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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?

 

Hurricanes have fingers & thumbs everywhere, but Bulls pay dearly for one stray hand 0

Posted on August 24, 2015 by Ken

 

The Hurricanes got away with their fingers and thumbs being in all the wrong places in the rucks, while the Bulls paid dearly for one hand allegedly sliding ever-so-slightly out of play as they went down 17-13 to the Wellington-based side in their Vodacom SuperRugby match at Loftus Versfeld on Friday night.

Replacement lock Grant Hattingh had slid over in the left-hand corner in the 77th minute for a ‘try’ that would have put the Bulls 18-17 up with the conversion to come, but Australian referee Andrew Lees, who gave a sub-standard performance throughout, referred the decision upstairs.

South African TMO Johan Greeff, famous for messing up high-profile television replays in the past, ruled that Hattingh’s hand had brushed the touchline before dotting down the ball, although the evidence certainly didn’t confirm this.

But even though the Bulls did not get the rub of the green when it came to decisions by the officials, this was a game they did not deserve to win. Everyone was really expecting them to up their game after last weekend’s shock defeat at the hands of the Stormers, but if anything they were worse against a disappointing Hurricanes team.

The Bulls had enough possession and territory to put the Hurricanes away, but they invariably messed up on attack through poor handling, a lack of protection for the ball at the ruck, or just plain bad decision-making.

The signs were not good for the Bulls from the outset as they spent the opening minutes in the Hurricanes half but had nothing to show for it as they kept turning over possession.

The 11 774 spectators started to get restless as the Hurricanes then picked up two penalties (6-0) by flyhalf Beauden Barrett when they visited Bulls territory, but it was Handre Pollard, the home side’s most potent attacking threat, who snatched a 10-6 lead with nine minutes left in the first half.

The flyhalf first of all slotted a brilliant penalty from the halfway line and then knifed through for a try, which he converted, after the Bulls looked set to waste the strong counter-attacking runs made by fullback Jesse Kriel and flank Lappies Labuschagne.

Beauden Barrett did pull a penalty back (9-10) just before the break as the Bulls scrum disintegrated on Morne Mellet’s loosehead side twice in succession.

The Bulls’ scrum did get better in the final quarter when Dean Greyling and Callie Visagie came on, but the lack of set-piece momentum, a couple of crucial lineouts also going astray, certainly hurt the home side.

Barrett regained the lead (12-10) for the Hurricanes with a 47th-minute penalty before it was Pollard’s turn three minutes later to slot a penalty and put the Bulls 13-12 up.

The decisive moment as far as the visitors were concerned came in the 67th minute as the Bulls messed up their own lineout throw deep in their own half and a period of sustained pressure saw the Hurricanes awarded a penalty.

Wing Julian Savea had only popped up sporadically up till then, but he took a quick tap penalty and Victor Matfield, Piet van Zyl and Bjorn Basson were not up to the task of stopping the powerful All Black from scoring the match-winning try.

The Bulls swarmed back on to attack but their failure to protect their ball at the breakdown hindered their efforts to break through. Eventually there was enough space on the outside for Hattingh to dive over, but TMO Greeff ruled he had slid his hand on to the touchline at the same time or before he dotted down the ball.

At a ruck shortly thereafter, inside the Hurricanes half, replacement scrumhalf Rudi Paige was blatantly pulled into the melee but referee Lees gave the penalty to the Hurricanes instead.

It’s the sort of bad luck the Bulls are having at the moment, but the bottom line is that they are not playing well enough to win.

 

 

 

 



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