricket, their first assignment a daunting tour of Sri Lanka, where the Proteas have found it hardest to win.

On Tuesday they returned triumphant, full of smiles, after beating the in-form Sri Lankans on their home turf in both the ODI and Test series; the Proteas are as much champions as the Springbok Sevens team who were on the same flight from Dubai with Commonwealth Games gold medals.

“We knew going to Sri Lanka would be a very tough tour, but the ODI series win gave us lots of confidence. We weren’t favourites for the Tests, though, but winning the first Test gave us that tag. Everyone just clicked at the same time,” Test captain Amla said on Tuesday.

“Last year we came back from a tough tour of Sri Lanka and we were much more glum. Now we are very excited and proud, beating Sri Lanka in Sri Lanka in both formats. Our record there over the last 20 years shows how tough it is to do that,” coach Domingo said.

Six-and-a-half months out from the World Cup, ODI captain De Villiers was also understandably buoyant as the 2-1 series victory takes their record to 10 wins in their last 14 matches.

“You can never be perfectly ready for a World Cup, but I’m very comfortable with where we are at the moment. The players have a greater understanding of their roles and I know my players better, who I can rely on in pressure situations, who I can strike with and who I maybe need to rally around at times,” De Villiers said.

Despite the positive mood, however, the Proteas know that there are areas that they need to address if they are to hang on to the number one Test ranking and be challengers at the World Cup.

The Test side can obviously do with a more solid opening partnership and a more consistent frontline spinner and, although Domingo backed the incumbents in these positions, his eye is surely on them.

“We know we’re not the finished article, there’s still a lot of tinkering to be done. This is very much a new start, with new faces. I’m not saying we’re going to experiment, but there is space for one or two guys to get an opportunity. Sri Lanka is not the right place to blood new players and it was our most experienced players who really fired over there,” Domingo said.

Imran Tahir, despite his heroics with the bat at the end of the second Test, tended to provide a four-ball an over with his leg-spin and an average of 47.17 after 15 Tests as a strike bowler suggests that the selectors’ patience may be wearing thin when it comes to five-day cricket.

“It’s tough for a spinner in the sub-continent because there’s a lot of pressure on you, people always look to the spinner to do well. But Sri Lanka have some of the best players of spin in the world and I honestly felt Imran bowled better than his figures suggest. His performances weren’t as good as he knows he can be, but he can still offer a helluva lot in all formats,” Domingo said in defence of the leggie, who took four wickets at an average of 84 in the Tests.

“There are not many opening batsmen with the pedigree of Alviro Petersen in domestic cricket and, with Graeme Smith retiring, it’s very difficult to replace two opening batsmen. Alviro has played 32 Tests and scored five centuries, including knocks of 182 and 156, so he has the potential to play match-winning innings, he has the experience and a calm head,” Domingo said of the 33-year-old, who has scored just 133 runs in eight innings this year.

For De Villiers, the biggest improvement needed in the ODI side is in the fielding.

“There are lots of areas to improve, but especially in the field. We’re not the strongest in the world there, but we should be in the top two or three by the time we get to the World Cup,” De Villiers said.

The tour to Zimbabwe – the one-off Test in Harare starts on August 9 and is followed by three ODIs and then a triangular series of four more matches with Australia – provides the opportunity for some fringe players to get game time.

Whether the management feel comfortable moving Stiaan van Zyl, a number three batsman, up to open instead of Petersen, or giving Quinton de Kock the job, and causing more questions over who takes the gloves, remains to be seen. And off-spinner Dane Piedt could be worth a run in relatively stress-free conditions in Zimbabwe.

Domingo did suggest, however, that the three ODIs before the triangular series could see some senior players being rested, particularly the pace bowlers.

“Nobody wants to be rested for Test matches and it’s not easy to chop and change the Test side, but in the ODIs we’ll probably rest Dale Steyn, Morne Morkel and Vernon Philander for the first three games. We played those three frontline seamers consistently in an ODI series for the first time in Sri Lanka and it paid off in a big way, but the Zimbabwe games are an ideal opportunity to look at younger fast bowlers like Kyle Abbott and Wayne Parnell, who haven’t had much game time,” the coach said.

While De Villiers said he felt much more confident in the ODI captaincy, the promotion of Amla to Test skipper was another major feature of the Sri Lankan tour. And, as expected, it was an obvious success.

“The Tests were a testament to Hashim’s ability to lead, he got the best out of his players and, in a very tense situation on the last day, they pulled through. That’s partly because the captain had such a cool head himself,” Domingo said.

The determination of this Proteas side can perhaps be summed up in Amla’s tenacious first-innings century in the second Test and the new captain admitted that he felt some relief after his 139 not out followed innings of 11 and 22 in Galle.

“You want to contribute as captain and, although it is still a bit too early to tell whether the captaincy affects by batting, I was really glad to get a century under the belt, it settled me into the captaincy.

“The final day in Colombo showed the extreme hunger and passion in this side to represent our country as best we can. The guys put averages aside, put the ego that makes you want to score runs to one side. The best example of that was JP Duminy, who scored six runs off 123 balls, which is never easy to do. But that’s what you need to be successful,” Amla said.

This Proteas side certainly seem to know the magic formula of success and the new era under Amla has enjoyed the smoothest of introductions.

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