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Ken Borland



Proteas end high up in rankings but hardly inspired in 2017 0

Posted on January 12, 2018 by Ken

 

South Africa ended last year ranked second in Tests and first in one-day internationals in the International Cricket Council rankings, but they were hardly inspired in 2017.

In fact, the Proteas were more like the bully in the schoolyard, bolstering their self-esteem, and rankings, by picking on easy-beats like Sri Lanka, Bangladesh and Zimbabwe at home. But when they were up against the big boys, most notably in the Champions Trophy and in the four-Test series in England, they folded in a heap.

Although they won in New Zealand, the ODIs were tightly-contested and they had good fortune in the Tests, rain washing out the final game when the Black Caps were in an excellent position to level the series.

In terms of individual performances, Hashim Amla and Kagiso Rabada continued to deliver world-class performances on a consistent basis, with the batting of AB de Villiers, Quinton de Kock and Faf du Plessis helping to make the ODI batting unit a dominant force.

Imran Tahir was their best white-ball bowler but it was the Test spinner, Keshav Maharaj, who perhaps made the greatest strides in 2017 and, at the age of 27, he is clearly a future star for the Proteas.

The arrival of Aiden Markram as a technically solid opening partner for Dean Elgar, who was the mainstay of the Test batting with 1128 runs, behind only India’s Cheteshwar Pujara and Aussie maestro Steve Smith in the year’s tally, helped bolster a batting line-up that was exposed in England, especially during De Villiers’ hiatus from Test cricket.

Markram will obviously face far sterner challenges than Bangladesh and Zimbabwe in 2018, but he couldn’t have been expected to do much better than 380 runs in his first four innings, including two centuries.

But that there were more question marks than answers over the Proteas’ performance was borne out by the departure of Russell Domingo as coach before the start of the summer and the arrival of former West Indies head coach and England assistant Ottis Gibson.

After a gentle introduction into the job, his charges feasting on minnows Bangladesh and Zimbabwe, Gibson faces his first real test in the new year as world number ones India arrive.

He will need to keep De Villiers available for Tests just to settle the batting line-up, while the bowlers are certainly there to challenge for the number one ranking, the only problem being keeping them fit and getting the right balance in selection due to the transformation targets.

Most importantly, Gibson will be focused on the creation of a steely edge in the team, and has already created expectation for the 2019 World Cup by declaring that winning that elusive trophy is his goal.

When put under proper pressure by the likes of England, and by Pakistan and India in the Champions Trophy, the old signs of muddled thinking and near-panic were once again there. Gibson will want to make the Proteas a side that plays the big moments well and seizes every opportunity that comes their way.

The South African women’s team provided some of the highlights of the year and captured the imagination of cricket fans back home by narrowly missing out on a place in the Women’s World Cup final, hosts and eventual champions England just sneaking through in a pulsating semi-final.

Players such as Marizanne Kapp, the number one ODI bowler in the world, and Dane van Niekerk became global stars.

 

Inspired batting keeps Titans in first place 0

Posted on December 09, 2016 by Ken

 

An inspired batting performance by the Titans as they posted the highest ever score in CSA T20 Challenge history led them to victory over the Highveld Lions in Centurion on Wednesday night and kept them in first place on the log with one match remaining.

The Titans, led by opener Jonathan Vandiar’s 67 off 41 balls, scored 230 for five in their 20 overs after being sent in to bat, all seven batsmen who came to the crease making a contribution.

It improved on the 225 for six the Eagles, as the Knights were then known, scored against the Lions in Potchefstroom in 2004/5, the first season of domestic T20.

The Lions were in with a shout while Rassie van der Dussen was blazing 45 off 18 balls up front, but Malusi Siboto picked up three wickets in two overs and eventually they could only score 184 for seven in their 20 overs.

David Wiese was outstanding with the ball, taking one for 21 in four overs.

The Warriors produced an incredible batting performance of their own in East London as they chased down 217 with an over to spare to beat the Dolphins thanks to Jon-Jon Smuts’ great innings of 107 not out off just 58 balls.

The Titans, who gained a crucial bonus point, play their last game against the Warriors, who are two points behind them but have a game in hand. That match on Sunday will decide whether the final is held up in Centurion or down in the Eastern Cape.

The Lions are now in danger of losing out on a playoff spot to the Cape Cobras, who replaced them in third place after their bonus point win over the Knights at Newlands, thanks to outstanding all-round games from Kieron Pollard and Wayne Parnell, and a typically hard-hit half-century from Richard Levi.

The Lions just struggled to take wickets against their northern neighbours with Aiden Markram (27 off 23), Heinrich Klaasen (26 off 15), Heino Kuhn (29 off 11), Albie Morkel (32 off 17), Farhaan Behardien (19* off 9) and Wiese (17* off 5) all chipping in around Vandiar.

http://citizen.co.za/sport/sport-cricket/1369321/merciless-titans-batting-foils-highveld-lions/

Crusaders are inspired but no miracle comeback for Cheetahs 0

Posted on June 20, 2016 by Ken

 

Riaan Smit almost nailed a touchline conversion to complete a miraculous Cheetahs comeback against the Brumbies, but that Vodacom SuperRugby qualifying playoff was dwarfed in quality and importance by the inspired performance dished up by the Crusaders in hammering the Reds.

The only team probably celebrating the Cheetahs’ loss in Canberra more than the Brumbies will be the Bulls, because it means they will now host the Australians this weekend in Pretoria, instead of facing the Crusaders, whose current form suggests it would take a miracle to beat them.

They dismantled the Reds, the 2011 champions, 38-9 in Christchurch, scoring four tries to none, with ace flyhalf Dan Carter contributing 20 points.

“We were just outclassed. The Crusaders were exceptional and I am sure they will be very hard to beat in the finals,” Reds scrumhalf Will Genia admitted.

Carter showed that he was back to his best ahead of the Rugby Championship, controlling the Crusaders game plan superbly and constantly probing the Reds defence as he took the ball to the line.

In contrast, much-hyped Reds flyhalf Quade Cooper was anonymous. Although he was impaired by the back-foot ball his forwards gave him, the fancy tricks his fans are so fond of look great but unless they’re produced on the gain-line and actually put other players into space, they are irrelevant. His critics will be able to point to what influence he actually has on the game.

An impressive start to the match saw the Crusaders take the ball through 15 phases and win an early penalty, and the display of precision led to an understandable nervousness amongst the Reds. That led to an abundance of basic errors by the visitors and then to a definite sense of panic.

An amazing exhibition of running lines and support play by the Crusaders – both forwards and backs – then exploited the holes in a retreating, disorganised defence.

The Crusaders pack was like an armoured vehicle ploughing through the Reds, such was their cohesion and the sheer ferocity they brought to the collisions and breakdowns.

The Crusaders also had the security of knowing that the Reds were really struggling to make any inroads against a steely defence that conceded just four line-breaks, allowed just four offloads and had a 92% tackling success rate.

In contrast, the Crusaders enjoyed making 15 line-breaks and 22 offloads.

If the Crusaders were an armoured vehicle, then the Cheetahs and Brumbies looked like milk delivery vans instead.

The Brumbies eventually won a messy, scrappy encounter 15-13 but the game never rose to any great heights.

The Cheetahs, playing in their first SuperRugby knockout game, seemed to freeze in a chilly Canberra and a host of errors meant they did not obtain any attacking momentum until the final quarter, by when they had left it too late.

Dropping the kickoff and then seeing star eighthman Philip van der Walt go down with a knee injury (he stayed on but was clearly hampered by it) and conceding a penalty all in the first minute made for a nervous start for the Cheetahs.

The game was there for the seizing by the Brumbies, but they were also unimpressive, wasting the possession and territorial advantage they had and only managing to score two penalties in the first half, with Christian Lealiifano missing another two shots badly.

There was one bright moment for the Cheetahs, however, with outside centre Johann Sadie crossing for a try after wing Raymond Rhule had burst through in midfield. There had been a forward pass from Willie le Roux in the build-up, but it was still a try of vision and clinical finishing.

There was little else in terms of attacking spark though from the Cheetahs. Scrumhalf Piet van Zyl was having an off-day and flyhalf Riaan Smit was not able to stamp his presence on the game either.

But then the platform given to the half-backs was not great either. The scrum was not the area of dominance for the Cheetahs it was expected to be and the apparent lack of homework done on the Brumbies scrum was disappointing.

Loosehead prop Coenie Oosthuizen was a pale shadow of the man who has buckled tightheads, carried the ball strongly and put in crunching tackles this season and there was no one in the starting line-up able to ignite the Cheetahs on the biggest day of their history as a franchise.

Until Van Zyl, having had no impact for an hour, was eventually replaced by Sarel Pretorius and no sooner had the livewire substitute scrumhalf come on than the Cheetahs suddenly roared into life.

They finally backed themselves with ball in hand and scored their second try when the inspired Pretorius threw a great pass out wide to replacement wing Rayno Benjamin, who knifed over in the corner.

Smit’s conversion attempt from the touchline to send the game into extra time looked a beauty, but it kept swinging until it passed outside the left upright by no more than a foot.

It was an agonising ending to the game for the Cheetahs, but the result was no more than they deserved after producing one of their worst performances of an otherwise wonderful season.

http://www.dailymaverick.co.za/article/2013-07-22-superrugby-what-the-heck-happened-to-the-cheetahs/#.V2fZhvl97IU

Inspired Stokes takes England Lions to series-clinching win 0

Posted on June 26, 2015 by Ken

An inspired innings by Ben Stokes carried the England Lions to a series-clinching 89-run win over South Africa A in their limited-overs match in Mamelodi on Monday.

The England Lions posted a massive 378 for six after being sent in to bat, with Stokes playing an amazing innings of 151 not out off just 86 deliveries. He came in with the tourists on 123 for three in the 24th over and built his innings superbly. He was away briskly, reaching his 50 off 46 deliveries, before exploding in the last 10 overs, during which the tourists plundered 153 runs.

Stokes needed just 27 more balls to reach his century and another 13 for his 150 as he lashed nine sixes in the last 15 deliveries he faced, the tourists slamming 83 runs in the last five overs.

The key partnership for the England Lions was the 132 Stokes and Sam Billings (56 off 33) added for the fifth wicket in just 10.4 overs.

The quality of the SA A death bowling was extremely poor and coach Vincent Barnes admitted that he would have loved to have seen more yorkers bowled.

“In terms of death bowling, there seem to be some different trends going on in the country at the moment, but I’m an old school coach and I was quite surprised how few yorkers were used. We were trying far too many different things and with just four fielders allowed to be out, all those different lines and lengths make it very difficult.

“It’s a very under-rated delivery, the neglected art of yorkers, it’s not practised enough because you need to spend hours and hours on it,” Barnes said after the defeat.

Chris Morris was the only SA A bowler to have a reasonable day, taking three for 50 and doing a good job in the closing overs.

Morris then came to the fore again with the bat, lashing 58 not out off 33 balls to provide some late cheer to an SA A innings that never really threatened the English total.

The home side lost Reeza Hendricks (9), Stiaan van Zyl (28) and Theunis de Bruyn (9) cheaply as the required run-rate rose, but Dean Elgar battled along gamely as he scored a fine 79 off 84 balls.

There were sprinklings of boundaries from Justin Ontong (22) and Dane Vilas (29), but they were surely fighting a losing cause.

David Wiese (37) and Morris were briefly threatening, but Stokes then used the yorker to great effect to bowl Wiese and Marchant de Lange (0) in the same over.

Three wickets for Stokes merely added to the celebrations for the controversial omission from England’s World Cup squad, while opening batsman Jason Roy also had cause for happiness, his 67 off 72 balls up front providing an ideal platform for the all-rounder.

http://citizen.co.za/319425/south-africa-vs-england-lions/



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