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Ken Borland

The facts behind the Paarl Royals’ win at the Wanderers … and a pitch that has gone the same way as the fax machine

Posted on January 25, 2024 by Ken

Wihan Lubbe of Paarl Royals during his beautifully-controlled half-century.
Photo: Arjun Singh (Sportzpics)

The facts of the SA20 game at the Wanderers on Wednesday night will show that the Paarl Royals beat the Joburg Super Kings by five wickets with six balls to spare, but one could just as easily use the number of extras conceded to indicate the difference between the two teams.

The Royals, in a bowling display full of discipline, backed by tidy fielding, conceded just four extras; the Super Kings donated 18 extras, including nine byes, five wides and a couple of no-balls. And there were a couple of dropped catches and several misfields and overthrows.

Joburg Super Kings coach Stephen Fleming was unsurprisingly a frustrated man after their fourth loss in six matches. Not just with his team’s sloppiness in the field but also with a Wanderers pitch whose character the home team is really battling to understand from match-to-match.

The days of a Wanderers pitch that was a batting belter week-after-week seem as far gone now as the fax machine.

“A couple of weeks ago the ball was really flying through and then tonight it was a low and turning pitch. So it’s difficult to understand, we don’t know what to expect and we’re struggling to adapt to it.

“But we were also a long way off where we need to be in the field, we were sloppy. We were a bit unlucky with the ball because a number of deliveries went just past the bat, but we could have saved 20-30 runs in the field and that was the difference.

“They needed 105 off the last 10 overs and we are disappointed we did not put them way. Instead we gave runs away and we did not get enough wickets,” Fleming said.

Having been sent in to bat, the Joburg Super Kings soon discovered that the pitch was really tough to handle against the hard new ball. There was seam movement for the pacemen and grip and turn for the slow bowlers. The top-order had to hunker down in their bunkers.

The Super Kings scored just 37 in the powerplay, only getting there thanks to Leus du Plooy hitting Lungi Ngidi for 6-4-4 off the last three balls of the sixth over. They also lost the wicket of Faf du Plessis, bowled by a superb cutter from Ngidi for 17 off 19 deliveries.

The in-form Du Plooy was able to fuel a slight breaking of the shackles with his 30 off just 16 balls and Joburg had reached 62 for two after 10 overs. Unfortunately they lost Du Plooy to some clever bowling from Andile Phehlukwayo, who outfoxed the left-hander and had him steering a lifter to short third man.

Reeza Hendricks, meanwhile, had dug in and played the sort of opener’s innings one usually sees in that format some people want to cancel, ODI cricket. He reached his first fifty of the campaign off 43 balls and was given a reprieve on 58 when Phehlukwayo dropped him, coming forward at square-leg, off Obed McCoy.

Hendricks took full advantage as he and Moeen Ali dished out some severe punishment in the last four overs, slamming 56 runs.

Hendricks showed the ability to stick around in tough conditions, his defiance allowing him to capitalise with some fine ball-striking towards the end of his innings, as he finished with 79 not out off 56 balls, with seven fours and three sixes.

Moeen’s 23 not out off just 12 balls included two sixes and helped Joburg to post 168 for three, a total that Fleming and many observers felt made them favourites.

“I thought we had plenty, definitely enough,” Fleming admitted. “It was very tricky at the start, a tough pitch for 20/20 cricket and I felt we did well to navigate ourselves to an above-par score. It was a well-constructed total on a pitch that wasn’t really suitable for hitting out.”

Lizaad Williams then removed Jason Roy (8) with his first delivery, in the third over, and Moeen dismissed Jos Buttler (22 off 18) in the seventh over, with Paarl’s total on 42.

Wihan Lubbe had come to the crease after Roy’s dismissal and endured some woolly moments, especially against the excellent Nandre Burger (4-0-21-0).  But looks can be deceiving and the left-handed Lubbe was merely playing himself in and biding his time, in the same way that Hendricks did for the home team.

Mitchell van Buuren (7) was bowled by off-spinner Moeen at the end of the ninth over, and needing a required run-rate of double figures, Lubbe and the determined Dane Vilas managed to avoid falling into the trap of just trying to hit boundaries.

They improvised shots, they ran hard and forced the fielders to crack under the pressure, really just upping the intensity of their partnership quite superbly.

Both were dismissed, however, with victory in sight, having added a brilliant 95 for the fourth wicket off just 54 balls, with eight fours and four sixes. It is the best SA20 fourth-wicket stand at the Wanderers.

Lubbe showed great composure and patience up top, steering the Paarl top-order through the tough times and finishing with 57 off 48 balls, with three fours and three sixes.

The 38-year-old Vilas showed how valuable he still is at this level, making 42 off 26 deliveries, with just one six. He still has plenty to offer.

“As the ball got older it became easier to bat,” Lubbe said. “That partnership between Dane and I got momentum on our side, and when that happens you will get the odd misfield and bad ball.

“A lot of credit must go to Dane for the intensity he showed and his calm presence helped me  a lot. Fortunately we lost the wicket on the strategy break and we were able to have a conversation with a few old heads around about how we would go about the chase. We spoke about keeping the intensity as high as we could for the next five overs and not letting the required run-rate get to 15s,” Lubbe said.

The mission accomplished means the Paarl Royals have now opened up a four-point gap for themselves at the top of the SA20 log.

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