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Ken Borland



Good times to be a gambler 0

Posted on February 14, 2016 by Ken

 

Judging by South Africa’s performance in the World Cup quarterfinal against Sri Lanka this week, these are good times to be a gambler and, seeing as though I am at Sun City for the Chase to the Investec Cup final, I’m going to put R1000 each on three, four and eight at the roulette table tonight, in honour of JP Duminy’s three wickets in three balls, which meant the Proteas got away with only having four specialist bowlers, and Quinton de Kock coming good after previously averaging just eight in the tournament.

Okay, the bit about me gambling tonight is a joke because times are still tough for journos and instead I may treat myself to a lager and ponder over how good it felt to get my predictions for the quarterfinal against Sri Lanka so utterly wrong.

Coach Russell Domingo has never struck me as the gambling type, although he does have a profound love for figures, which is not to say he’s not willing to make tough decisions. He’s done that before and was even willing to leave the great Jacques Kallis out of limited-overs teams when he didn’t fit into the game-plan.

But as far as gambles go, taking on the strong Sri Lankan batting line-up on a flat Sydney Cricket Ground pitch with Duminy as the fifth bowler and AB de Villiers as the back-up ranks up there with the biggest in World Cup history, and, were it not for the brilliance of the pace bowlers and Imran Tahir in taking early wickets, it was a move that could have gone stupidly wrong.

But it worked, as did the faith shown in De Kock. As the confidence seeped back into the young left-hander, emboldened by the support of his management and team-mates, his talent and class was plain to see.

You would rightly expect South Africa to keep the same XI for Tuesday’s semi-final against the winner of today’s match between New Zealand and the West Indies, which means the pressure will once again be on the bowlers to reach the same heights they did in Sydney.

Apart from the pleasure of watching such a complete performance and celebrating South Africa’s first win in a World Cup knockout game, I really liked the send-off given to Kumar Sangakkara and Mahela Jayawardene.

Those two great batsmen have given South African bowlers a terrible time over the years but their strength of character, charm and integrity means they will be remembered as so much more than just prolific employees of Sri Lanka Cricket.

In my opinion, Sangakkara is one of the greatest batsmen to have played the game, in the same exalted realms of excellence as Sachin Tendulkar, Ricky Ponting, Brian Lara and Kallis.

The Proteas obviously hold him and Jayawardene in similarly high esteem judging by the genuine warmth they showed in farewelling them, and Sangakkara’s response when asked how he would like to be remembered speaks to the very essence of sport:

“If anyone can say they’ve enjoyed playing against me and playing with me, I’ll be more than happy.”

Cricket South Africa sent out a special tribute statement when Tendulkar retired; Sangakkara is surely deserving of the same honour?

 

Why Quinton de Kock must go 0

Posted on December 15, 2015 by Ken

 

South Africa are safely through the pool stages of the World Cup and now the crunch end of the tournament arrives with the knockout games. For the Proteas, that means a quarterfinal most probably against Sri Lanka at the Sydney Cricket Ground on Wednesday.

There is a possibility, however, that South Africa might have to play Australia in the quarterfinals, in Adelaide. If Australia’s match against Scotland in Hobart today is washed out, then the hosts will finish third in Pool A because Sri Lanka will have four wins as opposed to three for Australia.

South Africa are 99.9% certain of finishing second in Pool B because if Pakistan beat Ireland in Adelaide tomorrow for their fourth win of the group stage, then they will have do it by more than 500 runs or chase down their target in less than 10 overs to give themselves a better net run-rate than the Proteas.

So, working on the assumption that it will be Sri Lanka standing in the way of South Africa, how do the Proteas go about winning a knockout game at the World Cup for the first time?

Firstly, selection will be crucial and, for me, it comes down to either Vernon Philander or Farhaan Behardien at number seven.

Whoever coach Russell Domingo includes out of those two, Rilee Rossouw has to play and should open with Hashim Amla.

AB de Villiers may have backed Quinton de Kock publically – it’s another display of saying it until you believe it by the captain following him once again saying “South Africa are the best team in the tournament” – but our patience has run out after just 53 runs in six innings by the wicketkeeper. For the good of the team in a do-or-die game, De Villiers needs to keep however reluctant he is.

Most tellingly, De Kock has been out to the same delivery in all six innings – length outside off stump – and his dismissals have all been caught: at mid-off, mid-off, cover and three-in-a-row caught behind. So Sri Lanka know exactly where to bowl to continue the left-hander’s poor run of form.

The rugga buggers, who have two World Cup crowns to boast about, will tell you that when it comes to the pinnacle of international sport, any weak link is immediately targeted. You can’t have a dodgy prop or a defensively poor flyhalf if you’re going to be world champions.

Similarly, South Africa can’t have JP Duminy as a fifth bowler, delivering 10 overs. The off-spinner has only bowled 21 overs in four matches, conceding 6.19 runs-per-over, so he needs someone to help him share the load.

Against a strong batting side like Sri Lanka, on an SCG pitch where they scored 312 against Australia, and South Africa made 408 for five against the West Indies, I would go with five frontline bowlers and play Philander and Kyle Abbott.

One of those five is bound to be targeted and have an off-day, leaving Duminy to pick up the remainder of his overs.

To pull the rug out from under Sri Lanka’s feet, the Proteas are clearly going to have to dismiss Kumar Sangakkara and Tillekeratne Dilshan cheaply. The only problem is they average 45.89 and 47.09 respectively against South Africa.

The only drawback from playing five frontline bowlers is that it leaves South Africa with only six specialist batsmen and their supporters know only too well how vulnerable they are when chasing in World Cups.

That may favour Behardien playing ahead of Abbott. I am a fan of the Titans batsman having seen his finishing ability numerous times at franchise level; but I fear Sangakkara, Dilshan, Mahela Jayawardene and Angelo Mathews hitting him and Duminy out the park and the Proteas having to chase over 300 as a result.

 

Tsotsobe’s omission only mistake by selectors 0

Posted on March 16, 2015 by Ken

The national selectors have done their job in choosing the 15-man squad for the Cricket World Cup and on Monday, February 9, we will get an idea of what team management considers their best XI when South Africa play a warm-up match against Sri Lanka in Christchurch.

The announcement this week of the 15 players who will travel to New Zealand and Australia for the World Cup was a fairly mundane affair because the majority of the squad were considered certainties beforehand, which must be good heading into such an important tournament.

The World Cup chosen by the selectors – and that’s the one that matters! – differed from mine (published here on November 29) in just a couple of places. While I believe David Wiese’s day as an international all-rounder will still come, I am pleased that left-arm spinner Aaron Phangiso, who was growing into his role well before the most ill-timed of injuries, will be on the plane to Australasia.

I do believe the selectors have erred, however, in not selecting Lonwabo Tsotsobe, who I would have picked ahead of the inconsistent Wayne Parnell.

The former number one-ranked bowler in ODIs (as recently as May 2013) has had injury problems since then, but underwent ankle surgery in the winter and has been playing limited-overs cricket for the Highveld Lions since October.

In the Momentum One-Day Cup, he has knocked over 12 batsmen in six matches (making him the leading wicket-taker), averaging 18.08 and conceding just 4.42 runs per over – excellent figures that show he is close to his best form once again.

In the RamSlam T20 Challenge, although his economy rate was a little high at 8.14 runs-per-over, he claimed 14 wickets in 11 games – joint second-best in the competition.

For me, Tsotsobe is perfectly capable of performing a couple of roles at the World Cup: He has the ability to take wickets with the new ball, especially in swing-friendly conditions, and has skills with the old ball that allow him to be used in the middle overs as well.

There have admittedly been instances when Tsotsobe has not had the perfect work ethic but if the whispers are true that the team did not want the left-arm seamer in the squad then that would be a most disappointing example of the tail wagging the dog.

Things like ProteaFire and team culture and spirit are all good, but when they become the over-riding factor, the end rather than the means, then there will be problems, just as England’s stifled team have discovered in their descent down the world rankings. Tsotsobe may not be the perfect team-mate, but one hopes the selectors decided to exclude him based on on-field performance rather than what the players wanted.

Coach Russell Domingo has obviously had a major hand in taking Parnell with the Proteas on their intercontinental travels, having worked extensively with him at the Warriors.

The left-arm paceman and lower-order batsman does have the X-factor coaches are often so fond of, but the 25-year-old has not displayed the consistency needed at international level for me to have faith in him being a match-winner at the World Cup. The crucial death overs are a key weakness for him as well.

The omission of a genuine all-rounder like Ryan McLaren, who suffered the most ill-timed loss of form, or Wiese means the Proteas will have to bat Vernon Philander at number seven to ensure they have five frontline bowlers, which I believe will be necessary on the generally good batting pitches in Australia.

 

Better-backed SA women’s team off to Sri Lanka 0

Posted on November 06, 2014 by Ken

The South African women’s cricket team’s rise from sixth to third in the international rankings is undoubtedly rooted in the better opportunities they now have since being sponsored by Momentum and Mignon du Preez’s side is off on tour again this weekend as they head to Sri Lanka for four ODIs and three T20s.

The women’s Proteas are battle-hardened from their tough tour of world number ones England last month and will want to show how far they have advanced from this time last year when they hosted Sri Lanka and won both the ODI and T20 series.

“We played brilliantly against them here at home, but it’s going to be a different ball game playing them now in their home conditions. Ideally, we want to make sure we improve on those results because it’s the start of the ICC Women’s Challenge and the points are important for us to finish in the top four and automatically qualify for the 2017 World Cup. So it’s one of our most important tours,” captain Du Preez told The Citizen yesterday.

Talented all-rounder Sune Luus has withdrawn from the South African squad because she will be writing her matric exams, but off-spinner Yolani Fourie, the captain of the SA Emerging Players team, has been called up for the first time by the senior side.

The responsibility will now fall on young Dane’ van Niekerk to be the main leg-spinner in the team, but Du Preez believes the pace bowlers will be the strength of the South Africans.

“The Sri Lankans are used to spin, they’ve often played two seamers and five spinners against us, so spin is what they know. But they’re not so used to the speed we can produce and I think our amazing seamers can do something special against them, plus we have swing bowlers too who can move the ball both ways,” Du Preez said.

The women’s Proteas arrive on the sub-continental island on Sunday and the first ODI is on Wednesday at the Sinhalese Sports Club.

Squad: Bernadine Bezuidenhout, Trisha Chetty, Moseline Daniels, Mignon du Preez, Yolani Fourie, Shabnim Ismail, Marizanne Kapp, Ayabonga Khaka, Lizelle Lee, Matshipi Letsoalo, Nadine Moodley, Andrie Steyn, Chloe Tryon, Dane’ van Niekerk.

 



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