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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 0

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.

Tidy stand between Hamza & Van Buuren ends the day well for Lions 0

Posted on December 21, 2023 by Ken

Zubayr Hamza could afford to be all smiles after the second day at the Wanderers.

A tidy unbeaten partnership of 82 for the fourth wicket between Zubayr Hamza and Mitchell van Buuren ensured the Central Gauteng Lions ended the second day of their CSA 4-Day Domestic Series match against the KZN Inland Tuskers on a much better note at the Wanderers on Thursday.

The slick batting of Hamza and Van Buuren took the Lions to 125 for three at stumps, bringing some stability on what had been a tough, weather-shortened day for the home side.

The Tuskers began the day on 252 for six, and they managed to make it to 345 all out, a useful score at the Wanderers. Number eight Malcom Nofal was the dominant figure in the morning as he stroked 71 off 102 balls, piling on the frustration for the Lions as he added 52 for the seventh wicket with Cameron Shekleton (24) and then 34 for the ninth wicket with Alindile Mhletywa (20).

A two-hour thundershower interrupted the mopping up of the visitors’ innings, spinner Bjorn Fortuin doing the job and finishing with impressive figures of 35-11-65-3. Pacemen Duanne Olivier and Tshepo Moreki also took three wickets apiece.

The Lions then came out to bat with the pitch undoubtedly spruced up by all the moisture and its time under the covers, and they immediately found themselves locked in a tense battle with the fired-up Tuskers new-ball pair of Keith Dudgeon and Thando Ntini.

The hosts were reduced to 16 for two at tea as Josh Richards was caught behind off Ntini for seven and fellow opener Mohamed Manack, on debut, was trapped lbw by Dudgeon for 2.

Ryan Rickelton briefly broke out of his cell with a run-a-ball 20 before he was also trapped in front by Dudgeon, leaving the Lions in danger on 37 for three.

Van Buuren initially batted like a bollard in defying the KZN Inland bowlers, but he then made short work of any loose bowling as he cruised to 37 not out off 71 balls.

Hamza, his strokes thick with class, was able to post his 15th franchise half-century, coming off just 68 deliveries, shortly before the close, which came after the second of two delays for bad light, with seven fours.

A day to test your patience at Leopard Creek 0

Posted on December 10, 2023 by Ken

MISERABLE: Louis Oosthuizen and his caddy trying to keep dry on the fourth day of the Alfred Dunhill Championship at Leopard Creek.
(Photo by Tyrone Winfield/Sunshine Tour)

It was a day to test your patience at Leopard Creek on Sunday as thundershowers limited play to just over two hours of action, restricting the great title showdown between Louis Oosthuizen and Charl Schwartzel to just seven holes which failed to break the deadlock between the two longtime friends.

Leaders Oosthuizen and Schwartzel, together with Christiaan Bezuidenhout, who began the final round five shots behind, teed off at 10am and were able to play four holes before the first storms moved over Malelane.

In that time, both Oosthuizen (2nd hole) and Schwartzel (3rd) managed to collect a birdie, while Bezuidenhout made his presence felt with birdies on the par-five second and par-four third holes to cut the gap to four strokes.

The lingering threat of lightning meant play was only able to resume at 4pm, and even then it only lasted 43 rather miserably wet minutes before thunder rumbled again and play was called off for the day.

Not much had changed in that time, although Oosthuizen must have had his heart in his mouth after he hit his tee-shot on the par-three seventh into the water. He showed his mettle, however, as he stroked in a 25ft putt to limit the damage to just a bogey.

Having just birdied the short par-four sixth after a lovely approach shot to six feet, it meant Oosthuizen dropped back to join Schwartzel on 16-under.

All three members of the final group began the final round smoothly, finding the fairways off the tee and hitting precision iron-shots. Bezuidenhout, however, had more success with the putter and he further cut the lead to three strokes as, straight after the lengthy weather delay, he rolled in a 20ft birdie putt on the par-three fifth hole.

Andy Sullivan was also cruising with two birdies in his first six holes, but he then bogeyed the par-four eighth to slip back to 11-under, five behind, alongside Germany’s Matti Schmid, who was three-under for his round.

Of the other South Africans besides the top three, Thriston Lawrence is accelerating up the leaderboard and is currently tied for eighth on eight-under, four-under for his round with three holes to play.

Jayden Schaper made a fast birdie-birdie start, but then went bogey-bogey and is level-par at the turn, also on eight-under overall.

Casey Jarvis sandwiched birdies at the first and third holes with a bogey at the par-five second, and then had a bit of a car crash on the ninth, with a double-bogey that dropped him to seven-under for the tournament, alongside Wynand Dingle.

The final round will only resume at 9am on Monday to allow the greenkeepers to ready the waterladen course.

Oosthuizen & Schwartzel at their best as they set up another Leopard Creek showdown 0

Posted on December 09, 2023 by Ken

Louis Oosthuizen during his wonderful 63 in the third round of the Alfred Dunhill Championship at Leopard Creek.
(Photo by Tyrone Winfield/Sunshine Tour)

With Louis Oosthuizen shooting his best ever round at Leopard Creek and Charl Schwartzel feeling physically back to something approaching his best, the stage is set for a classic showdown between the two great friends and Major champions as they go into the final round of the Alfred Dunhill Championship tied for the lead.

Sunday’s closing round will take the tournament back a decade and more as Schwartzel and Oosthuizen re-enact a rivalry that was a dominant feature of the tournament back then. Schwartzel had the better of the exchanges, winning the title a record four times, in 2012, 2013 and 2015, in addition to his 2004 triumph at Houghton Golf Club.

Oosthuizen has never won the Alfred Dunhill Championship, finishing runner-up in 2005 and 2014. The famous prowling leopard trophy is one he dearly wants to raise, and he put himself into prime position with a tremendous, nine-under-par, course record equalling 63 on Saturday to go to 15-under-par after three rounds.

“That was good,” Oosthuizen grinned after his faultless round with seven birdies and an eagle on the par-four, 284m sixth when he drove the green. “I played really solid and did not make a lot of mistakes, and then rolled it nicely on the greens.

“But it was hot! I was close to getting a beer from someone on the side of the course! I just tried to walk in the shade as much as I could, because it was brutal out there. And this is such a tough course, there are certain holes you need to take on and you have to play good shots. This course can really bite you and I’ve been on the bad side of it.

“But this is one tournament I really want on my CV, I’ve come close to winning before and I’ve messed it up before too. So tomorrow I’m just going to stay calm and do the same thing as today,” Oosthuizen said.

Charl Schwartzel on his way to firing a 65 in the third round of the Alfred Dunhill Championship at Leopard Creek.
(Photo by Tyrone Winfield/Sunshine Tour)

Schwartzel has endured an injury-plagued year and is just delighted that the physios have managed to patch him back together so well that he feels like his old self again. That old self has been the dominant figure at Leopard Creek through the years, and the 39-year-old turned back the clock on Saturday as he produced a stellar back nine featuring four birdies and an eagle on the par-five 15th, posting a 65 that saw him reach 15-under shortly after Oosthuizen.

“I loved it, that was really nice. It’s so much fun to be healthy again after having constant niggles for the whole year. You don’t realise how much an injury hampers you because you are always working around it. It was just free-flowing again and I can hit all my shots again. The clubface is stable and I’m striking the ball so well. It makes me really happy.

“This heat is comfortable for me, it’s how I know Leopard Creek. The first two days it felt like a new course I was learning how to play, with the ball not going so far in the cool weather, making it very difficult to go for the par-fives in two.

“Louis had a great round and we’ve been friends for a long time. We’ve come a long way together and we will both just try our best in the final round and see what the outcome is. The one who makes the least mistakes will win,” Schwartzel said.

Heavy prices were paid lower down the leaderboard for errant tee-shots or impure iron shots, and for poor course-management, which combined to give Oosthuizen and Schwartzel a five-shot lead.

Two quality golfers, well-versed in winning in South Africa, are tied in third place on 10-under-par: Christiaan Bezuidenhout dropped a couple of shots on the front nine, but reeled off four birdies in a row after the turn to post a 68; Andy Sullivan had a double-bogey on the par-three seventh and dropped another shot on 17, but finished superbly with an eagle at the last to sign for a 69.

Overnight leader Casey Jarvis notched four birdies but made too many mistakes, four bogeys and a double-drop on the par-five 15th took him down the leaderboard with a 74 to finish on eight-under-par.

Marco Penge got himself to 12-under-par after 13 holes, but three bogeys in his next four holes saw him slip back to nine-under and in a tie for fifth with Ashun Wu (69).

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