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Ken Borland

You can tell Pink Day was a grave disappointment when … 2

Posted on December 17, 2023 by Ken

Arshdeep Singh was the destroyer of the Proteas batting at the Wanderers on Pink Day.

You can tell Pink Day was a grave disappointment at the Wanderers on Sunday when even India’s bowling hero, Arshdeep Singh, sounded a bit disappointed that no Proteas batsman could pose any serious challenge to him at a venue that used to be famous for spectacular batting exploits.

South Africa, choosing to bat first, were bundled out for just 116 in 27.3 overs, their lowest ever ODI total at home, with Arshdeep doing the bulk of the damage with career-best figures of five for 37 in his 10 overs.

The left-arm quick rocked the Proteas early with back-to-back wickets in his first over, the second of the innings, as he bowled Reeza Hendricks off the inside edge and then trapped Rassie van der Dussen lbw, both batsmen out for ducks on their home ground.

Tony de Zorzi led a slight shift in momentum as he scored 28 off 22 balls before being caught behind off Arshdeep in the eighth over, leaving the home side 42 for three. With Avesh Khan getting in on the action with brilliant figures of 8-3-27-4, South Africa then lost four wickets for 31 runs as they crashed to 73 for eight.

Avesh also took two wickets in two balls when he bowled Aiden Markram (12), also playing on, and then trapped Wiaan Mulder lbw, making it a team hat-trick as Arshdeep had bowled Heinrich Klaasen (6) at the end of the previous over with a lethal delivery that jagged back to hit the top of leg-stump.

That South Africa made it to 116 was thanks to Andile Phehlukwayo, whose defiant 33 came off 49 deliveries and included a couple of sweetly-struck sixes.

A used pitch – the same one that the Proteas batting crumbled on in the midweek T20 match – that offered considerable lateral movement, was not was expected on Pink Day, which is usually a pretty miserable day for bowlers.

Arshdeep sounded a little disappointed that the hype did not live up to expectation.

“I went to dinner last night with Axar Patel and Avesh and we were talking about how brutal the Proteas are on Pink Day, just hitting sixes all the time. We actually spoke about hopefully trying to restrict them to less than 400,” Arshdeep said after his man-of-the-match performance.

“But there was a bit of moisture in the pitch and it was also a bit up-and-down. The plan was really simple, to hit good areas and try and extract that movement, get nicks and lbws.”

There may be some questions over why groundsman Brendon Frost, who served for many years at Benoni’s Willowmoore Park, used a used pitch for the showpiece Pink Day occasion and also why it broke with tradition by being so bowler friendly. But according to the Central Gauteng Lions, the Proteas actually asked for the same pitch used for the T20 game.

But India’s brilliant bowling and South Africa’s meek failure to adapt meant their own attack barely had a chance to defend their meagre total. That became no chance when debutant Sai Sudharsan (55* off 43 balls) and Shreyas Iyer (52 off 45) added 88 for the second wicket.

The Proteas eventually bended the knee with 200 balls remaining in the match, surely their worst ever display on Pink Day and one that left a large but not capacity crowd mostly only halfway through the vats of booze they were hoping to consume.

South Africa batting coach JP Duminy did not exude any bitterness about the conditions and did not want to be drawn into a discussion of whether such pitches are good for ODI cricket, especially on important occasions like Pink Day. He said it was up to a batting line-up that, De Zorzi apart, has plenty of experience, to adapt better.

“In ODI cricket, you want a good competition between bat and ball. In the first phase of the game, the ball did a lot more than expected. We did expect it to do something, we make decisions based on previous information and we know at the Wanderers that if you get through the new ball then batting becomes easier,” Duminy said.

“Yes, conditions played a role today, but that can never be an excuse, we still have to find a way. Credit to the Indian bowlers, they bowled particularly well, but we need to understand the options that are there in those conditions.

“The batting has been pretty consistent for a period of time, but now we need to take accountability, our execution will always be judged and now is a time for reflection,” Duminy said.

With the match all over, done-and-dusted by 2.15pm, the Proteas certainly left themselves plenty of time for post-mortems.

One can only salute vintage Warner 0

Posted on August 17, 2023 by Ken

David Warner has been a nemesis of South African cricket for a long time, but one could only salute the stroppy left-hander for his vintage double-century in his 100th Test which gave Australia complete control of the second Test at the MCG.

With the build-up to his landmark Test being surrounded by talk of how much longer he would feature in the longest format – his previous century was nearly three years ago – and off-field drama as he sought to overturn the leadership ban imposed on him after his scurrilous ball-tampering actions in the previous Test series against South Africa, Warner was under real pressure at the MCG.

But with Kagiso Rabada having dismissed the 36-year-old in his last five innings, Warner made the bold statement that he had perhaps been treating bowlers with too much respect and he was going to return to his old, aggressive self in the second Test.

Warner was true to his word and his innings was a high-quality display full of all the attributes that have made him a great Test batsman: he brought an almost manic intensity to the crease, he was positive and committed to every shot he played and every run he scampered, driven by an immense hunger that saw him plough on through severe cramps brought about by searing temperatures that touched 40°.

Warner produced a typically flashy statement innings on his big day at the cathedral of Australian cricket. Not only did he become the eighth Australian to score 8000 Test runs, but only the second (and 10th overall) to score a century in his 100th Test. He was not satisfied and went on to become only the second batsman, England’s Joe Root being the other, to made a double-century in his 100th Test.

The lover of sports cars – he owns a McLaren and a Lamborghini Huracan – emptied the tank on Tuesday at the MCG and whether he still has the desire to fuel his continued presence on the Test stage, with daunting tours of India and England to come, remains to be seen.

Let’s hope he continues to grace the most important stage of the game because, whatever you may think of Warner the person and his antics, he is a box-office entertainer.

Green Gabba pitch has bowlers lining up like delivery vans 0

Posted on May 31, 2023 by Ken

A greener Gabba pitch than anyone could remember seeing before at Test level had the bowlers lining up like delivery vans outside an online store on Saturday, but Proteas top-scorer Kyle Verreynne said it was actually a good batting wicket in Brisbane on the first day of the first Test against Australia.

Sadly his colleagues did not enjoy the conditions as much as Verreynne, who scored a counter-attacking 64 off 96 balls, as only Temba Bavuma (38) made more than 10 as South Africa were bundled out for just 152.

Australia’s batsmen had problems too as they slipped to 27 for three, but Travis Head, with a tremendous run-a-ball 78 not out, and Steven Smith (36) took them to 145 for five at stumps.

While the pitch has provided seam movement, it has not been excessive and not even particularly consistent. But batsmen were also troubled by some inconsistent bounce and the sharp turn and bounce obtained by Australian spinner Nathan Lyon, who took three for 14 in eight overs.

“I think it’s a really good batting pitch to be honest,” Verreynne said, “and your normal game-plans are good on it. When you see it being so green, you expect the pitch to do so much.

“But it did a lot less than we thought it would. It’s not so soft even with such a thick grass layer, it’s quite firm and there is good pace and bounce.

“The aggressive approach worked for Travis Head and myself, but Steven Smith took his time and batted very nicely too,” Verreynne said.

It was the sort of pitch where being able to land the ball on the proverbial handkerchief on a good length would bring reward. The Proteas pacemen were initially able to do that, inspired by David Warner being dismissed on the first ball of the innings as Kagiso Rabada fired in a pinpoint short ball and Khaya Zondo took a phenomenal catch at short-leg. But as soon as the left-handed Head began shifting the momentum and putting the bowlers under pressure, the visitors’ attack turned ragged for a vital hour late in the day.

“After you’re bowled out for just 152, it’s difficult to get the energies up. So getting a wicket first ball was a massive moment, especially a big player like Warner,” wicketkeeper Verreynne said.

“That got the adrenaline going and our energy was really up for the next 10 overs or so. But unfortunately we fell away a bit after that.

“We’re probably still a bit behind in the game, but two late wickets did bring us back in a bit, they’ve given us a bit of a window. But it would have been nice to get a couple more wickets when we had them 27/3.

“After lunch, the pitch picked up a bit more pace and Anrich Nortje was getting it through nicely. Our fast bowlers definitely have a bit left in the tank and hopefully they can make an impact in the morning,” Verreynne said.

Bulls could call Van Staden back into service v Cardiff 0

Posted on February 28, 2023 by Ken

The Bulls could well call Springbok openside flank Marco van Staden back into service against Cardiff on Saturday night as they look to put more defensive pressure on the opposition, but changing the balance of their loose trio could also affect their attacking play, which was so impressive in the first half of last weekend’s match against the Ospreys.

With Nizaam Carr, wearing the No.6 jersey, linking superbly with the backline, the Bulls ran in seven tries. But they also conceded four and assistant coach Pine Pienaar said on Tuesday that they were looking at ways of putting more defensive pressure on Cardiff.

“In the first half against Ospreys, we made a really good start, but in the second half we lost a bit of momentum, we struggled to put pressure on them,” Pienaar said.

“So how we can still build pressure in the game, like we did in the first half, is something we’re really working on, doing it better in the second half, with or without the ball.

“We need to be able to see it out defensively if we’re in our half, create pressure and get the turnover. We’re definitely looking at defensively trying to build more pressure and then using the turnover ball.

“In the first half we defended well, we were good at the breakdown, we got turnover ball and we could attack. We need to get things balanced in terms of defence.

“It’s great to have Marco van Staden back, he’s been training today [Tuesday]. But we must also compliment Nizaam on a good outing, and Cyle Brink is back from injury.

“It’s nice to have these players back when Marcell Coetzee moved on and they made a statement. We’ve got the players to do the job,” Pienaar said.

Cardiff, as they showed in overwhelming the Sharks last weekend, will bring a mighty pack to Loftus Versfeld and Pienaar said the Bulls will have to improve on their showing against Ospreys to maintain their unbeaten record at home this season.

“Cardiff are so experienced, especially up front. They are a quality side with a good set-piece, big carriers and their halfbacks drive the game perfectly. They played a superbly-balanced game against the Sharks.

“Their home ground is a 4G pitch so they are also used to a fast game and they have special individual players. There is a lot of stuff we will have to be better at against such a quality side.

“I think it will be a humdinger and we will have to be spot-on to win,” Pienaar said.

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