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Ken Borland

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.

NZ’s rampant form in Christchurch good reason for them to host both SA Tests there 0

Posted on February 25, 2022 by Ken

Notwithstanding the continued frustrations of Covid, there is very good reason for New Zealand to host both their forthcoming Test matches against South Africa at the Hagley Oval in Christchurch: The ground is a fortress for the Black Caps.

The Proteas were originally scheduled to play the second Test at the Basin Reserve in Wellington, but because the series will be played in a bio-bubble – New Zealand are currently battling the spread of Omicron – both matches are now in Christchurch, the largest city on the South Island.

And since the Hagley Oval became the venue of choice for international matches in Canterbury in 2014, New Zealand have lost just one of their 10 Tests there – against Australia in 2016. They have been in rampant form in their last four games there – beating Bangladesh and Pakistan by an innings, India by seven wickets and Sri Lanka by 423 runs.

Speaking of rampant, opening batsman Tom Latham has scored 864 runs at an average of 57.60 in nine Tests at Hagley Oval, while ferocious 6’8 fast bowler Kyle Jamieson has taken 22 wickets at 13.36 in three Tests there. Which suggests pace and bounce will come into play.

South Africa have only played two Tests in Christchurch, both of them at the old Lancaster Park rather than Hagley Oval. They won by an innings in 1932 in the inaugural Test between the two countries and then drew in 1999 when Herschelle Gibbs cruised to 211 not out and Jacques Kallis stroked 148*.

The success of Jamieson, Tim Southee and Trent Boult (both of whom average 21 at the ground) at Hagley Oval suggests the Proteas pacemen will be as happy as the songbirds in the adjacent botanical gardens.

But there has also been heavy run-scoring at Hagley Oval, with both Latham and Kane Williamson scoring big double-hundreds in 2022 and 2021 respectively, and there have been six other scores of more than 150 since 2014.

So that will please a South African batting line-up that might be getting a bit frustrated with the extremely sporty pitches they have had to play on at home in recent years.

The Proteas leave for New Zealand on Wednesday evening and the first Test starts on February 17.

De Kock to miss 2 Tests against India, but this time it won’t cause much discussion on microphones & keyboards 0

Posted on January 14, 2022 by Ken

Quinton de Kock’s previous absence from the Proteas team caused much discussion on microphones and keyboards around the world, but South Africa’s ace wicketkeeper/batsman is set to miss at least one, probably two of the forthcoming Test matches against India.

He will miss the second Test at the Wanderers from January 3 for a reason that nobody could rationally criticise: The 28-year-old and his wife Sasha are awaiting the birth of their first child and that is due to happen in early January. But because of the strict Covid protocols the series will be played under, players will surely not be allowed to leave and then return to the bio-secure bubble, meaning De Kock will also be absent from the third Test in Cape Town from January 11.

De Kock’s previous withdrawal from a Proteas match came in controversial circumstances as he pulled out of the ICC T20 World Cup match against the West Indies in Dubai in October, rather than follow a CSA Board directive to take a knee in support of the Black Lives Matter initiative.

This absence will have the blessing of the selectors, however, even though it robs the Proteas of one of their most imposing batsmen.

De Kock’s situation is why the selectors have chosen three wicketkeepers, Kyle Verreynne and Ryan Rickelton, being the others, in the 21-man squad they announced on Tuesday. Keegan Petersen also has some experience behind the stumps for the KZN Dolphins.

The strict Covid protocols, with replacements not being allowed to be brought into camp, means the selectors have had to cover all the bases up front in the original squad.

Verreynne made his Test debut in South Africa’s previous Test series, against the West Indies in June, but Rickelton has been in impressive form for the Central Gauteng Lions with two centuries in three innings and an average of 93.

Markram not sure whether his game has grown, but he has a better idea of flexibility required 0

Posted on November 08, 2021 by Ken

Aiden Markram is not sure whether or not his game has grown from his couple of weeks playing in the IPL in the UAE, but he does believe he has a better idea of the flexibility required in T20 cricket, which he says is going to be crucial for the Proteas in the forthcoming World Cup.

Markram joined the Punjab Kings for the completion of the IPL following the withdrawal of English star Dawid Malan, and, batting in the middle-order, made starts in every innings as he ended with 146 runs in six innings, averaging 29.20 with a strike-rate of 122.68.

When South Africa begin their T20 World Cup campaign on October 23 against Australia in Abu Dhabi, the middle-order is where Markram is most likely to find a place in the team.

“The pressure is always a lot more at a World Cup, the environment is all about pressure and you need to perform under it. The IPL is also high-pressured,” Markram said on Monday, “but I’m not sure if my game has grown or not.

“But it’s obviously a good standard of cricket and I was learning on the job, mingling with some seriously good players, chatting to legends of T20 cricket, but also trying to work things out in the middle during games.

“The important thing is that you have plans for the conditions before matches, the type of cricket you want to play, but if conditions don’t allow it then you have to have something else to fall back on.

“Trusting that back-up plan is important and we have certainly upskilled ourselves lately. I don’t think this team brings too much baggage from previous World Cups and we haven’t had too many chats about 2019,” Markram said.

In terms of the conditions, the Zayed Cricket Stadium in Abu Dhabi is in the desert but within sight of the dhows in the Persian Gulf, and arguably the best place for batting in the United Arab Emirates. The Proteas have an attack to thrive in most conditions, but the question is whether South Africa does have the batting line-up to put up big enough scores.

“Conditions were not too bad in the IPL, but each ground was very different, which I didn’t expect because I thought the conditions would be pretty generic. But each ground poses a different set of challenges.

“The pitches are not the easiest to bat on, but once you get in, you can take the game away from the opposition. But it’s tough at first for the batsman coming in.

“Sharjah [where they play a qualifier and England] was probably the toughest batting pitch and Abu Dhabi the nicest to bat on.

“In general you’re looking to take pace off the ball, that’s the go-to, lots of changes in pace. And you have to bowl your spinners at the right time, getting that decision right is important,” Markram said.

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