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Ken Borland

Markram stroking a comeback century the enduring image of a 1st day that ended with SA closing up shop 0

Posted on March 01, 2023 by Ken

Aiden Markram celebrated his return to Test cricket with an impressively-controlled century.

The Proteas may have lost wickets and closed up shop in the second half of the day, but the enduring image of the opening day of the first Test against the West Indies at Centurion will be Aiden Markram stroking the ball around SuperSport Park on his way to a comeback century.

It was just like the old days as Markram compiled a fabulous 115 off 174 balls in four-and-a-half hours at the crease, the opener’s first Test century since February 2021 leading South Africa to 314 for eight at stumps after they won what seems a good toss.

He and fellow opener Dean Elgar, stripped of the captaincy, needed some good fortune in the morning, but they both showed the determination and skill to fight through the new ball and they put on an impressive 141 for the first wicket.

It was out of character for Elgar to give his wicket away on 71 by ramping Alzarri Joseph to third man, where Jermaine Blackwood did well to hang on to the speeding ball above his head while tumbling backwards, but the left-hander had done the sort of defiant job at the start of the innings that he also did in the good old days. He was also more expansive than he often is, striking 11 fours and needing just 118 balls for his 71 runs.

Another left-hander, the debutant Tony de Zorzi, then joined Markram, and when South Africa went to tea on 206 for one, they seemed set to plunder runs in the final session against an attack that was looking increasingly flat.

But De Zorzi, looking for an unlikely third run, was run out for 28 and, from 221 for one, the Proteas lost their next seven wickets for just 79 runs.

Markram later said, however, that with the ball moving around all day, the home side will certainly take their position at the end of the day.

“We started really well after lunch, but as the pitch got quicker, it became clear that any ball could have your name on it,” Markram said. “The ball was still going sideways a couple of overs before the second new ball was due, so there was still quite a lot in the wicket even at the end of the day.”

Markram drove the ball magnificently through the covers, where most of his 18 fours came from, but also seemed to dial back his strokeplay a little, not going quite as hard as he can, his sixth Test century being an impressively controlled effort.

“I’ve been having nice chats to the coaches and the senior players, and with the slower bounce here on the first day, it can be difficult to drive,” Markram said. “In the past, I might have just gone hard anyway, but I understand now that, at some stages, you have to either earn the right to drive or the ball has to be extremely full.

“It’s not about being any less aggressive, but instead just trying to keep it as simple as possible. The attitude from the coaches is that each guy has his own strengths and if the ball is in your area then no worries, even if it doesn’t work out. But you have to marry that with the conditions and the bowling attack you’re up against,” the 28-year-old Markram said.

The West Indies picked up the big wicket of Proteas captain Temba Bavuma, trapped in front by Joseph for a two-ball duck in the same over as De Zorzi’s run out, and Joseph then speared a superb yorker into Markram’s stumps four overs later as the home side slipped to 236 for four.

Heinrich Klaasen was in counter-attack mode as he went to 20 off 22 balls, but he then miscued an attempted pull off Shannon Gabriel into the hands of Joseph, running from mid-on.

Senuran Muthusamy, surprisingly in the XI instead of Keshav Maharaj or another batsman, shouldered arms and was trapped in front by Kemar Roach for three, and Keegan Petersen dug in for an hour-and-a-half, but could only amass 14 runs in 50 balls before he walked across his stumps and was lbw to Kyle Mayers’ inswingers.

Marco Jansen (17*) and Gerald Coetzee, another debutant, who struck his first two balls for fours to reach 11 not out at stumps, will resume on the second morning.

Overnight, Markram will be able to savour a Test career resumed in the most impressive fashion. He said the confidence placed in him by new Test coach Shukri Conrad, who insisted he be recalled and open the batting, had helped inspire him on Tuesday.

“It might have been a good thing to be dropped, it meant I started today with a clean slate,” Markram said. “I was heartsore about not being in Australia, but the reasons I was given by the selectors were quite clear and I was happy with the explanation.

“As a batsman, you need runs on the board, and if you don’t have them then your position should be under scrutiny. It probably worked out nicely in the end. It’s been a strange journey, but I’m grateful it worked out today.

“There was a lot of relief when I reached my hundred, but it’s great when a coach backs you, what it does for a player is massive and I’ve always had a really good relationship and understanding with Shukri.

“His backing gave me extra confidence and you also want to do him justice. One of Shukri’s big strengths is that he’s always very clear where you stand and I’m grateful for his backing and another chance,” Markram said, having taken the opportunity with both hands.

SA hockey’s quick demise on Gold Coast does insidious damage 2

Posted on May 16, 2018 by Ken


The South African men’s hockey team’s hopes at the Commonwealth Games were quickly extinguished, but apart from scuppering any possibility of them adding to the Proteas squad’s impressive haul of medals, more insidious damage was done to the image of the game as a whole in this country.

South Africa began their campaign with a disappointing 4-2 loss to Scotland, who are not even in the top-20 of the world rankings, and were then hammered 4-0 by Australia and 6-0 by New Zealand. They ended the pool stage with a good 2-0 win over 11th-ranked Canada, but they were still condemned to playing in the wooden-spoon playoff for ninth and 10th place.

A 3-2 defeat at the hands of Wales, ranked 24th in the world, completed a shocking tournament for South Africa.

No-one is questioning the commitment of the team, who are, after all, basically amateurs trying to compete with professionals, but questions have to be asked about the selection of the squad.

Surely for a tournament of the Commonwealth Games’ stature – which attracts plenty of media attention back home – the selectors should fill the team with their most experienced, best players? This was not the case with several seasoned campaigners being left at home as SA hockey tried to ‘build for the future’.

The South African Hockey Association (Saha) like to give plenty of lip about a lack of financial support from Sascoc and corporates, but in this instance they have shot themselves in the foot.

The Commonwealth Games, with its widespread coverage, is the ideal platform – second only to the Olympics in terms of our hockey – for SA hockey to make a statement. Winning a medal, which is not a realistic target in the World Cup later this year, would make the public and potential sponsors and supporters sit up and take notice.

Even our women’s side, which is a top-class outfit, disappointed, only managing to finish sixth thanks to defeats to India and Canada and a draw with Malaysia. Canada and Malaysia are not even ranked in the world top-20, while South Africa are 14th.

It all just showed a lack of strategic thinking by Saha. No doubt the powers that be will say something about the mechanics of preparation for the World Cup being behind the Commonwealth Games failure. But a Commonwealth Games medal – or even a strong run for one – would have been a real fillip for the game back home, engendering far more positive PR than a 10th-place finish in a World Cup that the average South African will be totally oblivious about.

A full-strength South African side would have had a chance to nick a medal on the Gold Coast, something which nobody expects them to do in the World Cup. Now, instead, the public opinion of hockey will once again be of a bunch of no-hopers.

Saha needs to make better decisions to ensure they at least give their under-resourced, struggling national teams some gloss.

Isuzu & Blue Bulls finally united in partnership 0

Posted on December 22, 2014 by Ken

The announcement on Thursday of a three-year deal between Isuzu and the Blue Bulls will ensure that the union now has the bakkies that suit their image and that they will be behind the wheel of what most people would expect them to be driving.

Isuzu have been making bakkies since 1980 and the quintessential KB is now in its sixth generation and more than half-a-million buyers have the security of knowing they have bought a product that is built to withstand tough conditions. The Blue Bulls, too, pride themselves on being tough and reliable.

“The two most iconic brands in South Africa are probably bakkies and rugby and both the Isuzu and Blue Bulls brands are known to be as tough as nails, so it’s an ideal fit. The Bulls are an undeniable force in South African rugby with their unbridled determination, which is valued by Isuzu because we make the toughest, most durable bakkies,” Mlungisi Nonkonyana, the brand manager, said at the Gerotek testing facility outside Pretoria on Thursday.

While the partnership with Isuzu is a fabulous tie-in for the Bulls, they know that they are going to have to lift their own performance on the field in 2015 after failing to make the SuperRugby playoffs and being knocked out in the semi-finals of the Currie Cup.

“The performance standards have been set by the previous teams in our 76-year history, so our supporters obviously did not look favourably on us not winning any trophies this year. The pressure is on to rectify that in 2015,” Bulls CEO Barend van Graan admitted.

“There’ve been a couple of hiccups, but we have a terribly proud history and, with the squad we have, I think 2015 is going to be a good year. The Blue Bulls are not good losers, it hurts like hell,” John Newbury, the chairman of the Bulls board, said.

Isuzu bakkies are renown for being hard workers and Bulls coach Frans Ludeke, an Isuzu owner himself, will be hoping his team will replicate many of the same characteristics in the coming year.

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