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Ken Borland

Relax people, Hashim Amla is back to his best 0

Posted on May 15, 2017 by Ken


Proteas batting coach Neil McKenzie said on Monday that people were justified in feeling some concern over Hashim Amla’s batting form, but that they can all relax now because the Bearded Wonder has shown he is back to his best with two centuries in the Indian Premier League.

Amla slammed an aggressive 104 off just 60 balls for the Punjab Kings XI against the Gujarat Lions at the weekend, having two weeks earlier made the same score off the same number of deliveries in an unbeaten knock against the Mumbai Indians. Amazingly, Amla ended on the losing side in both games, the first player to suffer this fate twice in IPL history, while he is only the third batsman after Chris Gayle (2011) and Virat Kohli (3 in 2016) to score multiple centuries in an IPL season.

“Hashim’s form had dipped, he was only averaging 30 in ODIs and Tests over the last 18 months, his form was a little erratic and people aren’t used to that. But you can’t keep a player of his quality down for long. He sets such high standards for himself but this happens in cricket and his returns have not been what he would have expected and it went on for longer than he would have liked. But to score two hundreds in an IPL season is a serious feat,” McKenzie told The Citizen on Monday.

The Highveld Lions and Proteas stalwart disputed the theory that Amla’s dip in form had anything to do with any weakening of the eyes, but put it down to slight changes in the batsman’s approach.

“I don’t buy that business about the eyes going, Hashim’s only 34. But if you look at how he’s been working on being ultra-positive, his power-hitting and the areas he’s hitting the ball, then it’s like a golfer who changes his swing: you sometimes need to go through that little dip, you just need time to work it all out.

“There hasn’t been any drastic change in Hashim’s batting and it’s just a matter of finding the right balance. In 20/20 cricket he’s looking to play some shots, to take it on, and it’s freed him up. Previously he’s just batted normally and he’s been really good for us in 50-over cricket as our banker, batting aggressively but playing his own game and taking us through 30 or 40 overs. That’s worked well and when he scores hundreds for the Proteas, we normally win,” McKenzie, who was still scoring plenty of first-class runs in his 40s, said.

Most pleasingly, it means Amla will now take great form into the Champions Trophy, which starts in England on June 1.

“He’ll be really happy to be taking runs into the Champions Trophy and you want your huge players like him going into tournaments with a lot of confidence, and it gives the team confidence as well. We have a lot of matchwinners and we just need one or two of them to find some serious form. We know we’ve got the players, and now it’s just a matter of timing, form and some luck,” McKenzie said.




We are a nation prone to hysteria 0

Posted on January 09, 2016 by Ken


The last couple of weeks in social media have shown that we really are a nation prone to hysteria and thoroughly unreasonable presumptions. And I’m not referring to Penny Sparrow or Velaphi Khumalo, both of whose outrageous comments have been met with the storm of disgust they deserve.

Instead, it is the treatment of the South African cricket team, and especially players like Hashim Amla and Temba Bavuma, that has irritated me immensely.

We have a tendency in this country to criticise and call for this person or that person to “Fall”, never considering context, whether there is someone capable of replacing the subject of our derision, or the many great things the person may have done in the recent past.

South African cricket fans can count themselves blessed beyond measure that they have a person like Hashim Amla representing them: a truly great batsman respected worldwide and a person of tremendous fortitude, integrity and decency, a colossal figure in uniting the dressingroom.

But a bad year, capped by a poor performance in Durban in the Boxing Day Test, and Amla was being crucified, so-called Proteas supporters spewing vitriol at one of this country’s finest men. I was not surprised when he decided to relinquish the captaincy; having taken it on reluctantly, doing it out of a noble sense of duty, the hysteric reaction to his mistakes and the struggles of the team would have hurt and almost certainly contributed to his feeling that someone else could do the job better.

I can remember when Graeme Smith – South Africa’s most successful Test leader – started the captaincy: He made mistakes too, but he was given time to grow into the position and learn from those errors. Of course, Smith fitted the public perception that a captain should be square-jawed and vocal, leading from the front; but some great leaders lead by example and are more cerebral, in the mould of Mike Brearley, who turned England cricket around.

AB de Villiers can certainly do the job, but does he have the desire to play in every Test (as the captain must) for the next five years, plus handle the onerous off-field duties of the skipper, having already complained about his workload?

Amla revealed his feeling in his post-match press conference that he was doubted due to his skin colour and despite his domestic figures suggesting he was eminently qualified for the step up. The treatment of Bavuma these last couple of weeks shows that Amla has a point and that old prejudices still run deep.

Bavuma is but at the start of his international career and yet was written off by many critics, few of whom have paid any attention to domestic cricket, where the 25-year-old has consistently been amongst the leading run-scorers in the Sunfoil Series. Bavuma had batted seven times in Tests before his breakthrough, superb century at Newlands, scoring one half-century but showing enough mental grit and adaptability, especially in India, to suggest he could prosper.

Jacques Kallis took eight innings to get past 50 for the first time and made his first century in his 10th knock.

I have the unmistakeable feeling, as one person suggested on social media, that being a player of colour in the national team brings with it an automatic tainting, an attitude that quotas have earned them the place, that they are mediocre until they prove otherwise several times.

Apart from the continued and inexplicable absence of Stephen Cook as a specialist opener, the current players in the South African squad are the best available in the country. The domestic figures show that and perhaps the critics should study the game at all levels and ditch the prejudices of the past.

In the meantime, we should all savour the magnificent comeback by the Proteas in Cape Town, a sure sign that the spirit and fight remains and the leadership within the squad is still sound.



Amla calm, but SA have scary moments in the field 0

Posted on August 20, 2015 by Ken


A typically calm Hashim Amla century set them on their way, but South Africa had to overcome some scary moments in the field before eventually beating New Zealand by 20 runs in the first Momentum One-day International at SuperSport Park in Centurion on Wednesday.

For those looking for deliverance from the demons of the World Cup semi-final in Auckland five months ago, this time the Proteas held their nerve to close out the game, despite some spirited lower-order batting by New Zealand.

Amla continued his personal love affair with SuperSport Park as his third ODI century in 10 innings at the ground took South Africa to 304 for seven in their 50 overs.

Amla, who has also scored four Test centuries at SuperSport Park and averages 85 in the long format there, batted through to the end of the 45th over in stroking a marvellous 124 off 126 balls and ending a lean run in which he had not scored a half-century in seven innings.

South Africa are amongst the leaders in world cricket when it comes to using the new ball in limited-overs cricket and so the Black Caps, with regular opener Martin Guptill pushed down the order after he injured his hand in the field late in the Proteas’ innings, were understandably cautious up front.

In the temporary absence of Guptill, wicketkeeper Luke Ronchi (1) was pushed up the order but was dropped third ball at second slip before edging the last delivery of the first over low to Amla at slip. It was a sensational opening over by Dale Steyn, with Tom Latham being dropped first ball by Farhaan Behardien at square-leg, a tough chance diving low to his left.

Steyn was then seen off by Latham and captain Kane Williamson and, with Vernon Philander typically tight up front as well, the New Zealand innings was off to a slow start.

But Latham was composed and Williamson was all class, identifying the times to attack extremely well, and the fifty partnership was raised off 77 balls.

The arrival of ODI debutant David Wiese as the fifth bowler was identified as the time to step up the pace and the next 50 runs took less than seven overs to post.

The hundred partnership was up off 117 balls, but it was the guile of leg-spinner Imran Tahir that was causing the New Zealand batsmen the most trouble and he removed Williamson for 47 when the Black Caps captain tried to clear the infield but instead picked out substitute Dean Elgar, who was positioned between extra cover and a deep mid-off.

Guptill, coming in at number four, caused some flutters in crashing 25 off 23 balls before Wiese removed him and South Africa looked well in control when Philander dismissed Grant Elliott (4), caught at a well-placed slip, and Latham, trapped lbw for a determined 60 off 80 balls, in the 30th over.

New Zealand were 158 for five, needing to practically double their score in the next 20 overs, but South Africa were placed under pressure again as Jimmy Neesham and Colin Munro slammed 71 off 68 balls for the sixth wicket.

The visitors needed 79 to win in the last 10 overs and Proteas fans were clearly worried that victory would once again be stolen from them.

But AB de Villiers backed Wiese to return and a well-directed bouncer had Neesham caught behind for a run-a-ball 41, with Munro falling three overs later for 33, also at a run-a-ball, playing an ugly reverse-heave at Tahir at the start of the 44th over.

New Zealand still needed 61 runs from 37 balls, but the remaining overs were punctuated with boundaries as the Kiwis came within a sniff of a chance.

Steyn ended McClenaghan’s fun with a fast, full and straight delivery that broke the off-stump in two, before Philander ended the match with a run out thanks to some slick work at deep mid-off.

Tahir was the best of the South African bowlers, ending with brilliant figures of two for 40 in 10 overs, while Philander was also consistent, finishing with two for 51.

Kagiso Rabada struggled with bouts of waywardness and extras, finishing with one for 49 in 9.1 overs, while the radar of Wiese was off on Wednesday night, although the all-rounder did claim the vital wickets of Guptill and Neesham.

An obvious lack of intensity in the field was what captain De Villiers was most concerned with, but the batting of Amla and Rilee Rossouw made up for that.

With the experienced Morne van Wyk opening the batting with him and lasting until the ninth over as 46 were added for the first wicket, Amla seemed better able to focus on his own batting and go at his own, measured pace.

New Zealand had won the toss and elected to bowl first and both Amla and Van Wyk were troubled early on by the pace and bounce obtained by Adam Milne and McClenaghan. But they picked their shots well and were just beginning to up the pace when the left-armer McClenaghan switched to around the wicket and immediately had Van Wyk (16) caught off the shoulder of the bat in the gully.

Once the new ball lost its shine, however, the pace of the pitch quickly disappeared, and Rossouw had to deal not only with Milne, who was a handful throughout, but also the sudden change of pace when the medium-pacers and spinners came on with the softer ball.

Rossouw endured a torrid start, scoring just 14 runs from his first 36 deliveries, but he and Amla had several conversations and wisely decided wickets in hand were more important than the run-rate at that stage.

The stand between them grew to a record 185 off 203 balls, South Africa’s best for the second wicket against New Zealand, beating the 172 Gary Kirsten and Jacques Kallis added in Kimberley in 2000/01.

Once settled, Rossouw was able to speed up, bludgeoning six fours and three sixes as he scored 89 off 112 balls, while Amla switched between accumulation and all-out attack with superb judgement. He was particularly impressive against the spinners, using his feet well and invariably placing his strokes between the fielders.

Rossouw was beaten by a superb McClenaghan yorker, into the base of leg-stump and breaking it, in the 42nd over, and Milne then returned to snap up two wickets in the 45th over – the vital scalps of Amla and De Villiers (9).

Amla was also bowled by a magnificent yorker, while De Villiers pulled a short ball straight to cow-corner.

The double strike took away some momentum from the South African innings, but Wiese hit two sixes off McClenaghan at the start of the final over to get the home side over the 300 mark.

McClenaghan then started bowling short and just one more run was added before the innings ended with two run outs.

Fast bowler Milne was the best of the New Zealand bowlers with two for 51 in 10 overs.


Amla & Rossouw overwhelm West Indies 0

Posted on April 30, 2015 by Ken

An overwhelming batting display – Hashim Amla and Rilee Rossouw blazing their way to centuries – carried South Africa to a comfortable 131-run victory over the West Indies in the fifth and final Momentum One-Day International at SuperSport Park in Centurion on Wednesday night.

With Amla and Rossouw slamming a record 247 runs for the third wicket off just 181 balls, South Africa charging to 361 for five after bad weather delayed the start of play by two-and-a-half hours and reduced the match to 42 overs per side, the hosts were always in control and they duly bowled the West Indies out for 230 in 37.4 overs.

Their batsmen having once again produced the goods, South Africa’s second-string bowling attack were eager to please but, Wayne Parnell apart, they showed that the Proteas cannot be complacent in the field when they get to the World Cup.

Kyle Abbott managed to dismiss dangerman Chris Gayle with the first ball of the innings, the left-hander only getting a thin edge as he flashed at an ill-directed opener short and well wide of off stump. The Proteas had to get the dismissal on review as umpire Sundaram Ravi called the delivery wide.

Abbott continued to spray the ball about, and although he claimed a second wicket with a full, straight delivery that bowled Marlon Samuels for 50, he persisted with banging the ball in halfway down the pitch and went for 59 runs in seven overs to finish a disappointing series for him.

Narsingh Deonarine (43) and Dwayne Smith (31) added 77 at a run-a-ball for the second wicket to repair the early damage, but Aaron Phangiso fooled Smith with the arm-ball to trap him lbw and Deonarine failed to get back in time as Samuels turned down a quick single and was run out in the left-arm spinner’s next over.

Samuels went on to score a quickfire half-century before being castled by what replays suggested was an Abbott no-ball, while Denesh Ramdin made a run-a-ball 40 before being undone by a sharp lifter from Parnell, gloving a catch to square-leg, where Amla moved smartly and dived to take a fine catch.

Parnell would be the best of the South African bowlers by some margin, taking four for 42 in nine overs, while fast bowler Marchant de Lange, who will not be going to the World Cup, enjoyed standing in for Vernon Philander (slight groin strain) and took one for 34 in eight tidy overs.

Although the West Indies’ batsmen never threatened to win the match, South Africa’s bowling was not precise enough for them to be happy with their performance in the field. Even Parnell tended to stick to back-of-a-length deliveries, which will be fodder for better batting line-ups at the World Cup.

Rossouw proved his credentials with the World Cup just around the corner as he lashed a great century, helping himself to a career-best 132 off just 98 balls, with nine fours and eight sixes, and Amla cruised to yet another century, scoring a fine 133 off 105 deliveries.

Rossouw and Amla added 247 for the third wicket off just 181 balls, a record third-wicket partnership for South Africa and equalling their own mark for the best stand for any wicket that they set in the second ODI at the Wanderers.

It was another top-class batting display by the South Africans, even with big gun AB de Villiers having a rest, as they laid a solid platform on a tricky pitch and then launched a spectacular late onslaught.

A couple of wickets had fallen in the first 10 overs as Quinton de Kock (4) and Faf du Plessis (16) fell to horizontal-bat strokes on a pitch that provided enough awkward bounce to make those shots difficult.

Amla once again looked in a class apart as he reached a 49-ball half-century in the 21st over, midway through the innings with South Africa on 109 for two, while Rossouw, who has endured a troubled ODI career thus far, struggled through to his 50 off 60 balls.

But those early miscues all seemed a lifetime ago as Rossouw then blossomed in spectacular fashion, needing just 23 more deliveries to register his second century of the series.

The left-hander raced past Amla and looked every bit a power-hitter as he smashed 82 runs off his last 38 balls.

Amla just kept on amassing runs as he has all series, except in this innings he was able to do it in half-dozens at a time, clearing the boundary six times to go with his 11 fours, showing that even a great batsman like him has had room to improve his game.

The West Indies were bleeding runs horrifically as the sun shone brightest on its way to the western horizon, bathing SuperSport Park in a sepia light befitting a display that was one for the ages.

The last 147 runs of the Amla and Rossouw partnership came off just 69 balls … and that by two batsmen who are not renowned for being big boundary-hitters.

Finishers David Miller (23 off 9) and JP Duminy (18* off 7) were left with only a handful of overs to bat but they collected their share of boundaries as 87 runs were hammered in the last five overs.

With the bounce providing something for the bowlers to work with – which the West Indians failed to do – South Africa’s total was certainly well over par.

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