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Ken Borland

Most daunting journey of all for well-travelled McLaren 0

Posted on November 01, 2017 by Ken


Ryan McLaren has travelled many miles in his cricket career but he is about to embark on his most daunting journey of all as the probable replacement for Jacques Kallis in South Africa’s Test side.

The 30-year-old has gone from being born into a famous Kimberley family through Grey College in Bloemfontein, stints as a Kolpak player in English county cricket for Kent and Middlesex, three IPL teams and on to play for South Africa.

Although the national selectors named a 15-man squad yesterday to take on Australia in the three-Test series next month, McLaren is the favourite to replace Kallis, coming in at number seven and providing the team with a fourth seamer.

National selection convenor Andrew Hudson spoke of “staying with the brand of cricket that has brought us such success” and that means a fourth seamer will be an integral part of South Africa’s game plan, which involves unrelenting pressure on the opposition.

But, as coach Russell Domingo pointed out, with no Kallis, having a fourth seamer means either dropping a batsman or not playing a spinner.

“We have to do away with the luxury of having seven specialist batsmen. Number seven will now probably be an all-rounder or a spinner.

“It’s very difficult to have seven batsmen, four seamers and a spinner. Something has to give, and I do like to have a spinner because it gives the team a lot more balance,” Domingo said yesterday.

It won’t of course be a Test debut for McLaren because he has appeared for South Africa in the ultimate version of the game before – against England at the Wanderers four years ago.

McLaren bowled tidily as part of a five-prong seam attack that ran rampant over England, dismissing them for just 180 and 169 as South Africa romped to victory by an innings and 74 runs to level the series. The left-handed batsman also scored 33 not out coming in at number eight.

Wayne Parnell also made his debut in that match and has also been included in the squad to play the Aussies. Although Domingo said he loved the 140km/h pace and left-arm variation that Parnell brings to the attack, McLaren’s greater consistency – he could do the holding role alongside Steyn, Morkel and Philander very well – and better ability with the bat should see him get the nod.

McLaren has the experience of already playing 40 ODIs and 10 T20s for South Africa and has become an integral part of the 50-over side in the last year. He’s a genuine all-rounder: In 103 first-class matches he has scored 3860 runs at an average of 30 and has taken 329 wickets at 25.47.

McLaren said he has no delusions of stepping into Kallis’s boots but is also confident that he can perform the role the national team requires of him.

“I’ve pretty much made peace with the fact that you can’t make comparisons between myself and Jacques. There’s only been one Jacques Kallis and there will only ever be one.

“So I’m just going to focus on the role I have to perform, which is batting seven and bowling second-change, which is pretty much what I’ve been doing most of my career.

“As an all-rounder, there’s always the physical demands of contributing in both disciplines, but it’s nothing new for me because I’ve been doing it for the Knights for many years – bowling 20 or 25 overs a day and batting.

“I will take some confidence from how I’ve performed well in ODI cricket in the last year, but Test cricket is a totally different game, it’s where every cricketer wants to be measured. And there’s no greater test than playing against Australia, so I’m excited for the challenge,” McLaren said.

The absence of Kallis will lead to another change in the batting order, with Domingo confirming that Faf du Plessis would be promoted to the number four spot, the place where greats such as Graeme Pollock, Sachin Tendulkar, Wally Hammond and Javed Miandad batted.

“It’s no state secret, Faf is the guy we have earmarked for number four. He made a big hundred at number four to save a Test recently and he bats there at franchise level. He’s a suitable replacement,” Domingo said.

Robin Peterson, the left-arm orthodox incumbent, is the only specialist spinner in the squad, but Hudson said the selection certainly did not mark the end of Imran Tahir’s Test career.

“Robbie P has put in some good performances lately and he did well in Perth at the back end of the last tour to Australia. He fits in with the style of cricket we want to play.

“But we know Imran Tahir can bowl with variety and an attacking leg-spinner on a turning pitch is still an option for us because we play a lot of cricket in the sub-continent. We certainly are not going past Imran,” Hudson said.

Domingo suggested that the pitches for the three Tests – in Centurion, Port Elizabeth and Cape Town – will favour the quick bowlers, setting up the most tantalising pace war between the two best fast bowling attacks in world cricket.

“We would like pitches that assist our bowlers. Our batsmen are well-versed in South African conditions, whereas in Australia the pitches are more in favour of the batsmen. In South Africa they favour the fast bowlers more and our batsmen are used to adapting to that,” the coach said.

Squad – Graeme Smith, Alviro Petersen, Hashim Amla, Faf du Plessis, AB de Villiers, JP Duminy, Dean Elgar, Ryan McLaren, Wayne Parnell, Thami Tsolekile, Robin Peterson, Vernon Philander, Dale Steyn, Morne Morkel, Rory Kleinveldt.

*Left-arm paceman Beuran Hendricks and off-spinner Simon Harmer will practice with the squad for the sake of preparation against Mitchell Johnson and Nathan Lyon.

Two hurdles left for clinical Tuks 0

Posted on August 01, 2014 by Ken

Assupol Tuks have carried the same ruthless, clinical form they showed back in South Africa in April when they qualified for the Red Bull Campus Cricket Finals into the main event in London and now the University of Pretoria students have just a couple of hurdles left in order to complete their journey to Varsity T20 World Cup glory.

Having whitewashed the University of Stellenbosch 3-0 three months ago to qualify as South Africa’s representatives for the eight-nation tournament, Tuks have duly topped their group at the Red Bull Campus Cricket Finals with three emphatic victories and will now take on defending champions Rizvi Mumbai College in the semi-finals today at the Oval.

“I’m very happy with the focus of the side, we’ve set high standards and we’re going to fight all the way to the end. We’ve worked so hard, so we want to be at 100%. We’re playing the defending champions, so they must know they’re in for a fight,” Tuks coach Pierre de Bruyn told The Pretoria News yesterday.

While Rizvi Mumbai won the second edition of the Red Bull Campus Cricket Finals last April in Sri Lanka, they only finished second in Group 1 this year, behind the University of New South Wales, and they are going to have to find a way of matching the tremendous form of the Tuks batsmen.

While comparisons across groups may be a little unfair, Tuks have posted totals of 205-4, 110-3 and 178-5, while Rizvi’s scores have been 123-1, 132-8 and 107-9.

“I haven’t had the chance to watch much of Rizvi, but the standard of their batting is a question, they’ve had a couple of collapses and the Oval pitch looks a bit juicy.

“We wanted to see contributions from all eight of our batsmen and we’ve managed to do that. Theunis de Bruyn and Aiden Markram are the top scorers in the competition, but Johan Wessels has done nicely at four, Heinrich Klaasen has had a couple of good knocks and Sean Dickson has been finishing the innings well. I’m really confident in our batting unit,” De Bruyn said.

Where Tuks will need to make a plan is in terms of the bowling, where a couple of injuries could rob them of the services of two seamers.

Tian Koekemoer has an ankle injury, while Theunis de Bruyn strained a hamstring.

“Tian will definitely play and might even open the batting, but Johan Wessels might have to fill in for him with the ball. Theunis can play, but won’t be able to bowl. So we’re going to have to box clever with the seamers,” coach De Bruyn said.

The Tuks new-ball attack is bound to be a handful, however, particularly if conditions at the Oval today are the same as yesterday. Nobody has taken more wickets in the competition than Corbin Bosch (7), while Vincent Moore has conceded just 46 runs in 10 overs.

And the Tuks spinners have stated their intent to match their sub-continental rivals in no uncertain terms, with Ruben Claasen, David Mogotlane and Markram forming a potent combination.

Rizvi have a lot less pedigree than Tuks when it comes to performances in senior cricket: The University of Pretoria have five first-class cricketers with 125 caps between them across the three formats; Rizvi have one player – Kevin Almeida – who has played three T20s for Mumbai. Plus Markram and Bosch are ICC U19 World Cup winners.

But semi-final, knockout cricket often curdles the brains and stomachs of the supposed favourites and De Bruyn has stressed the importance of being at 100% to his team.

“It’s 50/50 from now on and if we struggle under pressure and make mistakes, then we won’t go through. We need to stay calm, absorb the pressure and eliminate basic mistakes.

“But we’ve been in this situation so many times in the last three years, we want those pressure buttons,” De Bruyn said.

Tuks have been in such control in all three of their matches in London thus far that it is clearly going to take something special from Rizvi to knock them off course, but then again, the Mumbai students are defending their title and will not be in the mood to fold.

The University of New South Wales play the Jamaica Inter-Collegiate Sports Association in the other semi-final today, with the two winners meeting in the grand final this evening [6.30pm SA time].

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