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Ken Borland



Good times to be a gambler 0

Posted on February 14, 2016 by Ken

 

Judging by South Africa’s performance in the World Cup quarterfinal against Sri Lanka this week, these are good times to be a gambler and, seeing as though I am at Sun City for the Chase to the Investec Cup final, I’m going to put R1000 each on three, four and eight at the roulette table tonight, in honour of JP Duminy’s three wickets in three balls, which meant the Proteas got away with only having four specialist bowlers, and Quinton de Kock coming good after previously averaging just eight in the tournament.

Okay, the bit about me gambling tonight is a joke because times are still tough for journos and instead I may treat myself to a lager and ponder over how good it felt to get my predictions for the quarterfinal against Sri Lanka so utterly wrong.

Coach Russell Domingo has never struck me as the gambling type, although he does have a profound love for figures, which is not to say he’s not willing to make tough decisions. He’s done that before and was even willing to leave the great Jacques Kallis out of limited-overs teams when he didn’t fit into the game-plan.

But as far as gambles go, taking on the strong Sri Lankan batting line-up on a flat Sydney Cricket Ground pitch with Duminy as the fifth bowler and AB de Villiers as the back-up ranks up there with the biggest in World Cup history, and, were it not for the brilliance of the pace bowlers and Imran Tahir in taking early wickets, it was a move that could have gone stupidly wrong.

But it worked, as did the faith shown in De Kock. As the confidence seeped back into the young left-hander, emboldened by the support of his management and team-mates, his talent and class was plain to see.

You would rightly expect South Africa to keep the same XI for Tuesday’s semi-final against the winner of today’s match between New Zealand and the West Indies, which means the pressure will once again be on the bowlers to reach the same heights they did in Sydney.

Apart from the pleasure of watching such a complete performance and celebrating South Africa’s first win in a World Cup knockout game, I really liked the send-off given to Kumar Sangakkara and Mahela Jayawardene.

Those two great batsmen have given South African bowlers a terrible time over the years but their strength of character, charm and integrity means they will be remembered as so much more than just prolific employees of Sri Lanka Cricket.

In my opinion, Sangakkara is one of the greatest batsmen to have played the game, in the same exalted realms of excellence as Sachin Tendulkar, Ricky Ponting, Brian Lara and Kallis.

The Proteas obviously hold him and Jayawardene in similarly high esteem judging by the genuine warmth they showed in farewelling them, and Sangakkara’s response when asked how he would like to be remembered speaks to the very essence of sport:

“If anyone can say they’ve enjoyed playing against me and playing with me, I’ll be more than happy.”

Cricket South Africa sent out a special tribute statement when Tendulkar retired; Sangakkara is surely deserving of the same honour?

 

Proteas’ formula for success may come under threat 0

Posted on February 18, 2015 by Ken

Each highly successful Test team through the ages has had their specific formula for success  – think the West Indies and their fast bowlers or Australia and their aggressive batsmen setting the platform for Warne and McGrath to wheel away – and the current Proteas have always insisted that playing seven specialist batsmen has been a key factor in their climb to number one in the rankings.

But that philosophy may came under threat at SuperSport Park today when the first Test against the West Indies gets underway.

That’s largely due to the absence of the injured JP Duminy, which affects the balance of the Test side almost as much as the ODI outfit. An all-pace attack and seven specialist batsmen has been possible with Duminy there to bowl his tidy off-spin, but without him the options are either to have three pacemen and Robin Peterson, four quicks and no spinner save for Dean Elgar, or to go in with six specialist batsmen and play both the extra fast bowler and Peterson.

Although the seamers do traditionally bowl the bulk of the overs in Centurion, there have been occasions in the last five years when South Africa have relied heavily on spin – in both innings against Australia last season (22 and 31% of the overs bowled); in the second innings against India in 2010/11 (23%) and in both innings against England in 2009/10 (38 and 35%).

So there will be a reluctance to go into the Test, despite the rain around Gauteng on Tuesday and however grassy the pitch may be on the first day, without a specialist spinner.

“There might be a cracking blue sky at the game tomorrow so we’re not sure what our combination will be. We’ll see what happens on the day,” was all Hashim Amla, who will captain South Africa for the first time in a home Test, was willing to offer on Tuesday.

AB de Villiers was a bit more forthcoming, however.

“It’s the biggest decision management will have to make,” De Villiers said. “Centurion normally doesn’t turn that much which makes you feel that you can maybe go with that extra seamer, but with the team we are playing against, it might not be a bad idea to play a spinner. I’m pretty sure management will be tempted to play an all-pace attack though.”

For Dale Steyn, an extra batsman was important, despite the extra workload that would place on the stalwart fast bowler.

“It can be a bit sporty on day one, a bit slow, the last time we played here against Australia was crazy because it went up and down, but then in previous Tests it flattened out,” he said. “It was hard work to bowl teams out. Our batsmen were very dominant so it gave us enough time.”

The last time South Africa played the West Indies at SuperSport Park – in January 2004 – the tourists were tenderised by an opening stand of 301 between Graeme Smith and Herschelle Gibbs, followed by a Jacques Kallis century. Makhaya Ntini then took eight wickets in the match as the follow-on was enforced, resulting in a 10-wicket victory. Part-timers Smith and Jacques Rudolph were the Proteas’ spinners, bowling just 19.4 overs in the Test.

Steyn wasn’t quite laughing when he said: “I don’t think it really matters whether we play the spinner or the seamer, I think we’ll still do okay” – but the formbook and history both suggest the West Indies should be outclassed.

They are a formidable limited-overs outfit, but targeting cow-corner doesn’t often work as a strategy in Test cricket and few people will stake a fortune on the West Indies winning. One well-known bookmaker is offering odds of 1/33 that South Africa will win if there is a result in the match.

Even West Indies captain Denesh Ramdin was not sounding hugely confident on Tuesday.

“It’s going to be very challenging, we’re up against the number one team so they must be doing something very good to be on top, plus they’re at home. We need to be more consistent, especially our batting which has not been up to scratch lately. In the field we need to minimise our mistakes, not bowl so many bad balls and make sure our slip catching is up to par. If we perform well against the number one team, we should get credit for that. We will take it one step at a time and do our best,” Ramdin said.

While the West Indies are an inexperienced team with seven of their squad having played less than 10 Tests, South Africa will have just one greenhorn in action.

Stiaan van Zyl has staked his claim for a Test berth with a Sunfoil Series average of 49.57 and Amla admitted there was “a very good chance” of him playing, although he won’t bat at seven.

Let’s hope the silky strokeplay of the left-hander is employed at number six – specialist batsmen need to have the responsibility of batting in the top six – with wicketkeeper Quinton de Kock at seven.

There is speculation, however, that Van Zyl might replace Alviro Petersen at the top of the order, thereby enabling South Africa to play four pacemen and a spinner, with Vernon Philander batting at seven.

Petersen has put himself in the firing line by not exactly scoring a keg-full of runs lately, with just one half-century in his last 10 innings, and he has yet to play any four-day cricket for the Highveld Lions this season.

Squads

South Africa: Alviro Petersen, Dean Elgar, Faf du Plessis, Hashim Amla, AB de Villiers, Stiaan van Zyl, Quinton de Kock, Vernon Philander, Robin Peterson, Dale Steyn, Morne Morkel, Kyle Abbott, Temba Bavuma, Kagiso Rabada.

West Indies: Kraigg Brathwaite, Devon Smith, Leon Johnson, Marlon Samuels, Shivnarine Chanderpaul, Jason Holder, Denesh Ramdin, Jerome Taylor, Kemar Roach, Sheldon Cottrell, Sulieman Benn, Shannon Gabriel, Asad Fudadin, Jermaine Blackwood, Chadwick Walton.

 

Fisher finishes strong for 2-stroke lead 0

Posted on January 10, 2015 by Ken

Ross Fisher and George Coetzee each played the first 15 holes of the Nedbank Golf Challenge without dropping a shot, but it was Englishman Fisher who nailed two successive birdies to claim a two-stroke lead in the first round at Sun City on Thursday.

Fisher, tall and athletic, could be a poster-boy for elegant golf and he produced high-quality iron play and deft putting to move to a brilliant seven-under-par.

Coetzee is more on the burly side but he matched Fisher through 10 holes with five birdies, but thereafter found himself scrambling for pars more than he was putting for birdies.

Brooks Koepka of the United States and Frenchman Alexander Levy will also fancy their chances of finishing high up on the first-round leaderboard as they moved to four-under-par through 14 holes.

South African Charl Schwartzel will be pleased that he has managed to collect five birdies, to offset two bogeys, while struggling with his swing and will be a force to be reckoned with if he continues to improve.

Defending champion Thomas Bjorn raced out of the blocks with a birdie at the first hole, but a double-bogey and two bogeys on the front nine, plus two more dropped shots on the back nine has seen him quickly plummet to the lower reaches of the leaderboard on five-over-par.

Seven golfers were on two-under – veteran Miguel Angel Jimenez, Brooks Koepka, South Africans Tim Clark and Louis Oosthuizen, Jonas Blixt, Marcel Siem and Stephen Gallacher.

Both Coetzee and Fisher relied on precision iron play as they vaulted into the lead around the turn with a pair of birdies on the par-five ninth and 10th holes.

Thailand’s Kiridech Aphibarnrat had provided plenty of entertainment for the Sun City spectators as he claimed an early share of the lead when he played the first five holes in three-under-par, with four birdies and a bogey, but bogeys on the ninth, 14th and 16th holes saw him fall back. Coetzee claimed birdies on the first three holes to provide early cheer for those hoping for a first South African winner of the Nedbank Golf Challenge since Trevor Immelman in 2007.

The opening holes of the European Tour event held few worries for the golfers as Joost Luiten, Dawie van der Walt, Gallacher and Danny Willett all picked up an early brace of birdies.

Van der Walt, in the field by virtue of winning the 2013 Sunshine Tour Order of Merit, made the fastest start of all by birdieing the first hole and then chipping in for eagle on the 520m par-five second, but he could not pick up any more shots on the next three holes, dropping a stroke on the par-three fourth after finding the greenside bunker and then leaving his chip way past the hole. Three successive bogeys from the 15th hole then left him well off the pace.

A disastrous triple-bogey seven at the 11th saw Luiten slump to over-par for his round.

Clark, who teed off in the first group, set the early pace with birdies at the first two holes, but he then lost his way with a bogey at the fifth and a double-bogey at the tricky par-four eighth, before getting back under par with birdies at the 10th and 11th holes. He completed a solid two-under-par 70 with a superb 30-foot putt for birdie from off the green on the last hole.

The conditions at Sun City were close to perfect, a slight breeze helping to offset the heat, and the golfers took advantage with 13 of them under par.

 http://citizen.co.za/286743/fisher-masterclass-at-sun-city/



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