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Ken Borland



Positive Klaasen makes a move into Test squad 0

Posted on March 04, 2017 by Ken

 

Titans wicketkeeper/batsman Heinrich Klaasen was celebrating a first call-up to the South Africa squad for their Test series against New Zealand on Friday, convenor of selectors Linda Zondi saying a “positive presence at the crease” had played a large part in his selection.

Klaasen has looked a top-class talent since his days with the dominant Tuks Varsity team and he now follows his skipper from his student days, Theunis de Bruyn, into the Test squad as one of the back-up players, having scored 635 runs in four-day cricket this season, at an average of 48.84.

Zondi confirmed that it was a close-run thing between Klaasen and Rudi Second of the Knights, who scored 684 runs at 52.61, with the 25-year-old Klaasen being considered a closer match in terms of approach to Quinton de Kock, the player he is understudying.

“It was a very close call and it could have gone either way. Rudi is a very experienced player and is definitely not out of our plans, but we just felt that Heinrich has a positive presence at the crease, he’s tidy behind the stumps and there’s something about him.

“He’s a good striker of the ball, a fearless cricketer. We’ve watched him a lot and we feel he can play the same role as Quinton de Kock,” Zondi told Saturday Citizen on Friday.

While the presence of players such as De Kock, Kagiso Rabada, Duanne Olivier, De Bruyn and Klaasen makes it a young squad, the selectors have also recalled veteran Morne Morkel, the 32-year-old who has not played a Test in more than a year.

Morkel is only two 50-over games into his comeback from serious back issues, but Zondi said they wanted some experience around to guide a young attack. Vernon Philander has played 40 Tests, but Keshav Maharaj (4), Wayne Parnell (5), Rabada (14), Olivier (1) and Chris Morris (2) have played just 26 Tests between them.

“We’ve been guided by our medical team with Morne and he’s 100% fit. We want him to play more games, but his extra experience is required, because we don’t want to be caught out if anything happens. We’re quite comfortable in terms of all-rounders, so Morne must just go there and compete, providing us with extra variety,” Zondi said.

Squad: Stephen Cook, Dean Elgar, Hashim Amla, Faf du Plessis (Capt), JP Duminy, Temba Bavuma, Quinton de Kock, Vernon Philander, Keshav Maharaj, Wayne Parnell, Kagiso Rabada, Duanne Olivier, Morne Morkel, Chris Morris, Theunis de Bruyn, Heinrich Klaasen.

Theunis de Bruyn’s selection for the Proteas is no surprise 0

Posted on December 19, 2016 by Ken

 

There will be a new cap in the Standard Bank Proteas squad for their three-Test series against Sri Lanka starting on Boxing Day, but the selection of Theunis de Bruyn is hardly a surprise given the 24-year-old’s amazing first three years of his franchise career.

Having scored over 500 runs for the Titans in his first two seasons of Sunfoil Series cricket, De Bruyn has continued to make progress after a move to the Knights, having already made 423 runs at an average of 60.42 in eight innings this season. He has also enjoyed a couple of prolific limited-overs campaigns, in both 50 and 20-over cricket, to suggest he is a batsman for all formats.

De Bruyn’s first-class haul of over 2500 runs at an average of 48.73 includes six centuries and an unbeaten double-hundred for SA A against the England Lions. The tall, elegant right-hander has in fact scored two centuries and two half-centuries in seven innings for SA A, another reason why his promotion to the Proteas squad was considered almost certain.

“Theunis is a good talent and has done well for both his franchise and SA A and is next in the pecking order. It’s good to get him into the set-up because we definitely see him as a future star for the Proteas, playing in all the formats,” convenor of selectors Linda Zondi said.

While the promotion of a new, young batting star to the national squad is always exciting, there will also be a tang of regret for Rilee Rossouw, who toured Australia but has now suffered yet another inopportune injury, another foot problem ruling him out of contention.

“Obviously we aren’t pleased with Rilee’s injury because he was the next batsman in line, and Stiaan van Zyl would probably also have been in line had he not signed a Kolpak deal. It’s obviously very disappointing for Rilee, I spoke to him in Australia and he really wants to do well for South Africa and was very happy with the way we backed him in the ODIs. He’s obviously an exceptional player and he will still do well in the future for South Africa and contribute immensely going forward because it’s still a long season ahead and he’s definitely still in our plans,” Zondi said.

Rossouw did not play in any of the Tests in Australia and was very much the reserve batsman on tour, and that is probably going to be De Bruyn’s role during the three Tests against Sri Lanka in Port Elizabeth, Cape Town and Johannesburg. But with AB de Villiers already ruled out and captain Faf du Plessis potentially facing a ban from his ball-tampering appeal on Monday, the Knights captain will be preparing as hard as anyone in the camp.

And that’s the positive – whether he plays or not, De Bruyn will learn plenty about the skills and mindset required at full international level.

“Even if Theunis doesn’t make the starting XI, he’s going to gain more experience and fitting into those surroundings and the culture of the team will only enhance his belief that he will be able to fit in at international level,” Zondi said.

The squad for the Sri Lanka series also features a recall for left-arm fast bowler and useful batsman Wayne Parnell, who has been in top-class form for the Cape Cobras this season. He is averaging over 30 with the bat in T20 cricket and less than 20 with the ball, at a brilliant economy rate of 6.7.

A replacement for the injured Morne Morkel and Dale Steyn, he could play a part in the Wanderers Test if the Proteas decide to go with four pacemen and let JP Duminy take the spinner’s job.

“Wayne strengthens the depth and therefore makes it a better squad. He’s an exciting cricketer with the left-arm variation he brings and he adds to our depth in batting. We’ve been hoping he would stay injury-free and dominate at franchise level, and we’ve seen that with his batting and bowling,” Zondi said.

Being on home soil, just a 13-man squad has been chosen and the starting XI pretty much selects itself after the dazzling success in Australia.

Stephen Cook, son of the legendary Jimmy, and Dean Elgar will continue as the opening batsmen taking the shine off the ball, with Hashim Amla, Duminy, Du Plessis or De Bruyn, Temba Bavuma and wiucketkeeper/batsman Quinton de Kock to follow. The bowlers will be Vernon Philander, Kagiso Rabada, Keshav Maharaj or Parnell, and Kyle Abbott.

The likes of fast bowler Hardus Viljoen and Van Zyl would have stood a decent chance of making the squad, were it not for their decision to sign Kolpak contracts for English county cricket. Although disappointed that two fine cricketers are no longer eligible for selection, Zondi said he is content there is still more than enough talent in South Africa for the Proteas to build on their recent success.

“We can’t compete with the pound and it hurts to lose quality players, but we do have depth. So I’m comfortable but not happy. Upon signing a Kolpak deal, these players make themselves unavailable, otherwise someone like Stiaan van Zyl probably would have been next in line in the batting queue,” Zondi said.

Sadly, there are going to be more high-profile South African cricketers signing Kolpak deals in the near future.

It has now been confirmed that Du Plessis will once again guide the Proteas as captain and he said he is grateful for his long-time friend De Villiers’ decision to step aside in the interests of the team.

“It just shows you the person that AB is, that he always puts the team first, and it also shows how strong the culture of the side is.

“Test cricket is for me the most enjoyable time to be a captain because you have to work on plans for a long period of time. You have to strategise on how you’re going to make sure you’re going to get guys out and continue to challenge guys over a long time.

“To finally have it now‚ as something that is set in stone‚ is a huge honour and I’ll be taking it very seriously. I’ll try and make sure that the stuff that we’ve been working on for the past six months to a year‚ that we don’t let those standards drop. If I keep pushing the guys to make sure we hit those standards, we’ll be a consistent team,” Du Plessis said.

If the Standard Bank Proteas show the same team unity and focus on executing their basics to perfection, then their fans at home can look forward to more stellar performances against the Sri Lankans.

Is everyone there on merit? One wonders … 0

Posted on November 17, 2016 by Ken

 

Cricket South Africa (CSA) has assured their stakeholders that selection for the national team will only be on merit and this week signed a new transformation agreement with Sascoc and the Department of Sports and Recreation in which they are apparently the only sporting code that has not agreed to quotas at the highest level.

CSA’s attitude is that the system must provide the national team with black players on merit, which is why they are aggressively pursuing quotas at domestic level.

It is also believed that CSA have met with the Proteas and have clarified with them that there was no interference in selection at the World Cup and that there won’t be targets in future.

But the squads announced for the tour of Bangladesh in July do make one wonder.

Reeza Hendricks and Aaron Phangiso have been picked for the Test squad, while Kagiso Rabada has leapfrogged Kyle Abbott in the fast-bowling pecking order.

I have the utmost respect as cricketers for them, but logic suggests the selectors were not looking at purely on-field performance in making these decisions.

Hendricks is undoubtedly a bright talent and I fully support him being involved in the limited-overs squads. But the figures show that Hendricks is not yet ready to be a Test opener. His first-class franchise batting average is just 34.55 with three centuries in 20 matches. Last season he averaged just 31.76, half what Highveld Lions opener Stephen Cook managed.

Cook has scored 10 centuries in the last two seasons, while Cobras opener Andrew Puttick has averaged 49.27 and 40.23 in the last two Sunfoil Series season. The fact that these two prolific batsman can’t make the side when an opening batsman is required and yet someone whose performances in the same competition are far inferior only adds fuel to the fire that is raging around selection for the national team.

The cynic in me believes that Phangiso’s selection for the Test squad is to make up for the appalling manner in which he was treated at the World Cup that saw him not play a single game.

Both Phangiso and Highveld Lions coach Geoff Toyana have gone on record as saying that the 31-year-old still needs a lot of work in the longer format and five wickets at an average of 67 in the Sunfoil Series shows that is the case.

Convenor of selectors Andrew Hudson said that they wanted a left-arm spinner for the squad and there is a ready-made, experienced, proven option in Robin Peterson.

As far as Rabada goes, I am certain that he will be a great fast bowler for South Africa in all formats, but what has Abbott done wrong?

Lady Luck always has her say when it comes to cricket, but Abbott has been one of the most unfortunate players in the country for a while now.

As a unit, the Proteas have been exceptionally strong in the Test arena, but the pain of the World Cup loss was all too obvious and whether CSA’s clearing-the-air session with the players was enough remains to be seen. They maintain that the only affirmative action when it comes to selection is if there is a 50/50 choice between two players, then the player of colour will get the benefit.

Was Hendricks being preferred to Cook really a 50/50 call? Phangiso over Peterson and Rabada ahead of Abbott?

A Bangladesh tour was never exactly looked forward to and this time the challenges will be even greater on the field. The Proteas will be asked tougher questions than ever before by Bangladesh on their home turf, while questions still swirl around their selection.

 

Bavuma opening? That’s not the only weirdness we’ll see 0

Posted on September 12, 2016 by Ken

 

Temba Bavuma will open the batting on his ODI debut for South Africa in Benoni on September 25 having done that job in just two of the 69 List A games he has played in his career, but that’s not likely to be the only selection weirdness we see in the Proteas’ limited-overs teams this season.

That’s because, in order to meet the new quotas that will apply as an average at the end of the season across all three formats, it seems the national selectors will follow the sensible option of ‘loading’ the limited-overs teams in order to give themselves more leeway when it comes to Tests.

The targets they have to meet at the end of the season are 54% players of colour and 18% Black African players – measured as 27 matches with 11 players a side, therefore 297 individual playing opportunities, of which 161 must go to players of colour, including 54 appearances by Black Africans.

The last time Bavuma opened the batting in a List A match was actually in February, in the Lions’ Momentum One-Day Cup match against the Knights in Mangaung, when he scored just five before being caught behind off the evergreen Dillon du Preez.

Prior to that, the only time he had opened was back in March 2010 for Gauteng against Northerns in the CSA Provincial competition at the L.C. de Villiers Oval at the University of Pretoria. He scored 18 off 20 balls before being caught behind off Tumi Masekela. His opening partner that day was Grant Mokoena, and that’s not the only thing they have in common as they both scored sparkling centuries this week in the eKasi Challenge between the Lions and Titans at the Soweto Cricket Oval. Both hundreds were of sufficient quality to disprove the nonsense that there are no talented Black African batsmen around.

I am not criticising the quotas now imposed by Cricket South Africa at national level – I can see their need, I’m delighted that we are now being honest about them and don’t know how else much-needed transformation can happen at a reasonable pace – but I would like to point out that they are a double-edged sword.

While someone like Mokoena has undoubtedly benefited from the targets imposed at franchise level last season – he played more first-class matches than he had ever before and had his highest tally of runs as well as his best 50-over campaign – the other side of the equation is how established players like Bavuma could find themselves shifted into unfamiliar roles to fill gaps.

Is it fair on a wonderful craftsman like Bavuma, who showed against New Zealand how he has become a key figure in the Test line-up, to make his ODI debut in a once-off game batting out of position? The squad for the series against Australia that follows has already been named, so even if the 26-year-old scores a double-hundred against Ireland, Hashim Amla will take his place in the next game.

And what if Bavuma gets a good ball up front and is dismissed cheaply? What if he struggles to 12 off 38 balls on a Willowmoore Park pitch that can be tricky in the first hour? Will it dent the selectors’ confidence in him?

Bavuma has shown already that he has incredible mental strength so I don’t think it will dent his confidence, and he really is batting beautifully at the moment. When he gets on top of the bowers as he did against the Titans in Soweto, he is a wonderful strokeplayer, but just as impressive is the tenacity he showed in the second innings of the second Test against New Zealand to score 40 not out.

Andile Phehlukwayo will also make his ODI debut later this month and he is a real talent for the future. Also gifted with a great temperament – as displayed in his excellent death bowling – he will also get a chance against Australia. If he does not immediately succeed in this tough first assignment at the highest level, I hope he is not tarnished with a reputation for not being up to it, seeing as though he is only 20 years old!

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    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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