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Ken Borland

Cricket is a strange game but Kingsmead was just stupid 0

Posted on August 29, 2016 by Ken


Cricket is, in many ways, a strange game but there is nothing as infuriating than play not taking place when blue skies and bright sunshine are overhead. That was the case in Durban last weekend as the first Test between South Africa and New Zealand was allowed to just die with only 99.4 overs being bowled in the match.

As an endangered species, Test cricket needs to be given utmost support and attention and I firmly believe that where there is a will, there is a way.

Notwithstanding the foolishness of Cricket South Africa digging up the Kingsmead outfield in order to soften it two weeks later than they should have, meaning it struggled to cope with unseasonal heavy rain in Durban, the villains of the peace for me were English umpires Ian Gould and Richard Illingworth, who showed little interest in actually getting play underway, so fixated were they on a few damp patches on the outfield.

The umpires are the final arbiters of what is fair and safe in terms of conditions, but lines have to be drawn somewhere. Both teams were eager to play – in fact the Proteas were gathered on the side of the field shortly after play was finally abandoned on the fifth day eager to have a run-around and get some fitness in, but they were prevented from going on to the field because that would have made the umpires look bad.

I am certain that if it had been an ODI or a T20 match with similar soft areas of outfield, a plan would have been made and the umpires would have done everything in their power to get a game underway.

As usual, the accountability has been shifted to Kingsmead, who never wanted the outfield to be dug up in the first place. The International Cricket Council, as usual, passed the buck. There was absolutely no communication from the match referee, Andy Pycroft, to explain why play was not possible, and he declined to speak to the media. What’s the point of having a match referee if that is their attitude?

To make matter worse, the umpires were so apathetic when it came to making an effort that they actually banned the groundstaff from the field when groundsman Wilson Ngobese and his staff wanted to proceed with mopping up operations, saying they preferred to allow natural processes like sun and wind to run their course.

Week in and week out rugby players are busy making crunching tackles and sidestepping such collisions in often wet conditions, but how often do one of them turn an ankle? With both teams happy to play, the only conclusion is that Gould and Illingworth were being overly precious.

The future of Test cricket may not bother them or Pycroft, but what happened at Kingsmead under their watch was a fiasco and just another small nail in the coffin of the original format of the game.

Proteas captain Faf du Plessis spoke earnestly on Friday about how, for them, Test cricket was still the ultimate and it needed better treatment from the ICC.

“Test cricket is still number one for the players and a Test Championship is a step in the right direction. You ask any of the international players and they will tell you that Test cricket is still the best thing to play and we need to play as many Tests as possible.

“You want to be able to say you’ve given everything on the field and that feeling of winning a Test can’t be copied, especially not by T20. I hope the ICC is looking at that,” Du Plessis said.

Sadly, the ICC are more interested in red tape and bureaucracy, and are way more likely to jump up and down about over-rates, sponsors’ logos being too big or a player saying something even mildly controversial in a press conference.

As usual, the administrators seem to think cricket fans are more interested in what they are up to than in the actual game they are meant to be serving.

50 minutes enough for Steyn to destroy West Indies 0

Posted on March 03, 2015 by Ken

There were only 50 minutes of action for a decent Saturday crowd at SuperSport Park but it was highly pleasing fare for them as home-grown hero Dale Steyn destroyed the West Indies, bowling South Africa to victory by a massive innings and 220 runs, their second biggest win by an innings, in the first Test at Centurion.

Only their triumph over Sri Lanka at Newlands in the 2001 New Year’s Test, by an innings and 229 runs, has been bigger.

The West Indies batsmen resumed on 76-2 but were powerless to keep a rampant Steyn in check, the fast bowler taking six for 34 as the tourists were bundled out for 131, Kemar Roach again being unable to bat due to his ankle injury.

Steyn’s availability after bowling just five balls in the follow-on innings on Friday was a massive bonus for the injury-hit South Africans and even the most one-eyed West Indian supporter could not help but be impressed by a ferocious spell of fast bowling.

Leon Johnson and Marlon Samuels added 11 to the overnight score before the left-handed Johnson (39) tried to play a short delivery from Steyn just outside off stump. It was unnecessary, the ball got big on him and he could not get over it, edging a regulation catch to wicketkeeper AB de Villiers.

Given Shivnarine Chanderpaul’s recent form – 270 runs in his last three innings without being dismissed – his displays in this Test have been an anomaly: 21 in the first innings and then just 4 on Saturday before a Steyn bouncer was beautifully straight and did not get up as much as the 40-year-old expected, the left-hander gloving a simple catch to De Villiers.

By now Steyn was as lethal as a basilisk, all fiery glances and poetry in motion as he hit the popping crease. Samuels (17) and Denesh Ramdin (4) were dismissed within three balls in his fifth over of the morning, the former undone by a clever cutter that gripped and bounced more than expected, and the West Indies captain dismissed in more conventional fashion, prodding from the crease at an away-swinger, De Villiers leaping nimbly to take a spectacular one-handed catch in front of slip.

The West Indies were 105 for six and their effete tail was no match for the brilliance of Steyn.

The last specialist batsman, Jermaine Blackwood, lasted for 17 balls in scoring 15 before a well-directed Morkel lifter at the body had him caught  at short-leg, replacement fielder Temba Bavuma snatching up a sharp catch.

Three overs later, it was all over, Steyn having enacted a heavy toll on the West Indies to make up for his wicket-less first innings and claiming his best figures at the ground he called home for so many years.

SA dig deep to remain in control 0

Posted on March 03, 2015 by Ken

South Africa had to dig deep into their stores of reserve players and patience, but they still ended the third day of the first Sunfoil Test against the West Indies in firm control at SuperSport Park in Centurion on Friday.

Having ended the West Indies first innings on 201 shortly after tea, they had reduced the tourists to 76 for two in their follow-on by stumps, still trailing by 275 runs.

South Africa captain Hashim Amla may be rueing his decision to enforce the follow-on, however, given the spate of injuries that left him with four substitute fielders and only two pace bowlers.

The hosts began the day two down with Faf du Plessis taken to hospital to have abdominal pains and fever looked at – a conclusive diagnosis is yet to be made according to Dr Mohammed Moosajee, the team manager – and Quinton de Kock rolling his ankle in the warm-up.

Dale Steyn then bowled five balls in the West Indies second innings before leaving the field with “tightness in the groin” and when Vernon Philander exited with a troublesome hamstring, Northerns cricketer Sean Phillips had to come on and join Temba Bavuma and Robin Peterson, with Tshwane University of Technology star Danie Rossouw following on to the big stage soon afterwards. Bowling coach Allan Donald had his whites on for much of the day but unfortunately for the festive crowd, didn’t make an appearance on the field.

“It’s been a challenging day. The guys haven’t played Test cricket for four months and the outfield is unusually thick because of all the rain,” Moosajee explained.

Stiaan van Zyl, who made a memorable debut with the bat, may never bowl as many as 10 overs again in his Test career, doing a tidy job with some medium-pace swing.

Philander bowled three maidens up front before going off, claiming the wicket of Devon Smith for five. The South Africans had initially appealed for lbw, but Smith was given out caught as umpire Aleem Dar spotted a little inside-edge on to the pad and Bavuma was alert at point, rushing in to take the catch.

Kraigg Braithwaite (20) fell just over an hour later, edging a drive at Morne Morkel to second slip where, although Alviro Petersen was not able to take the catch cleanly, he completed a spectacular dismissal by snapping up the rebound inches from the ground as he tumbled over.

South Africa were not able to make any further breakthroughs before stumps as Leon Johnson (33*) and Marlon Samuels (13*) dug in against part-timers Van Zyl and Dean Elgar.

There was no lack of application from the top-order in the West Indies first innings, with the top four all getting past 30, but not being able to push on.

“It was very frustrating for the first four to all get 30s but nobody carried on. It’s something we need to sort out in the second innings. If you’re there for a period of time and you get in and then get yourself out, then it points to a mental lapse,” Johnson admitted.

Some credit, however, must go to the South African bowlers, especially Philander, who finished with four for 29 in 15 excellent overs. His stock delivery seemed to be the one pitching on off stump and darting off the seam, making him extremely difficult to play.

“The pitch is quite slow, so you have to be tight with your lines and lengths. It’s about game plans and staying patient,” Philander said.

Morkel bowled some typically fearsome deliveries on his way to three for 55 in 15.2 overs and his dismissal of Marlon Samuels, jagging a delivery back from around the wicket to bowl him off the inside-edge for 33 was particularly impressive.

There was some controversy as well with Smith (35) and Jermaine Blackwood (12) both falling to contentious decisions by TV umpire Paul Reiffel.

There was definitely some doubt – whatever flimsy spike Snicko showed – that Smith had edged his pull at Philander in the 22nd over and on-field umpire Billy Bowden’s decision should never have been overturned. It was a crucial moment as openers Smith and Braithwaite (34) had drawn the teeth of the fearsome South African pace attack in an opening stand of 72.

Blackwood fell to what turned out to be the catch of the day by Petersen, who dived forward in front of first slip Amla to claim a dipping edge after the batsman had played with soft hands at yet another Philander off-stump special.

Even with the usual problems of camera foreshortening, there seemed a hint of the ball touching the ground just before Petersen could get his fingers underneath it, but the history of Reiffel shooting down West Indians continued.

The ball of the day was Philander’s dismissal of Shivnarine Chanderpaul, the rock of the West Indian batting.

The left-hander had been in for 89 minutes, scoring 21 when he pushed forward to a delivery that pitched on off stump and then moved away, the safe hands of Petersen diving low at second slip ensuring the edge was punished.

The up-and-down nature of the fourth-day pitch and the prospect of a revitalized, rested South African attack means the prospects of the West Indians taking this Test into the final day are obviously not good.

Stumbling West Indies face uphill struggle to avoid follow-on 0

Posted on March 02, 2015 by Ken

The West Indies were facing an uphill struggle trying to chase down the follow-on mark as they stumbled to tea on 184 for six on the third day of the first Sunfoil Test against South Africa at SuperSport Park in Centurion on Friday.

With South Africa having declared their first innings on 552 for five, the West Indies need 353 to avoid the follow-on, but it was a frustrating day for them as all six dismissed batsmen made it into double-figures, with two of them out in controversial fashion

Vernon Philander’s tight off-stump line with movement away was exacting a heavy toll on the West Indies and he had four for 26 including the big wicket of Shivnarine Chanderpaul for 21.

The awkward, slow-scoring left-hander pushed forward to an excellent delivery that pitched on off-stump and moved away, edging a low catch to second slip, where Alviro Petersen made a good diving take.

The ball was really talking for Philander and four overs later he drew an edge from Jermaine Blackwood (12) that, despite the batsman’s soft hands, just about made it to Petersen diving forward at second slip. It was a superb take, but television replays suggested the batsman should have been given the benefit of the doubt.

Morne Morkel, meanwhile, had given Marlon Samuels a rough, bareback ride in the previous spell from the Hennops River End, but the batsman mounted a spirited defence, surviving for two hours as he scored 33.

Morkel was targeting the body from around the wicket and eventually a delivery jagged back and dribbled off the inside edge into the stumps, ending a 45-run stand with Chanderpaul.

Leon Johnson also made a start, reaching 31 before he was dismissed in soft fashion, driving Kyle Abbott to cover in the third over after lunch.

An opening stand of 72 had nicely teed up the West Indies’ reply before both openers were dismissed and they reached lunch on 110 for two.

Kraigg Braithwaite (34) and Devon Smith (35) were the batsmen who defied the much-vaunted South African pace attack for 21.4 overs in cloudy conditions and it took an extraordinary decision by TV umpire Paul Reiffel for the breakthrough to come.

Philander had just returned for his second spell when Smith tried to pull a shortish delivery and wicketkeeper AB de Villiers, standing in for Quinton de Kock who rolled an ankle in the warm-up, tumbled to his left to make the take. Faf du Plessis was also off the field due to abdominal cramps.

On-field umpire Billy Bowden turned down the caught-behind appeal that came mostly from Philander and South Africa decided to refer the decision.

Reiffel decided that a flimsy scratch on Snicko could be pinned down to when the ball passed the bat and overturned Bowden’s decision, which left most people watching the replays utterly bemused and the West Indians less than happy.

Braithwaite was then nailed by Philander in his next over, the accurate paceman getting a delivery to nip away, a firm push sending the ball low and to the right of Hashim Amla at first slip, the captain claiming a good catch.

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