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Ken Borland



‘Moving Day’ not about building a lead for Homa but consolidation 0

Posted on November 11, 2023 by Ken

Max Homa of the USA plays his second shot on the 13th hole during the third round of the Nedbank Golf Challenge at Gary Player CC on Saturday.
(Photo by Warren Little/Getty Images)

The third round of a golf tournament – colloquially known as ‘Moving Day’ – is often about building a healthy lead heading into the final round, but for Max Homa, Saturday at the Gary Player Country Club was all about consolidation and the world number eight has fought off numerous challengers to end the penultimate day of the Nedbank Golf Challenge with a one-stroke lead.

Beginning the third round tied for the lead with Matthieu Pavon, Homa dropped just one stroke on Saturday and that was the key to his pre-eminent position heading into the final round. What he described as a “squirrelly” start saw the American bogey the par-three fourth hole, but he immediately birdied the fifth to cut Pavon’s lead back to one shot.

The key moment of the day came on the par-five 10th as Homa holed his bunker shot for eagle. Another birdie for the 32-year-old on the next par-five, the 14th, ensured he would lead alone after Pavon dropped shots on 15 and 16.

Homa posted a three-under-par 69 on Saturday to finish on 13-under overall, with Pavon’s 70 leaving him on 12-under. Nicolai Hojgaard’s 69, containing three bogeys as well as six birdies, lifted him to 11-under-par with Thorbjorn Olesen, whose only bogey came on the 16th, as he also shot 69.

“I didn’t swing so well to start, it was all a bit scrappy, but I hit the ball really well for the last 10 holes, I just didn’t sink anything,” Homa said after his round. “It felt like I was hitting good shots but not capitalising, things weren’t going my way before that nice bunker shot on 10, that was a lovely boost.

“I gave myself a lot of looks today and the plan tomorrow is to make a few more putts. It’s a dream and an honour just to have the opportunity to win this tournament, which has a tremendous history. Every day we walk past the winners’ plaques at the ninth green, it’s an impressive list and I would love to add my name to that legacy. All I can do is put myself in the best position to do that,” Homa said.

Pavon was okay with his position after a boiling hot, gruelling day at Sun City, nestled like a kiln between the Pilanesberg mountains. Before his late bogeys on the 15th and 16th holes, the Frenchman had been four-under for his round, not bad going in the testing conditions with the wind also having picked up.

“It was nice to start well with three birdies in the first seven holes, but overall it was a real grind today. It was hard, the pins are in tricky places and it was all about managing your game. It was also a very long day – five-and-a-half hours, which is too long in that heat and intensity, you drain a lot of energy.

“It was good to walk away with two pars, that was a very solid finish. It’s always nice having won a few weeks ago [the Spanish Open on October 15], so my confidence is pretty high and my game feels good,” Pavon said.

The chances of a South African winner, for the first time since Branden Grace in 2017, seem to be drying up with Hennie du Plessis still the leading local, but on five-under, eight shots off the lead. Three birdies in the first five holes on Saturday were considerable hops up the leaderboard, but he then slumped back with five bogeys leaving him with a 74.

Dan Bradbury, whose rapid rise from nowhere to prominence is one of the stories of the season, had a day of astronomical ups and downs, a bogey at the last leaving him on 10-under-par in fifth place.

On the 195m, par-three foirth, he was inches away from claiming a hole-in-one, but he followed up that birdie with another one on the fifth. The Joburg Open winner went out in two-under 34 after a bogey on the par-four eighth and a birdie on the par-five ninth.

The back nine was an epic rollercoaster for the Englishman. He left his birdie putt on the par-five 11th just short and then bogeyed the par-three 12th. He missed another birdie opportunity on the par-fibe 14th with a terrible close-range miss, but them made a marvellous 25ft putt for par on 15, followed by a massive 34-footer for birdie on the 16th.

Like many others, he then found himself in trouble on the 18th, the toughest hole in the third round, when he missed the green right and chipped out of the rough, 17 feet past the flag, failing to make the par-putt.

Constants & challengers looking for cheer in Pakistan 0

Posted on February 15, 2021 by Ken

South Africa have played 14 T20 Internationals in the last two years and have used 26 players in that time.

Of the squad that will start a three-match series in Pakistan on Thursday afternoon (3pm SA time), Tabraiz Shamsi (13/14), David Miller (11/14), Dwaine Pretorius (9/14) and Andile Phehlukwayo (8/14) have been pretty constant selections in the Proteas T20 squad.

But with the T20 World Cup scheduled to be played in India in October/November this year, who are the other players who will be looking to book their places in the first-choice squad over the next week? What are the roles for which there are still selection question marks?

Back-up spinner

With Imran Tahir only appearing once in the last two years, it would appear wrist-spinner Tabraiz Shamsi is now the first-choice spinner. But the effectiveness of spin bowlers in T20 has been a constant through the years, especially in India, and South Africa would love to be able to field two tweakers. Ideally, to balance the side, the second one should be a batsman as well.

The players who fit that description are Bjorn Fortuin, George Linde and Jon-Jon Smuts, all accurate left-arm orthodox bowlers.

Linde is the one who has had most to cheer lately, taking five wickets the last time he bowled, in the second Test. With an average of 17.78 and a strike-rate of 136 in franchise T20s, the left-hander can certainly bring some power-hitting to the No.6 position.

Fortuin is probably the best bowler of the three, but is the weaker batsman, while the 32-year-old Smuts is Mr Consistent and he has already excelled with both bat and ball in the five ODIs he has played.

Fast bowling back-up

Kagiso Rabada, now back resting in Bryanston, and Lungi Ngidi, the pride of Kloof, are the twin pace bowling spearheads of South Africa’s first-choice T20 side. There is quite a divide in terms of success between them and the other pacemen who are striving to be in the World Cup squad.

While Anrich Nortje is also back resting in South Africa, Junior Dala and Lutho Sipamla have the opportunity to make themselves regulars in the squad, while the uncapped trio of Glenton Stuurman, Nandre Burger and Okuhle Cele will want to show their abilities as well.

The No.3 link-man

Temba Bavuma is busy establishing himself as Quinton de Kock’s opening partner and Rassie van der Dussen and David Miller have cemented their places in the middle-order. But will veteran Faf du Plessis make it to another World Cup? The 36-year-old had a little dip in form last year, his strike-rate dropping from 145 to 125, but he does still churn out the runs in the shortest format.

If Du Plessis is not going to be at that No.3 node, who could possibly replace him?

Heinrich Klaasen and Pite van Biljon are more finishers who bat five or six, while Reeza Hendricks has plenty of experience in the top three but needs to regain his best form. If Janneman Malan blossoms then he could force his way into the reckoning and cause the batting order to shuffle with Bavuma maybe moving to No.3.

Ryan Rickelton and Jacques Snyman are the up-and-coming young stars who have excelled at franchise level batting in the top three as well.

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.”

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    Every day offers the opportunity for doing a kind deed or speaking an encouraging word to someone who feels overwhelmed.

    Our exuberant joy about God’s goodness to us should cause us to throw ourselves enthusiastically into serving others.

    But be sensitive to the needs of others, enrich their lives through love and kindness. Giving yourself in love and service to others is the duty of all those who love Christ and serve him with sincere hearts.

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