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Ken Borland



Elgar says he’s okay with a lot on eve of first Test 0

Posted on May 24, 2023 by Ken

Proteas captain Dean Elgar said he was okay with a lot on the eve of the first Test against Australia, including the home team’s incredible record in Brisbane and what looks likely to be a paceman-friendly pitch for his struggling batsmen to contend with against a powerful attack.

Australia have lost just one Test – versus India in January 2021 – at the Gabba in 33 matches dating back to December 1989. Surprisingly, South Africa have only played one Test in Queensland in that time, the draw in 2012 when Michael Clarke scored 259 not out after centuries by Hashim Amla and Jacques Kallis.

“History is not in our favour in Brisbane, but that’s okay,” Elgar said on Friday. “This group of players doesn’t have any dirty laundry at the Gabba, we haven’t played here as a group so there have been no failures.

“We are looking forward to the opportunity, in fact for the last two weeks here we have been salivating for this moment. Australia is a really tough place to play, but so rewarding if you get it right.

“The pitch looks the same colour as the grass I’m standing on in the outfield, but green doesn’t scare us, we’re used to pretty green and juicy pitches in South Africa.

“The ball nips around a bit here, but that’s okay. The pitches are fair and the batsmen know that if they get in then they can really capitalise. And it looks like it will suit our bowling unit,” Elgar said.

Elgar acknowledged the whispers around the South African batting line-up and the opening batsman was quick to say he needs to lead from the front with big runs.

“All our batsmen must stand up, our batting unit has been a talking point of late. We’re not shying away from that and it’s time for us to rise up and shine.

“It’s time for me personally to put in a massive performance. As the senior batsman, you always carry the weight of responsibility and as captain I’m very aware of my burden.

“I’ve got to lead from the front, but that’s something I thrive on, I believe it brings out the best in me.

“The rest of our batsmen are just a bit inexperienced in Test cricket, but that also means they don’t have any baggage,” Elgar said.

Australia’s strong attack will no doubt be looking to hit hard and early in order to undermine that confidence.

Killing cricket’s designated Golden Goose 0

Posted on August 29, 2022 by Ken

Following Ben Stokes’ incredible heroics in winning England the 2019 World Cup, the all-rounder was almost officially designated as cricket’s golden goose, his golden eggs being the box-office draw he promised through his scintillating batting, ability to bowl match-turning spells and amazing catching.

Just three years later, that golden goose is almost on life support. Stokes hobbled his way out of ODI cricket this week, looking a shadow of the great player he is, well-beaten by the Proteas on his home ground at Chester-le-Street.

Fingers have been pointed at the England and Wales Cricket Board, and also the International Cricket Council, for the greed they have shown in their scheduling of matches. England have been expected to play 12 white-ball matches in 25 days this month, and their Test side has been playing at the same time as the T20 or ODI squad was preparing for matches against the Netherlands and India. If that’s not killing the goose that lays the golden eggs through diluting your product, then what is?

The ICC also now have a global white-ball event every year.

But it was most interesting to read the comments of another former England all-rounder (bowling), Derek Pringle, this week. The 63-year-old Pringle does not get quite the same amount of attention as the brilliant Athertons and Hussains of this world, perhaps because he is of an earlier generation, but his erudite views on the game are also full of cricketing nous.

Pringle pointed out in his column for the Metro that, in 1982/83, England played 10 ODIs in 25 days in the World Series tournament in Australia and none of those were in the yet-to-be-invented T20 format. Plus they travelled all over that vast land, the world’s sixth-largest country, straight after a five-match Ashes series.

But that doesn’t change the fact that today’s leading stars, playing for far greater riches than back in Pringle’s day, are battling to cope. The 31-year-old Stokes has not been helped by Covid bubbles, the death of his father and a perpetual knee niggle, as well as mental fatigue that saw him take a break from the game last year.

While I was privileged to be at the World Cup final at Lord’s on July 14, 2019 to watch Stokes fulfil his destiny as England’s most talismanic cricketer in an extraordinary triumph over New Zealand, that trumps the 438 game as the greatest ODI in my book, I was not overly surprised by his feats.

Back in February 2015 I had first laid eyes on him in the flesh, at the Mamelodi Oval of all places (and a lovely venue to boot). Playing for the England Lions against SA A, Stokes plundered an attack featuring Chris Morris, Marchant de Lange and David Wiese for 151 not out off just 86 balls, the left-hander smiting 15 mighty sixes. He then wrapped up the match with three wickets.

I had no doubt I had seen a future great.

The next January he scored his famous 258 off just 198 balls against South Africa in the Newlands New Years Test.

While there have been areas of his life off the field that have landed him in trouble (he is a red-head after all!), I have always liked Stokes as a person, too. On the field he is as competitive as they come, someone with an inspirational belief in his ability to pull off the impossible, but empathetic and supportive are the words most-often used to describe him in the changeroom.

Before the 2019 World Cup final, while travelling from Cardiff to Birmingham, we took a comfort break at one of the Services along the highway. England were on their way to Manchester to play Afghanistan and whose bladder should be co-ordinated with my own but Ben Stokes’s.

There he was in a cap and T-shirt, just wandering around without any pretences or ego.

I doubt he could have done that a month later after his sensational end to the tournament.

That is the Stokes we, as cricket lovers, want to see more of; get it sorted, please, administrators of the England and Wales Cricket Board and the ICC.

Look after your players, who are your product.

Australia allow English to keep Ella-Mobbs Cup 0

Posted on August 29, 2022 by Ken

With the 2022 Rugby Championship now two weeks away, we take a look at the form of the four teams involved, with today’s focus on Australia.

What they did in July

Following an incredible win (30-28) in the opening Test of their series against England, with 14 men and key injury disruptions, Australia then lost the second (17-25) and third Tests (17-21) to allow the tourists to keep the Ella-Mobbs [formerly Cook] Cup they have had since 2012.

In the first Test, in Perth, Australia lost lock Darcy Swain to a red card in the 34th minute and had already lost flyhalf Quade Cooper just before kickoff with a calf strain. Prop Allan Alaalatoa went off in the first half with concussion and fullback Tom Banks broke his arm. But a remarkable second half saw the Wallabies score three tries in the last 17 minutes to take control of the game, England scoring two consolation tries in and after the final minute.

Having beaten England for the first time since 2015, Australia went to Brisbane confident of wrapping up the series, but, beaten in the collisions and the territory battle, had to fight back from19-0 down to pile on the pressure at 17-22 against 14 men. But a key lineout miss saw England survive and then seal victory with a penalty.

The third Test again saw the Wallabies’ mount a rearguard action as they came back from 10-21 down in the final quarter, but still fell short.

What they did in the Champs in 2021

Coach Dave Rennie breathed new life into Australia’s challenge in the southern hemisphere competition as he steered them to second place and four successive wins in the tournament for the first time.

The Rugby Championship did not start well for the Wallabies, though, as they set a new low for most points conceded against the All Blacks, going down 57-22 at Eden Park to also allow their neighbours a 19th-straight year of holding the Bledisloe Cup.

Another sparkling All Blacks display in Perth saw Australia lose 38-21, although the contest was closer with New Zealand scoring two intercept tries.

But with Quade Cooper restored at flyhalf and playing his first Test in four years, the Wallabies’ fortunes turned with successive wins against the Springboks.

Cooper snatched a 28-26 win on the Gold Coast with a long-range, angled penalty after the final hooter, and then backline stars Len Ikitau and Marika Koroibete both scored twice as Australia ran South Africa ragged in a 30-17 bonus point win in Brisbane.

A 27-8 victory over Argentina in Townsville and then a 32-17 triumph over the Pumas, wing Andrew Kellaway scoring a hat-trick, saw the Wallabies break new ground in the Rugby Championship.

Fixtures

August 6: Mendoza, v Argentina

August 13: San Juan, v Argentina

August 27: Adelaide, v South Africa

September 3: Sydney, v South Africa

September 15: Melbourne, v New Zealand

September 24: Auckland, v New Zealand

Proteas do the country proud with another gutsy win 0

Posted on February 17, 2022 by Ken

The Proteas once again did the country proud with another gutsy win as they sealed an incredible 3-0 ODI series win over India, following the remarkable triumph in the Tests, by winning the third and final match by four runs at Newlands on Sunday.

Despite Quinton de Kock’s thrilling century, South Africa were left defending a moderate total of 287 and there were times when India looked well on track for victory. But the Proteas attack, without Tabraiz Shamsi, Kagiso Rabada and Anrich Nortje, kept fighting back and ultimately clinched the game in the final over. Defending just six runs, Dwaine Pretorius conceded a single and then dismissed last man Yuzvendra Chahal (2), skying a cutter into the covers.

Although Lungi Ngidi removed Indian captain Lokesh Rahul for 9 in the fifth over, Shikhar Dhawan, with a free-scoring, uncomplicated 61 off 73 balls, and Virat Kohli, with a typically feisty 65 off 84 deliveries, provided a great platform for the chase with their second-wicket partnership of 98 off 112 balls.

Andile Phehlukwayo’s golden arm turned the game, however, when he removed both Dhawan and Rishabh Pant, who charged down the pitch to his first ball and sliced it to deep cover, in the same over.

Left-arm spinner Keshav Maharaj bowled a superb spell of 10 overs for 39 runs in the middle overs and, in his last over, he gained reward with the massive wicket of Kohli, who was undone by sharp turn and bounce.

Shreyas Iyer (26) and Suryakumar Yadav (39 off 32) threatened, but the admirable Proteas attack kept chipping away. Iyer was very well caught by Phehlukwayo at deep backward square-leg as Sisanda Magala dug the ball hard into the pitch, and Yadav was fooled by a cutter from Dwaine Pretorius.

But Deepak Chahar blasted 54 off just 34 deliveries and South Africa really had to show their mettle at the death.

Some calamitous late overs left India needing just 21 off the last four overs. The explosive Chahar eventually fell when an Ngidi (10-0-58-3) slower ball saw him skying a catch into the covers, Pretorius taking the tester very well. Phehlukwayo (7-0-40-3) removed Jasprit Bumrah (12) in the next over and the experienced Pretorius then ensured South Africa kept their cool in the final over.

De Kock, returning to international action after missing the Test series, was scratchy in the first ODI and batted fluently in the second game, but he was sublime on Sunday. Continuing his wonderful record both at Newlands and against India, he stroked 124 off 130 balls and there were plenty of gorgeous shots to drool over. Today was the day the true genius of the left-hander came out and he was supreme in both the straight-bat and the cross-batted strokes.

India had won the toss and a bit of early moisture provided them with some swing and South Africa slipped to 70/3 in the 13th over. But De Kock found the perfect partner in the unflustered and in-form Rassie van der Dussen (52).

The pair added 144 at just about a run-a-ball as Van der Dussen notched another determined half-century, marked by excellent shot-selection and composure under pressure.

But both in batsman fell in successive overs and the Proteas needed a solid partnership of 40 between David Miller (39) and Pretorius (20) to get them a total which they were able to defend thanks to a never-say-die attitude they showed in the field.

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