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Ken Borland



Super summer for Proteas, never mind your last game 0

Posted on April 17, 2017 by Ken

 

They say you’re only as good as your last game, but that would be an unfair measure of the Standard Bank Proteas’ brilliance over a remarkable summer during which their resurgence left them as the number one ranked side in ODI cricket and the nearest challengers to India for supremacy in the Test format.

Of course, their second-placed ranking in Tests is thanks to them beating New Zealand 1-0 in their series that ended last week, with the Proteas escaping probable defeat in the final Test thanks to rain on the last day.

Then again, this Proteas side has shown before that they are at their best under pressure and who knows what Faf du Plessis and Quinton de Kock, with the help of the tail, might have achieved on the fifth day in Hamilton.

South Africa’s next assignment is the major challenge of a tour to England, but they can take heart from the fact that the conditions they overcame in New Zealand are probably the nearest to what they will experience in the United Kingdom during their visit for three ODIs, the Champions Trophy, three T20 internationals and four Tests, starting on May 19.

“We feel nicely set up for England having won all three series in New Zealand, which is not done often down there. Obviously we’re all gearing up towards the Champions Trophy and the fact that we won the ODI series 3-2 by winning what was like a final at Eden Park will be good going forward.

“Conditions were probably closest to what we will find on the England tour, there was always seam movement but not excessive bounce, which is what we expect in England. We’ve used various combinations and we have an idea for what works. We’re particularly pleased that all-rounders came to the fore and that batsmen in the lower-order were winning us games,” assistant coach Adrian Birrell said upon the Proteas’ return to South Africa.

For the Test matches, there are question marks over opener Stephen Cook and veteran middle-order batsman and part-time off-spinner JP Duminy. It will be interesting to see whether the selectors will branch out towards a new-look future team by making a couple of changes to the batting line-up.

But to make a change at the top of the order for the third Test in Hamilton, and introduce a debutant in Theunis de Bruyn batting out of position in place of Cook, was probably not the wisest move, and senior opener Dean Elgar spoke about how such selections cause uncertainty in the batting line-up.

“We had a good thing going but selection is out of the players’ control, it’s one of those things. It’s not easy for Stephen, I’ve been through it before and you can go into a dark place. The team has still been winning though, so it’s very difficult, especially when you know how much hard work he has put in and he’s a massive team guy.

“But the general thing with batsmen is that if you think you’re safe, you’re not. Your head is always on the chopping block and a good ball or a bad decision could cost you your spot. It’s unsettling that a guy like him can be left out when he’s been working his butt off,” Elgar said.

Cook will be preparing for the England tour by playing for Durham in the County Championship, while De Bruyn, who predictably failed in Hamilton having not been given the best chance to succeed, should be chosen for the SA A tour that precedes the Proteas’ trip, allowing the selectors to compare their form.

Or will Aiden Markram, also surely a certainty for the SA A squad, be the bolter who makes his debut in the first Test at Lord’s from July 6?

Or does De Bruyn not deserve another chance given that nobody should be dropped after just one game?

These are the questions that the selectors have left themselves with.

South Africa will certainly go to England with a settled attack though.

Morne Morkel, Kagiso Rabada and Vernon Philander had the Black Caps batsmen under constant pressure, relieved only by the sheer class of Kane Williamson, and spinner Keshav Maharaj will go to England raring to go after a stellar tour of New Zealand in which he topped the averages with 15 wickets in three Tests at an average of just 19.93.

There is a chance, however, that the Proteas will go the route of four seamers against England, in which case Chris Morris, full of runs and wickets at the back end of the summer, should be turned to as an all-rounder.

As brilliantly as the players have performed, enormous credit must go to coach Russell Domingo and his staff.

Nine months ago, it did not seem likely that Domingo would be taking the Proteas to England. Whether he is going to continue after the tour is another uncertainty hanging over the Proteas, but Elgar has no doubt he is the man to take the team further forward.

“If I can say one word to sum up the summer it’s that we are grateful. A year ago we were fading away, worrying about our own performance, but since then we’ve started playing for the badge and the environment has a big role in making it all possible. The last year has been amazing, but we must stay humble because we’re still not number one in Tests.

“But personally I would love to see Russell stay on, he’s still got the best years of his coaching career ahead of him over the next couple of years. He’s getting better with age. I’m a big Russell Domingo fan and I’d be more than happy if he stayed on.”

Why such negativity in the season of hope? 0

Posted on December 20, 2016 by Ken

 

This is the season of hope and our cricketers have certainly given cause for much optimism for the rest of the summer, and yet there are still people spreading negativity about the game in this country.

It started up again when Keaton Jennings, son of former Transvaal Mean Machine great Ray, made a century on debut for England against India last week. The South African-born expat is 24 years old and has been playing for Durham since 2012.

Following his brilliant 112 in the first innings in Mumbai, the nonsense talk started about Jennings being ignored by the South African system, without honour in his own land, if you like, with “quotas” receiving their normal share of the blame.

Just to set the record straight, young Jennings was the captain of the SA U19 team in 2011 and made his first-class debut for Gauteng later that same year. So Jennings was in the system, playing in the same side as Quinton de Kock at that stage, but to expect him just to waltz into the Highveld Lions team ahead of players like Alviro Petersen, Neil McKenzie, Temba Bavuma, Stephen Cook and Zander de Bruyn would have been naïve.

So Jennings was not denied fair opportunity, he merely made a personal decision, good luck to him, and it in no way reflects badly on Cricket South Africa.

The other bizarre negativity at the moment surrounds AB de Villiers’ selfless decision to give up the Test captaincy.

From being the blue-eyed boy of South African cricket, suddenly certain people are reading all sorts of sinister motives and reasons into De Villiers’ decision. It’s disgraceful that aspersions are now being cast on the honourable Faf du Plessis and his long-time friendship with De Villiers.

The person crying foul the most has been Fanie de Villiers, but then he has had an axe to grind with South African cricket for some time, and is persona non grata around the Proteas so he doesn’t really know what is going on inside that camp.

Sit down Fanie and follow the wise advice that says: “If you don’t have anything nice to say, rather don’t say anything!”

This summer tradition will be almost unrecognisable 0

Posted on November 28, 2015 by Ken

 

The Nedbank Golf Challenge is almost as much of a summer tradition in South Africa as watermelon, mielies, Redchested Cuckoos calling “Piet-my-Vrou!” and cricket, but there will be a definite sense of the end of an era when the tournament starts at Sun City on Thursday.

The event that started in 1981 as the richest tournament in golf – the only one to offer a million dollars in prizemoney –had a field of just five invited contestants, before going to 10 the next year. There were eight golfers in 1987 and 1988 and the event had its traditional 12-man field from 1993 to 2012 (apart from 2003 when South Africa hosted the President’s Cup and both teams played), before becoming a 30-player tournament in 2013.

With the expansion came official European Tour status and more world ranking points, but still almost no Americans have visited Sun City in the last 10 years and there has almost been a feeling of Africa’s Major gradually sliding towards extinction in these vastly-different socio-economic times.

On the continent where human evolution began, it’s always been a case of adapt or die, and so it is welcome news that the Nedbank Golf Challenge will undergo a major change from next year.

For 34 years the tournament has been held in the first weekend of December, a harbinger almost of the festive season and a chance for corporate South Africa to have a year-end party. But now the Nedbank Golf Challenge will be a part of the European Tour’s prestigious and lucrative Finals Series, which has enhanced prizemoney and Race to Dubai points for the leading performers on tour that season, in November.

The fact that the Nedbank Golf Challenge will be the penultimate tournament on the calendar, starting on November 10, the week before the Tour Championship, the season finale in Dubai, raises hopes that some top-class golfers will once again visit South Africa.

At the end of the year, who knows, maybe even the likes of Rory McIlroy will be chasing points as he looks to defend his Race to Dubai crown.

I said a while ago that the Nedbank Golf Challenge’s best hope of survival would be to become a regular, albeit lucrative and prestigious, tournament on the European Tour schedule, and the other major change is that the field will now comprise 72 golfers.

The top 64 in the Race to Dubai standings will be invited, but there will still be space for the defending champion, the winner of the Sunshine Tour order of merit and six invited golfers, with Americans probably being the major target there.

A long time ago, Gary Player and Sol Kerzner had a dream to bring the world’s best golfers to South Africa and, with Nedbank staying on board and increasing their sponsorship to the extent that the prizemoney is now $7 million, the new era at Sun City will hopefully attract the cream of the crop, certainly in terms of European talent.

 

Overseas dominance of Sunshine Tour continues in first round of Africa Open 0

Posted on October 23, 2015 by Ken

 

The overseas dominance of this summer’s Sunshine Tour co-sanctioned events continued in the first round of the Africa Open at East London Golf Club on Thursday as European golfers filled 10 of the top 13 places on the leaderboard.

Ireland’s Kevin Phelan and Englishman Matt Ford shot five-under-par 67s to put themselves at the top of that leaderboard, one stroke ahead of five golfers on four-under-par, with another six competitors on three-under.

Phelan teed off from the ninth hole at 7.30am and managed to put an early bogey on the 11th – which was really tough into the wind on Thursday – behind him with two birdies before the turn and then a superb front nine that featured a birdie on the par-five first and then a run of three successive birdies from the fifth.

Ford managed to keep bogeys entirely off his card, which was a highly impressive feat on a blustery day on the East Coast that definitely separated the men from the boys, and the 36-year-old was accurate in all facets of his play as he collected five birdies.

Phelan missed the cut in last year’s Africa Open after rounds of 69 and 70, and the 24-year-old said he made a conscious effort on Thursday to be aggressive on the short course, despite the treacherous wind, which led to some scintillating golf.

“I played conservatively last year, which didn’t work very well, so I was more aggressive today. It led to some easy birdies and I think my longest birdie putt today was from six feet. I managed to keep the momentum going and I went for it any chance I got. It’s great to be in contention because last year I didn’t really know I could compete on the European Tour,” Phelan, who was tied for second in last week’s Joburg Open, said.

Ford has not yet enjoyed such success on tour, although he did shoot a 66 on the first day of the Alfred Dunhill Championship at Leopard Creek. But that excellent round was the start of a pattern that has seen the son of a professional footballer post opening rounds of par or better in all six events this season but then shooting worse for the rest of all those tournaments. So Ford said he was trying to not get too excited about Thursday’s 67.

“I’ve made a few good starts to tournaments but then not taken them through all four rounds, so I’m not going to get too excited.

“I think maybe I try a bit too hard because I haven’t had huge success before. I’m trying so hard to be better, I want it so much and sometimes that just increases the pressure. So the key for me is to keep relaxed. The top guys almost play with a sort of nonchalance, they portray an image that it doesn’t really matter to them, and I find it difficult to do that,” Ford revealed.

Englishmen Richard Bland, David Howell and John Parry are all sitting on four-under-par alongside the leading South African, Neil Schietekat, and Spaniard Eduardo de la Riva.

Matthew Fitzpatrick, who is yet to celebrate his 21st birthday, and fellow Englishmen Tom Lewis and Chris Lloyd are all on three-under, tied with Frenchman Gregory Havret and South Africans Oliver Bekker and Trevor Fisher Junior.

The wind, blowing out of the south-west, was obviously a major factor on Thursday and it was fascinating to see the different approaches of the golfers. The aggression of Phelan was a successful approach, but so too was the conservative strategy taken by the likes of Howell and Bland.

“I love this place. It’s a thinker’s course, not a bomber’s course. You have to manage your way around, and that’s the type of course that I like. It takes away the main weapon of some of the guys, some of the clubs they hit into par-fives are ridiculous, but they can’t do that here this week. Everyone is playing from the same place, because that’s where you have to put the ball, so it makes it a more level playing field,” Bland said.

“It was a very decent wind out there today, it was really pumping at times, so you had to play good links golf at the end of the day. Your short game had to be tidy and there are a couple of driveable par-fours out there, but there’s also a lot of trouble around. So a lot of my game plan was staying away from mistakes,” Howell said.

Jaco van Zyl, one of the tournament favourites, produced the comeback of the day as he recovered from three bogeys on the front nine, finishing with five birdies in his last seven holes to post a two-under 70.

Darren Clarke, Andy Sullivan, Edoardo Molinari and Keith Horne were all back in the middle of the field after shooting level-par 72s.

http://www.elgc.co.za/ELGCNewsroom/tabid/41/articleType/ArticleView/articleId/107/Early-foreign-dominance-at-Africa-Open.aspx



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