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Ken Borland



The thrills and drama of the Sunfoil Series 0

Posted on February 24, 2017 by Ken

 

The Sunfoil Series – the four-day domestic franchise competition – came down to the most thrilling of conclusions last weekend with the Knights claiming the title by just 1.78 points, the equivalent of 89 runs over a tournament that lasted 10 weeks, once again proving that, at least in the minds of the players and the aficionados of the sport, it is the premier trophy in the local game.

Nicky Boje, the Knights coach, confirmed that the four-day competition was the main target in their minds this season, and the other franchise coaches made similar comments through the campaign.

The thing about four-day cricket is that it provides the most all-encompassing test of a player’s skills and of a team’s quality – it’s essentially 40 days of cricket, 96 overs a day, so an examination that can last 3840 overs.

And it still came down to the narrowest of margins, so small in fact that Knights captain Theunis de Bruyn gave a large part of the credit for his team’s triumph to a partnership of just 10 runs between the last pair in their penultimate game against the Cape Cobras.

Akhona Kula and Tshepo Ntuli took the Knights’ first innings in Paarl from 143 for nine to 153 to get them one batting point – 150 is set as the milestone for the first batting bonus point, make 149 and you get zero. Even though the Knights went on to lose the match by 151 runs, that single point made their life a lot easier in the final game against the Highveld Lions because it meant they were targeting 430 in 100 overs rather than around 480.

“It allowed us to believe a little bit more,” De Bruyn said, and we all know belief plays a massive role in any achievement.

I just wish Cricket South Africa had a bit more belief in their four-day competition. It would be unrealistic to expect huge crowds to attend, but they could certainly do more to generate greater interest in the tournament that makes our Test cricketers. They have scheduled media sessions with the franchises before T20 and Momentum One-Day Cup games, why not before Sunfoil Series matches?  Their decision to no longer pay for a scorer to sit in the press box during four-day games suggests their attitude is to cut investment in the competition rather than promote it.

Scorers are an essential help to the media in terms of getting all their stats and figures correct, and it is heartening that CSA’s official statistician, Andrew Samson, is very much a long-format man.

The Oracle, as our media call him – I’m not sure what the BBC Test Match Special team call him but he is also their official statistician – has just brought out a book, The Moon is Toast, which is a celebration of all the quirky statistics the wonderful game of cricket throws up, written in the format of a year-long diary.

Copies of the book are available from http://tinyurl.com/hgbulfp and the wry humour of Samson makes what could become a boring read into an entertaining delight.

Long-form cricket obviously lends itself to more statistical gems than the wham-bam! of limited-overs cricket and the greater scope for all sorts of possibilities to occur was shown by the dramatic conclusion of our own four-day competition.

The longer the game, the greater the chance of an amazing comeback, just as the New South Wales team did in their recent Sheffield Shield game against Queensland at the Sydney Cricket Ground. They were two for two in their first innings before going on to make 603 for six declared which, Samson tells me, is only the fourth time in all first-class cricket that a team has lost their first two wickets for two or less runs but still gone on to score more than 600.

The South African example is Griqualand West recovering from one for two and then three for three to make 602 all out against Rhodesia in Kimberley in 1930, thanks to a double-century by the exotically-named Xenophon Balaskas, the Test all-rounder.

Bulls & Lions get their waggle on 0

Posted on August 03, 2016 by Ken

 

Social media was overflowing with praise for the Hurricanes and the Crusaders after their enthralling match in Wellington on Saturday morning, but the Bulls and Lions showed that evening at Loftus Versfeld that South African sides can also put on a show and both Victor Matfield and Johan Ackermann were waggling their metaphorical fingers at all the prophets of doom over the strength of local rugby.

The Bulls edged out the Lions 35-33 in a scintillating match in which seven tries were scored, several of them dazzling efforts using the width of the field and featuring superb offloading skills and vision.

“I saw the Hurricanes play the Crusaders this morning and I thought ‘what a great game’. But people must have enjoyed this game too, there was a lot of width and ball-in-hand rugby. New players are standing up in South African rugby and I’m sure the senior guys will start hitting their best form too towards the end of Super Rugby,” Bulls captain Matfield said after the win which returned his side to the top of the South African Conference.

“I think we have a different physicality when it comes to the rucks and scrums here in South Africa, whereas it’s more of a free-for-all when they play each other in New Zealand. They have a different mindset over there, the defences aren’t so tight. I still believe the best South African players compare to theirs and especially when you put them in a Springbok jersey,” Lions coach Ackermann said.

The Bulls started the game in exhilarating fashion playing the sort of rugby usually associated with the free-spirited Lions and coach Frans Ludeke said he was delighted with the first half, which ended with the home side 25-13 up.

“The first half was almost perfect and we had those attacking shapes Victor’s been chasing, we were accurate and really put them on the back foot. Getting momentum on the gain-line really helped and Victor has worked really hard on keeping the players on their feet and making good decisions,” Ludeke said.

But the Lions totally dominated the third quarter to snatch a 26-25 lead in the 54th minute and Matfield said the pressure was then really on his side.

“We started well, playing the way we wanted to – with width, but after the break we made mistakes and that put us under pressure. We showed great character to fight back and get the momentum back and I was very happy about the team’s will to win,” the veteran lock said.

Matfield mentioned “needing magic from someone” to get the Bulls out of their hole and that someone was replacement Pierre Spies, who sparked the move that ended with him powering through several tackles to score and regain the lead.

Ackermann bemoaned mistakes that cost his team but was pleased with their overall performance and contribution to a great game of rugby.

“All I ask is for them to play with their hearts and they did. I’m willing to lose if the passion and commitment are there and credit to the Bulls, especially for that first half. They punished every mistake we made,” Ackermann said.

 

Els wants local SA Open winner this year before big plans for next year 0

Posted on January 07, 2016 by Ken

 

 

Tournament ambassador Ernie Els is desperate for a local winner of the South African Open at Glendower Golf Club this year, but for next year’s event he has big plans to bring out Rory McIlroy and other top international golfers for the second oldest national open in the game, which starts on Thursday.

After three successive foreign winners of the South African Open – Andy Sullivan and Morten Orum Madsen at Glendower and Henrik Stenson at Serengeti, Els said on Tuesday that it was time for a team effort by the South Africans to ensure the prestigious trophy returns home.

“We’ve always prided ourselves on winning our national open, but for the last few years the foreigners have come and taken the trophy. I know it’s not a team competition, but I can guarantee you that the South African guys are going to pull together to try and take the trophy back because the foreigners are starting to take over. Branden Grace has not won it yet and I know he’s desperate to do it and I think George Coetzee is taking it very seriously this year as well. The local guys really want to win it,” Els said.

But from next year, Els himself will make it even harder for the home golfers as he plans to bring world number three and four-time major winner McIlroy over for the tournament.

“I’ve got Rory to commit to playing in the tournament, although I gave him some time to do it, a couple of years. For those top guys in the world, their schedule is so condensed, but I’m sure next year we’ll get him down here, maybe we’ll put him up in Cape Town for New Year’s.

“Rory has been such a great friend and supporter of our charities, as have other great players too. They’re all great lovers of South Africa, guys like Chubby Chandler and Lee Westwood are in Cape Town right now. I’m beginning to find my feet as the tournament ambassador and I want to make the field stronger. The top couple of golfers in the world have horribly busy schedules but I’m getting commitments from them,” Els said.

As for Ernie’s own game, the five-time winner of the SA Open had, by his own admission, an awful 2015, but he has spent many hours playing while also getting himself refreshed over the festive season.

“It was tough last year, as bad as it’s ever been, I missed some really short putts and I had tennis elbow. But I took time off, I feel refreshed and I feel up for it. I’d love to be in the top-50 again by the end of the year and I played a lot in December in Oubaai,” Els said.

 

 

Coetzee does not know which game will pitch up in Tshwane Open 0

Posted on December 06, 2015 by Ken

 

Local hero George Coetzee says he does not know which game is going to pitch up – the good one or the bad one – when he tees it up at Pretoria Country Club, his home course, in the first round of the Tshwane Open on Thursday.

The Tshwane Open, which has a purse of R18.5 million, is the last co-sanctioned event of the season in South Africa and Coetzee would obviously like to improve on his previous performances this summer – he missed the cut in the Alfred Dunhill Championship, the SA Open and the Africa Open, while only finishing T16th in the restricted-field Nedbank Golf Challenge and T24th at the Joburg Open.

But the world number 87 was not overly confident after practising at Pretoria Country Club on Wednesday.

“It’s great to have a tournament in Tshwane and unbelievable for me that it’s at my home course, where I imagined I was playing in the British Open growing up. I hope knowing this course as well as I do is in my favour, but at the moment I don’t know whether I’m going to play well or badly. I find out on Thursday morning on the first tee … ” Coetzee said.

The 28-year-old, who claimed a breakthrough maiden European Tour title in last year’s Joburg Open, has undergone some well-publicised changes to his game that have looked ill-advised given that he hasn’t come close to winning a strokeplay title since then. But Coetzee said on Wednesday that the changes are starting to work as they become imbedded in his game.

“There are a few things I’ve been working on, and every round I play, there’s a bit more of that coming through,” he said.

South Africa’s other main hope for the R2.9 million first prize is Trevor Fisher Junior, but it’s been a bit of a zoo for the first-time European Tour winner after his triumph in last weekend’s Africa Open at East London Golf Club.

“I’m still on a high, but it’s been tough with all the calls and messages and with all the excitement I’ve hardly slept. But last week is now in the past and I just want to get out on to the first tee and play. I don’t want to get comfortable, I want to try and win again as soon as possible,” Fisher Junior said. “If it will take a week or 10 months, I don’t know. There are such small margins in golf.”

Englishman Ross Fisher is the defending champion after winning the 2014 Tshwane Open at Copperleaf by three strokes, and he said the key to playing well at Pretoria Country Club was strategy off the tee.

“It’s a very different course to Copperleaf, a lot shorter and more fiddly, there’s a lot of positional play off the tees so you’re hitting a lot of irons and not many drivers. Being strategic is going to play a critical role,” Fisher said.

Fisher has the build and good looks of a model and “driving for show” is probably the strong point of his game. The world number 66 realises that he’s going to have to play a much more tactical game at this parklands course.

“I prefer quite long and tight courses because driver is my strength, but I’ve come up with my own game plan,” he said.

Fisher can also take confidence from his excellent recent form and, having finished strongly with rounds of 71-69-72 for tied-23rd in last weekend’s WGC Cadillac Championship at Doral’s tough Blue Monster, he can expect the going to be a bit easier at Pretoria Country Club.

“It’s been a very good start to the season. Finishing second at Sun City was a great start, I had a decent three weeks in the desert and I’m really pleased I came back well at Doral.

“This course should be easier because the winds were pretty strong and there was a lot of water at Doral, but there’s still trouble out there,” said the third-placed golfer on the Race to Dubai.

Matteo Manassero, the youngest winner on the European Tour, is another overseas talent to watch because he clearly likes the course.

“It’s a good course, a fun course, that’s opened out for an old type of course. You can shoot really low or make a mess of it, so it’s a really well-designed golf course. It’s enjoyable and my type of course,” Manassero said.

Conversely, Coetzee may be at home, but he does not feel entirely comfortable.

“I didn’t build my game at this golf course. I putted well to shoot good scores here, but it’s a drawers’ golf course. There is a lot of risk and reward and on a lot of holes you can take it on. There are some advantages to knowing the course as well as I do, but it suits a certain type of golfer. Hopefully I make enough putts to make up for that,” Coetzee admitted.

Other locals to watch are Jean Hugo, who finished in the top-20 in last week’s Africa Open and celebrated a win at Pretoria Country Club in the last Sunshine Tour event played here – a  2011 Vodacom Origins of Golf event; Jaco van Zyl, who was strongly in contention at East London Golf Club, and Keith Horne, who has the experience to know when to attack and when to box clever.

Englishman Andy Sullivan, the winner of back-to-back titles in the SA and Joburg Opens, is sitting at the top of the Sunshine Tour Order of Merit and is ninth in the Race to Dubai, and has proven himself to be lethal at altitude, while the other strong overseas contenders are Morten Orum Madsen, the 2014 SA Open winner down the road at Glendower, Gregory Bourdy, the four-time European Tour winner from France, and Korea’s Byeong-Hun An, the youngest winner of the U.S. Amateur Championship.

http://citizen.co.za/342188/toss-up-before-tshwane-open-tee-up/

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  • Thought of the Day

    1 Corinthians 3:3 - "For while there is jealousy and strife among you, are you not of the flesh and behaving only in a human way?"

    One of my favourite U2 songs is a collaboration with Johnny Cash called The Wanderer, and it features the line "they say they want the kingdom, but they don't want God in it".
    Many people say they believe in God, but they don't experience his loving presence. They may be active in Christian work, but only if they have their way. If they cannot be leaders, they refuse to be involved.
    Because they refuse to allow God to fill their lives with his love, they remain weak and powerless.
    Spiritual maturity means developing a greater love for others.

    "When the love of Christ saturates you, immature attitudes such as pettiness, jealousy and strife are dissolved.
    "It is only when you have an intimate relationship with the Lord that you receive sufficient grace to rise above this immaturity and enjoy the solid food that the Holy Spirit gives you." - Solly Ozrovech, A Shelter From The Storm



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