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Ken Borland



Smith has reason to smile as 2nd season of SA20 takes cricket further from ugly place 0

Posted on March 04, 2024 by Ken

South African cricket was in an ugly place before the arrival of the SA20, and now that the second season has proven to be just as exciting as the first, commissioner Graeme Smith has reason to smile.

The former Proteas captain was certainly a happy man this last week as he got stuck into the post-mortems of the event that once again enjoyed tremendous crowd support, threw up more fantastic cricket, and was once again won by the Sunrisers Eastern Cape.

“In two years we have built something South African cricket can be really proud of. At the end of 2022, we were all looking for something positive. Now people are raving about the SA20,” Smith told Rapport.

“The feedback from the players, the teams and the fans has been extremely positive. The actual cricket played was probably the greatest strength of the tournament, teams and individuals really came to the fore and it was very exciting. And we will never take for granted the number of people who came to the grounds and turned on their tellies to watch.

“Mondays and Tuesdays are the toughest days to get a crowd, but to see the people come and support was fantastic, we were still 65% full on those days. And then from Wednesday to Sunday the crowds were incredible. The final weekend of league action was probably my favourite time because the crowds were amazing and it was tense cricket,” Smith said.

The success of the SA20 has certainly disturbed the cricketing landscape. Australia’s Big Bash League, which this year overlapped with the SA20 because it finished on January 24, is apparently feeling the heat. There has been talk of them bringing their auction forward to try and get the cream of the cop and making players sign guarantees that they will be available for the complete tournament. Smith has heard other rumours, but is not flustered by the competition.

“I hear rumours that the Big Bash will move to December. But those players who sign for them will still have options; those players who initially backed us I will always be grateful to.

“We will look at things like pre-signings and our auctions, but the timing of the auction will depend on what we deicide about pre-signings.”

But it is the International League T20 in the United Arab Emirates, which had its final on Saturday, which is causing the greatest ruction when it comes to these rapidly-spreading franchise leagues.

“We’ve built up our SA20 against the Big Bash and the ILT20 sitting right on top of us, so there are a thousand more positives for us than negatives. We obviously want some high-quality overseas players, but our tournament definitely has a local player base.

“But the ILT20 consumes too many overseas players; they require nine foreign players in an XI. So it’s not really an investment in UAE cricket. That also puts them up against the ICC, who passed a ruling that franchise T20 leagues are only allowed up to five overseas players. They gave the ILT20 an extended time to sort it out because they said they had existing broadcast deals,” Smith said.

With the Sunrisers Eastern Cape once again dominating the SA20, questions were asked as to why they don’t get home ground advantage in the playoffs. But the nature of the tournament, with this season’s qualifiers only decided after the last round-robin match, means it is logistically near-impossible to give the top two teams home fixtures.

A short, one-month tournament is what the SA20 is all about, and only deciding who will host the final at the end of the event would require nearly a week to be added to the schedule in order to satisfy the logistics of making the last game a real extravaganza and fitting finale.

“We’re trying to keep the tournament short and exciting, four or five weeks maximum. The SA20 is a massive ship to move logistically and it’s very difficult to do that in one day. We have to sell tickets for the final and brand the stadium properly …

“The final was sold out two weeks before the game, which is a real sign of success. We understand the fans want to see their team play in the final at home, but the format will probably stay the same. The IPL have a very similar set-up with neutral venues for the final, it’s like Champions League football as well. Like this year, we’ll probably give the winners the opening game next season,” Smith said.

Apart from stimulating the economy – Smith pointed out how airports around the country have been full of SA20-connected people for the last month – the successful league has also planted the first seeds of what will hopefully be a hugely successful 2027 World Cup in South Africa.

“The SA20 means that there should be a lot of high-quality people who have worked on an event of similar level to the 2027 World Cup. We’ve given them incredible experience of working under high pressure to very high standards, it’s a really high-performance environment. Our staff have made me proud and I want to see an outstanding World Cup here in 2027,” Smith said.

Given his success in setting up and driving the SA20, what chance Smith for the tournament director role in the new organising company CSA have just registered?

Nkwe defends schedule as CSA ignore calls for more red-ball cricket 0

Posted on January 31, 2024 by Ken

Calls for increased red-ball cricket for the country’s domestic players have been ignored by Cricket South Africa in the fixtures for the forthcoming season, but director of cricket Enoch Nkwe has defended the schedule, saying there will be opportunity for more four-day cricket when there is more sponsorship for the format.

The coming season will once again see just a single round of matches in the CSA 4-Day Domestic competition, plus a five-day final. The majority of the competition will be played between November 4 and December 30, with two rounds in February and the final scheduled to begin on February 28. A shortage of long format cricket has been blamed for the Proteas’ poor results in recent years, especially in Test cricket.

The SA A team will also play three four-day matches against West Indies A between November 21 and December 8. But the programme will then be overwhelmed by T20 cricket, with not only the SA20 in January but then a T20 Challenge for more than seven weeks from March 8 to April 28. Most of the country’s top players will be unavailable for this tournament, with the IPL starting on March 29. And, at the end of a long season and so close to the SA20, there is bound to be an element of ‘cricket fatigue’ amongst fans and players.

“We did look at a double-round first-class competition, but we decided to put more investment into the SA A team,” Nkwe told Rapport. “Making a very strong Test side is a priority, and we can expose a pool of players in the SA A side, allowing Test coach Shukri Conrad to see them up close.

“We spend close to R300 million on all aspects of domestic cricket, on and off the field, and our members [unions] add to that as well. With more investment in four-day cricket, we will be able to have a double round, but it costs more because of the longer accommodation. We’re still looking to engage the corporate world on assisting with that,” Nkwe said.

In terms of a seven-week T20 competition shorn of its top players at the end of the season being a hard sale, Nkwe said it was an opportunity for fringe players to put forward their credentials.

“Ideally we’d like our T20 to be played before the SA20, but it’s a challenge fitting it all in. It all depends on what is more the priority in each season. This season we are starting with the One-Day Cup this month because of the 50-over World Cup beginning in October. Then with the next T20 World Cup in June 2024, we want to play a lot of T20 leading up to that.

“The T20 Challenge will test our system, it’s what we’re looking to implement – to tap into our depth by providing opportunities and growing it. I’ve seen really good T20 players in Division II and hopefully the competition will bring a different energy.

“Yes, there will be pressure at the back end of the season, but we had a long season in 2019, that was a lot more hectic. Managing players has become our number one priority, and also keeping our domestic cricket strong. But the ICC schedule is a challenge, making us juggle things. It will be red-ball cricket that is the priority in some seasons,” Nkwe said.

The former Proteas coach said they would also be encouraging the teams to transact loan agreements to ensure a high standard of play in domestic cricket.

“The loan system has always been there – you’ll remember I brought Lizaad Williams to the Lions in the 2019 T20 Challenge – it’s just not being used. But we’ll be encouraging the coaches to work together because we can’t have our best talent not playing.

“We’ve hit the reset button for domestic cricket because we recognise that it adds a lot of value, it is impactful in the way it feeds into the Proteas. We’ve introduced a five-day final to mirror what the World Test Championship does, SA A playing the middle of the season is a big investment and we’ve reinstated the Colts competition. It’s about a strong pathway moving forward and we are slowly all getting aligned,” Nkwe said.

Zondo able to marry experience with fighting spirit 0

Posted on December 20, 2023 by Ken

Khaya Zondo was able to marry the experience he has in domestic cricket with a fighting spirit as he top-scored for the Proteas on another torrid day in their Test series against Australia on Saturday, and he is confident that he and his team-mates can do it again on Sunday’s final day to save the third Test in Sydney.

Zondo scored a career-best 39 in nearly two hours at the crease as South Africa struggled to 149/6 in the two sessions that were able to be played on the fourth day. That means they are still 127 runs short of avoiding the follow-on; they are likely to have to bat through 98 overs on Sunday, but they do have 14 wickets in hand on a pitch that demands watchfulness but is far from a minefield.

Zondo shared partnerships of 48 with Temba Bavuma (35) and 45 with Kyle Verreynne (19).

“We have one day to bat, we have done it before so I’m sure we can do it again,” Zondo said after stumps on the penultimate day at the Sydney Cricket Ground. The pitch is like the one in Pietermaritzburg, so it’s familiar to me as a Durban player.

“It’s not quick, there’s turn every now and then and it’s not reversing a lot. They are just using the crease and creating angles. The short ball doesn’t get up, so that is the only challenge from the perspective of facing the seamers. You’ve got to watch it and play instead of trying to get under it.

“The conditions dictate how you must play, whether the ball is turning or not, the pitch is quick or slow; and Temba and I felt out there that we needed to be quick on our feet, whether we were coming down the wicket or going back in the crease. Certain shots are better options,” Zondo said.

Although he is 32-years-old, Zondo’s sole real experience of Test cricket has been against the powerful English and Australian attacks, away from home and in often testing conditions for batting. His Test debut against Bangladesh last April came as a Covid substitute on the final day when South Africa had already completed their batting. His seven innings have now brought 120 runs at an average of 20 – figures that suggest he is worth persevering with, especially when compared to the returns of some of his colleagues who have been given more opportunity.

The Westville Boys’ High School product is feeling positive about his prospects, a mood he said is shared by his team-mates in the changeroom despite their miserable time in Australia.

“I’ve only had a short international career, I’ve only played England and Australia at their homes and those are two top attacks,” Zondo said. “But it’s been a good experience.

“It’s comforting to know that I am able to play against the best and hold my own. It’s just about spending more time at this level and then hopefully I can dominate one day.

“If I’m selected more, then I have to make sure I perform to play every game. The last year has been challenging, but if you can get through that then you can play at this level.

“For me it’s about taking every opportunity, playing as much cricket as I can get. If it’s first-class cricket, then I must go there and nail that; if it’s SA A games, then I must nail that,” Zondo said.

Lack of experience a large part of the Proteas’ batting woes – Sammons 0

Posted on November 08, 2023 by Ken

Proteas batting coach Justin Sammons says a large part of his team’s batting woes this year is due to their lack of experience because they do not play enough red-ball cricket.

While South Africa already play less Test cricket than most teams – a situation which will worsen markedly in the next couple of years – Cricket South Africa have also cut the number of four-day matches the provinces play to just seven per season due to financial constraints.

It means the country’s top batting talent may only play ten first-class innings a season when the effects of the weather and innings victories are thrown into the equation. Senior Proteas have also been conspicuous by their absence in domestic cricket, which weakens both the batting and bowling standard of the competition.

“What’s very important to realise is that there is no substitute for experience and you only gain that from playing,” Sammons said on Friday in Sydney. “The more you play, the more experience you get and the more lessons you learn.

“As a country, we need to look at how we look after the four-day system going forward. With the way the world is going, it’s a tricky balancing act, but we do need to find a way.

“The bottom line is that the players need to play as much cricket as possible. We’ve got to think out of the box, whether that’s the board or the director of cricket.

“But there has to be a way. We can’t just resign ourselves to T20 dominating and not playing enough first-class cricket. I believe the key for us is playing more four-day cricket,” Sammons said.

While the batting coach admitted that the batsmen were suffering from a lack of confidence, one positive has been the form of wicketkeeper Kyle Verreynne, who has proven himself to be a tenacious customer. Verreynne was one of only three Proteas batsmen to average more than 30 (32.12) in 2022, the others being Temba Bavuma (40.07) and Keegan Petersen (38.38).

“The growth in Kyle’s game has been tremendous, both technically and obviously mentally,” Sammons said. “The key I think is that he has figured out his own way of playing at his tempo.

“He has stuck to the tempo that allows him to be successful. He will continue to work on that, but he’s clear in terms of his identity as a cricketer, he understands how to go about scoring runs.

“He’s like Dean Elgar, Jacques Kallis or Graeme Smith in that you knew what you would get from them. I think he has that clear identity of who he is as a cricketer, which goes a long way.

“Following the England series, in tough conditions, our batsmen’s confidence was dented a bit. And then the first Test here the conditions really favoured the bowlers and naturally the confidence was hit even more,” Sammons said.

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    John 15:16 – “You did not choose me, but I chose you and appointed you that you should go and bear fruit and that your fruit should abide, so that whatever you ask the Father in my name, he may give it to you.”

    Our Christian experience begins when the Holy Spirit starts working in our imperfect lives. An inexplicable restlessness and a feeling that nothing can give you the satisfaction you yearn for, could be the Spirit working in you.

    Even when God calls you and chooses you to serve him, there may be inner conflict and confusion because you are not always willing to do what God is asking of you.

    But this inner struggle is part of spiritual life … Commit yourself to God and open yourself to the inflowing of the Holy Spirit.

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