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Ken Borland

SACA MVP top-ranking will keep Van der Merwe warm through winter 0

Posted on May 18, 2015 by Ken

The winter break is often a good time to consider the talent that is coming through at franchise level, who the players to follow are as they bid for national recognition, and the South African Cricketers’ Association’s MVP Rankings are perhaps the most accurate measure of just who the most valuable stars are just one step below the Proteas.

The franchises play in three very different formats these days, of course, so comparing players can sometimes be a confusing, almost impossible task.

But this is where the Saca MVP rankings are so good: They take into account the four-day Sunfoil Series, the 50-over Momentum One-Day Cup and the RamSlam T20 Challenge. And the points are awarded based on a complex calculation that takes into account far more than just the number of runs scored or wickets taken.

The Saca MVP rankings are weighted so that those performances that really matter in terms of influencing the result of a game earn more points.

“What sets our rankings aside from other rankings or stats is that the MVP rankings take both the stats and the match context into account. For instance, a batsman scoring 100 not out in a total of 634 for three declared is going to earn way fewer points than one who scores 100 out of 150.

“Similarly, a bowler who gets the top-order out will earn more points than someone who gets nine, 10 and jack out.

“There are also different weightings depending on the format. For instance, economy rate and strike rate are more important in T20 cricket. Plus there are more points on offer if your team wins and for the captain of winning teams.

“It’s all about who performs in clutch situations, who pulls the team through and is also a consistent performer,” JP van Wyk, Saca’s player services manager, told the Daily Maverick.

And the 2012/13 rankings tell us that Titans all-rounder Roelof van der Merwe, famed for his tenacity in just those sort of pressure situations, was the most valuable player of last season.

The mere statistics inform us that Van der Merwe scored 515 runs in the Sunfoil Series, the most for the beleaguered Titans, with five half-centuries and he took 12 wickets. The left-arm spinner has always been a top-class performer in the limited-overs formats and 58% percent of his 473.47 points came from the 50 and 20-over competitions.

Van der Merwe was the leading spinner in the One-Day Cup, taking 22 wickets at an average of 19.95 and economy rate of just 4.69, taking five wickets in an innings twice. In the T20 Challenge, he took nine wickets at a good economy rate of 7.09 and his 208 runs were the second-most for the Titans, at a handy average of 23.11 and a strike rate of 107.

The 28-year-old is hardly a promising youngster though, but rather a renowned competitor who revels in the nickname “Bulldog”.

Instead of trying to break into international cricket, Van der Merwe is trying to get back there. The Waterkloof product has played in 13 ODIs and 13 T20 internationals, but has not represented South Africa since June 2010 in the West Indies. He was outstanding in his last game, taking one for 27 in 10 overs and then scoring 10 not out off seven balls to clinch a thrilling one-wicket victory in Port-of-Spain, but was then strangely dropped.

“I don’t think anything went wrong, it was more a case of different combinations being used and different times. Over time we’ll see if those combinations work out… ” Van der Merwe says phlegmatically from Delhi, where he is playing for the Daredevils in the IPL. “You never know in terms of a comeback in international cricket, but I’m not too worried about it. If I perform well, then it has to happen.”

Van der Merwe has been included in South Africa’s preliminary 30-man squad for the Champions Trophy in England in June and it must be a good omen that some of the strongest early challengers for the MVP crown – Kyle Abbott, Rory Kleinveldt, Dean Elgar and Quinton de Kock – all found themselves in the national team before the end of the summer.

Leg-spinner Imran Tahir and fellow orthodox left-armers Robin Peterson and Aaron Phangiso are the other spinners in the squad, but it counts in Van der Merwe’s favour that he is cosy bowling both up front with the new ball and at the death.

“At the death you’re on a hiding to nothing, but it’s all about your attitude. I want to do that job and that helps a lot. I don’t see myself as the most talented cricketer, so I’ve got to have aggression, that Bulldog spirit if you like,” Van der Merwe says.

That same determination has also seen Van der Merwe break out of his pigeonhole as a limited-overs specialist. Having scarcely been used by the Titans in four-day cricket, sitting behind the likes of Paul Harris, Imran Tahir and Shaun von Berg in the queue, he could have fobbed off the longer version of the game, especially since his financial future is secure with his involvement in the IPL.

But the Johannesburg-born fighter played every Sunfoil Series game this season for the Titans (wicketkeeper/batsman Heino Kuhn was the only other player to do so).

“My game has developed the last few years and I’m playing four-day cricket again after a lot of hard work. In the past, the Titans had great longer-form bowlers and I didn’t get much opportunity. But I was told I have to work on my batting if I want to take my career further and being able to bat as well definitely helps.

“Bowling in the longer form also helps my limited-overs bowling. In four-day cricket, there’s a lot more skill involved, you need more pace and variations and that’s what I’m also working on in India,” Van der Merwe says.

Van der Merwe held off a strong challenge from Warriors paceman Andrew Birch (450.89pts) for the MVP title, while De Kock, Hardus Viljoen and Abbott also scored more than 400 points.

The country’s leading players struggle to crack the top 100 because they are off on international duty so often.

The MVP award also comes with the sizeable cash prize of R110,000 for Van der Merwe, with Birch and De Kock winning the runners-up cheques of R66 000 and R50 000 respectively.

The top players in each competition were also the recipients of cash incentives, with Abbott, Johann Louw and Birch being the top three in the Sunfoil Series; Van der Merwe, Richard Levi and Birch dominating the One-Day Cup; and De Kock, Albie Morkel and Sohail Tanvir the pacesetters in the T20 Challenge.

Willowmoore Park becoming field of dreams for Titans players 0

Posted on November 06, 2014 by Ken

Whatever people say about going to Benoni, Willowmoore Park is rapidly becoming a field of dreams for the Unlimited Titans players with Roelof van der Merwe and Rowan Richards adding to the list of phenomenal individual performances there in the Sunfoil Series victory over the Chevrolet Warriors over the weekend.

Van der Merwe turned his maiden first-class century into a double, scoring 205 not out as the Titans amassed 539 for six in their first innings. Left-arm paceman Richards then took five for 31 as the Titans dismissed the Warriors for the second time with just a dozen overs remaining in the match. His final spell was a phenomenal 5.4-3-2-5 and included a hat-trick to end the match.

It is only the fourth time that a double century and a hat-trick have been scored in the same first-class match in South Africa and the second time it has happened at Willowmoore Park. The other occasion was the famous match in 1948/49 when Denis Compton blazed a triple century for the English tourists in 181 minutes against North-Eastern Transvaal, with seamer Cliff Gladwin then taking a hat-trick.

Last season, Shaun von Berg blasted the fastest century – off 73 balls – in franchise four-day history for the Titans against the Cape Cobras in Benoni.

Van der Merwe has always been one of the hardest workers in the Titans team and the dramatic improvement in his batting – he was their leading run-scorer in last season’s Sunfoil Series and averaged 55.57 – has been the reward.

“It’s all about the way you train in the nets and it’s just mental really. My target is to face a hundred balls, it’s a simple thing, but often scoring a fifty isn’t enough to get you there,” Van der Merwe said of his improvement.

“The way the Titans’ set-up is now, Shaun von Berg is the number one spinner for four-day cricket and the only way I can be sure of playing is by being a batsman. I’ve become almost a part-time bowler if you like, but that’s how I stay in the side, through scoring runs and my bowling is an extra,” the left-arm spinner said.

The Titans batsmen have struggled for consistency in recent times and coach Rob Walter has often stressed the importance of scoring centuries. It was typical Bulldog Roelof for him to go and make that first hundred of the season a double!

“We have struggled over the past few seasons to make big scores, so it was a good start in Benoni. I was very stressed going to a hundred for the first time, I felt sure something was going to go wrong again in the 90s, but I was able to play with freedom after that,” Van der Merwe, whose previous highest score was 93 against the Highveld Lions in 2010, said.

The Titans have been waiting for Richards to find his best form after a long-term injury lay-off, and the 30-year-old hit his straps in spectacular fashion as he wrecked the Warriors’ brave effort to save the game.

“It’s my first hat-trick and it makes it really special that it won the game and gave me a five-for,” Richards said after his career-best figures in the Sunfoil Series.

“I knew it would be my last spell of the day, so I just pushed it and made sure I hit good areas. There had been a lot of effort before me by the other seamers, JP de Villiers and Ethy Mbhalati, that broke the long partnership between Colin Ingram and Ryan Bailey, and we just said that another wicket would bring more breakthroughs. We never gave up and I found my rhythm at the right time.”



Davids & Van der Merwe do the damage 0

Posted on February 27, 2012 by Ken


Henry Davids and Roelof van der Merwe were the men who did most of the damage as the Nashua Titans hammered the New Age Impi by nine wickets with 26 balls to spare in their MiWay T20 Challenge match at Willowmoore Park in Benoni on Sunday.

Van der Merwe destroyed the New Age Impi middle-order as the Titans bowled them out for just 131, before Davids hit a whirlwind 55 off 35 balls to rush the “visitors” to victory.

The New Age Impi experiment has battled to get off the ground with the composite side crashing to their fifth straight defeat and only a meagre crowd coming to watch in Benoni, where the Titans of course play often.

Apart from Davids, Jacques Rudolph and Van der Merwe also enjoyed themselves with the bat, retiring to the changeroom with 47 not out and 30 not out respectively after the bonus-point victory was completed.

Left-handed Rudolph anchored the innings as he scored his runs off 39 balls, with three fours and two sixes, while Van der Merwe lashed three fours and a six from 20 deliveries.

But it was Davids who stole the show with a top-class innings, a delightful display of footwork and superb timing as he stroked seven fours and two sixes.

It was like the old pro against the interns as he moved around his crease and found the gaps at will, notching a 26-ball half-century before chipping offspinner Khaya Zondo to midwicket, where Paul Collingwood took a fine catch diving forward.

That left the Titans on 78 for one in the 10th over and in complete control, Rudolph and Van der Merwe completing the formalities as they added 59 in 39 balls.

The New Age Impi seamers were unimpressive and captain Collingwood needed to turn to the slower bowlers, with left-arm spinner Siyabulela Simetu continuing the good impression he has made in the competition as he took the new ball and conceded just 23 runs in his four overs.

The Impi had won the toss and elected to bat first for the first time in the campaign, and Zondo and Collingwood had given the innings a solid foundation as they put on 51 for the third wicket off 41 balls.

The Impi’s problems, as is so often the case, began with a run out, and Van der Merwe was the architect, defeating the batsmen’s efforts for a second run as he rushed in from the midwicket boundary and scored a direct hit at the bowler’s end to remove Collingwood for a bright 28 off 18 balls.

Zondo was still there, though, having come in first-wicket down and watched as another Englishman, Luke Wright, also scored 28 off 18 balls to give the Impi a quick start.

But 92 for three quickly became 99 for six as Ryan ten Doeschate chopped on off David Wiese for just a single, and Van der Merwe removed Zondo and Richard Cameron off successive deliveries.

Zondo, who scored 33 off 31 balls, backed away to try and cut the left-arm spinner, but was off-balance and only succeeded in edging a catch to sharp wicketkeeper Heino Kuhn, who had earlier stumped opener Adrian McLaren for four in Van der Merwe’s first over.

Cameron then chipped his first ball straight to extra cover and, although Ryan Canning ensured that there would be no hat-trick for Van der Merwe, he could not find the boundary as he was the last man out for 17 off 21 balls.

Van der Merwe finished his quota of overs with excellent figures of three for 28 and his fantastic fielding netted him another run-out, dismissing Simetu for five in the penultimate over.

The 27-year-old has not played for South Africa in over 18 months, but continues to send good messages to the national selectors, having now taken five for 91 in 14 overs in this season’s T20 Challenge.

Off-spinner Eden Links also had a profitable afternoon with two for 21 in his four overs, while seamer Wiese came on in the 12th over and was not easy to get away as he took one for 13 in three overs.

The Titans will be unhappy that their fielding at the start of the innings was not up to scratch, a couple of catches going down, but, led by the indomitable Van der Merwe, they eventually got the job done in some style.

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