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Ken Borland

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!

Proteas selectors have some tough decisions to make 0

Posted on August 31, 2015 by Ken


South Africa have only really done what was expected of them in beating an under-strength New Zealand team in their one-day series and their selectors still have some tough decisions to make for their tour of India in October.

Sure, South Africa were missing players as well, but only a trio – JP Duminy, Morne Morkel and Faf du Plessis – compared to the half-dozen stars the Black Caps were without, including tone-setting batsman Brendon McCullum, middle-order kingpin Ross Taylor and strike bowlers Trent Boult and Tim Southee.

So, playing at home, one would have expected the Proteas to win the series, which they did with an impressive performance in Durban.

But with Duminy, Morkel and Du Plessis all set to return for the five ODIs in India, the selectors have to decide how to fit them back into the squad.

Their most pressing issue is that they still have not solved the all-rounder problem.

David Wiese was unable to have any impact with the bat, scoring just 34 runs in three innings at a strike-rate of 72, and he also met his match in the New Zealand batsmen, conceding over seven runs an over, although he did make an improved contribution with the ball in the win in Durban, taking three wickets.

He bowled 20 overs in those three games and whether he met the expectations of the selectors remains to be seen … their deliberations for the India tour squad will surely also involve Duminy taking Wiese’s place or maybe even giving Ryan McLaren or Chris Morris another go.

One player who most certainly proved himself in the series against New Zealand was Farhaan Behardien.

The 31-year-old has been one of the best finishers in domestic cricket for the last few years and showed that ability with his calm knocks of 70 off 87 balls in Potchefstroom and 40 off 28 deliveries in Durban.

Behardien is seemingly one of those sportsmen that has to work doubly hard to win over the demanding South African public; I’m reminded of Springbok fullback Zane Kirchner in that respect.

The strength of Behardien is his ability to play a dual role – he can play the role of supporting batsman, rotating the strike, for a top-order player who is set, and he can clear the boundary himself in the closing stages. Throw in a couple of overs of medium-pace and his fielding skills and it is clear Behardien is a useful limited-overs package.

Obviously the returns of Duminy and Du Plessis will put his place in the starting XI in danger, but Behardien is the type of player the Proteas should be very happy to have in their squad.

The other big selection decision is whether to persevere with Morne van Wyk after his half-century in Durban. Although the conditions were testing, Van Wyk’s 58 was on the slow side, coming off 100 deliveries and the way he struggled against the slower bowlers, when the ball was not coming on to the bat, suggests the Indian tour could also be a tough one for him.

There seems little point in delaying the return of Quinton de Kock, who went away and did everything the selectors would have asked of him by scoring three centuries for SA A in those same Indian conditions.

While he is certain to be in the squad, the place of David Miller in the starting team could also be on the table after the left-hander continued his run without a half-century to 11 innings, going back to the unbeaten century he scored against Zimbabwe in the opening game of the World Cup. In his defence though, there have been two 49s, a 46 not out and a 44 in that run.


Sammy & Titans feeling the pain – coach Walter 0

Posted on December 22, 2014 by Ken

To lose four games in a row and then fail to win the fifth when all the hard work had been done is soul-destroying for any team and Unlimited Titans captain Darren Sammy is feeling the pain, according to coach Rob Walter.

The Titans looked set to end their RamSlam T20 Challenge losing streak in the triple-header at Kingsmead at the weekend when they needed just five runs from five balls to beat the Cape Cobras, Qaasim Adams’ scintillating 68 off 36 balls and David Wiese’s 24 not out off seven balls taking them to the brink of a testing target of 170.

But Wiese, having just launched the first ball of Kieron Pollard’s final over for six, then holed out to long-on off the second delivery and Sammy failed to make contact with the next two balls before also being caught at long-on. Roelof van der Merwe then played and missed at the last ball of the match and Pollard had bowled the Cobras to a sensational victory.

“It’s the culmination of those four games prior to the Durban game and to then get so close, it’s hugely disappointing to slip up,” Walter told The Citizen at SuperSport Park yesterday. “What I really like about Darren is that he has a massive sense of personal responsibility for the performance. He’s unhappy that the other West Indians are performing for their teams and he hasn’t. I don’t doubt that he’s giving his best, he really cares, and that’s what’s most important.”

If Wiese could have just hit the final-over low full toss he received from Pollard for six like the previous ball or even along the ground, then the Titans would probably have won the game, but Walter said it was important not to forget how the all-rounder’s heroics had dragged them back into the game in the first place.

“David has had a real impact since coming back from Australia, with the ball in the first match and now with the bat. He almost got us there against the Cobras and in an ideal world he would have hit a full toss for six – and in terms of his future development he must win games like that – but we mustn’t overlook the good stuff from him before that,” the coach said.

The Titans have two games this week –  against the Highveld Lions in Benoni on Friday night and versus the Warriors at SuperSport Park on Sunday afternoon – and Walter said there would not be wholesale changes, although a couple of fresh faces could get a chance to show what they can do now that the pressure of qualifying for the playoffs is gone. The coach is likely to leave Theunis de Bruyn at the top of the order to utilise the powerplay better with his natural strokeplay and Dean Elgar at three to rotate the strike after six overs.

The big positive from the Durban defeat was Adams hitting top form when the game looked lost for the Titans, the 30-year-old left-hander hitting four fours and five sixes as he hammered the Titans back into contention.

“It was great to see the different options Q had – he hit over the covers off the back foot, double-stepped to hit over the covers, hit over long-on and long-off and paddled the ball. It was nice to see that freedom of expression, it highlighted what he’s capable of. It’s also hopefully shown him that he can make a play when we’re in massive trouble, that he can go beyond a small 20 or 30,” Walter said.

The coach said he was also delighted with the good bowling produced by spinners Tabraiz Shamsi and Roelof van der Merwe.

“We’re trying our best to take the emotion out of the results, to look non-emotionally at the stats, the areas that were good and the areas that need more work. If you’re emotional then you overlook the good stuff purely because we lost, but we were one hit away from winning the game,” Walter pointed out.


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