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Ken Borland

Not much Proteas batsmen can do about structural issues, but basics can be better – Zondo 0

Posted on June 15, 2023 by Ken

Khaya Zondo and the rest of the Proteas batsmen in Australia can’t do much now about the structural issues in South African domestic cricket that are undermining the batting at international level, but the Test rookie did mention some basics of the game that he and his colleagues can do better to ensure they get more runs on the board in the second Test starting in Melbourne on Boxing Day.

The 32-year-old Zondo had batted in just two previous Test innings before he was thrown on to the Gabba minefield, but his 36 not out in the second innings was a defiant, plucky effort that would have given him some confidence for the rest of the series.

“It’s just a matter of really applying ourselves, getting really focused and making sure that we are present at the crease at all times,” Zondo said on Wednesday.

“A lot of the guys are new to Test cricket and there is a lot of intensity at that level, so we need to really focus on the ball. We need to bring all our soul and might while there at the crease.

“You’ve got to find a way to work through the challenges. It’s been a tough year of international cricket for the Proteas, playing in New Zealand, England and Australia is tough.

“And most of the pitches have been really tough. Test cricket tests your technique, makes you play with a straight blade because the ball is always between the stumps and you have to make sure you defend them,” Zondo said.

Watching the ball seems like an obvious thing for a professional cricketer to do, but there are levels and Zondo said his focus on every delivery has been something he has had to work on, even between innings in Brisbane.

“In the first innings, when I was lbw [for a two-ball duck], the ball nipped back quickly. So in the second innings I was trying to react ahead of the ball, watch the ball more closely,” Zondo said.

“Australia bowled very well, they were on the money. They realised there was a lot happening and they bowled a lot straighter. So it takes better defence to ensure you keep the good balls out.

“Playing for the SA A side and a bit of ODI cricket [6 matches] helped me adjust to this level, but there’s quite a difference in intensity and execution of skills. They were ruthless in their skills and their basics are sharp.

“You need to really defend your stumps and watch your off-stump. There’s not much to score off, but you can’t just sit there and think you’ll survive, because the bowlers will work you out,” Zondo said.

Structure in place for ICC to rate Gabba pitch, but Elgar makes sure his feelings are known 0

Posted on June 05, 2023 by Ken

The ICC do have a structure in place whereby the match referee rates the pitch for all international games, but Proteas captain Dean Elgar made sure his feelings were known about the Gabba snakepit as he said after South Africa’s six-wicket defeat in the first Test against Australia in Brisbane that it was not suitable for Test cricket.

Former West Indies captain Richie Richardson, the match referee on duty for the series, can rate the Gabba pitch as being ‘poor’ or ‘unfit’, which would lead to the International Cricket Council (ICC) requesting an explanation from Cricket Australia and possibly taking further action.

The general consensus on Sunday was that the grassy Brisbane pitch was very poor, with excessive sideways movement and inconsistent bounce, much of it steep from a good length. The Test was the second shortest since the Second World War and only the second two-day Test in Australia ever.

“For me, that’s not what Test cricket should look like. I would ask ‘Was it a good advert for the format?’ To have 34 wickets in two days means it was pretty one-sided towards the bowlers,” Elgar said after Australia had struggled to 35 for four to win, having bundled the Proteas out for just 99 earlier in the day.

“I’m a purist of this format and you want to see it go four or five days. But it was not a good Test pitch, there was some seriously steep bounce even with the old ball.

“When KG Rabada got Travis Head caught down the leg-side and Anrich Nortje was sending short ones over everyone’s heads, I asked the umpire when do they consider it dangerous? I didn’t get a reply, maybe they thought I was taking the mickey.

“The divots had a big role to play in the sideways movement, the up-and-down bounce, much of it steep. It was interesting to see how quickly the wicket started divoting,” Elgar said.

While the terrible pitch has taken some of the attention away from another poor batting performance by the Proteas, that is sure to come back under the microscope as the crucial second Test starting in Melbourne on Boxing Day gets closer. As captain of the good ship Proteas, Elgar needs to be shouting “Ahoy! There are rocky times ahead!”

But he, perhaps cleverly, pointed to the pitch as being the root of their problems.

“We need to be honest and realistic about what happened, we were absolutely jaffered out and they bowled properly,” Elgar said. “We were confident coming in to the game, we had practised bloody well. “We will now have some extra days to tap into our mental spaces. The biggest danger is to withdraw and not deal with what happened.

“I don’t see how hitting more balls is going to make us become better cricketers, we all know our games pretty well. It was just one of those games where we failed.

“Personally, I’m still confident going into the next Test, and you still want to give your batsmen confidence and positivity,” Elgar said.

Fox shows his class after Presidents Cup omission gave birth to plenty of controversy 0

Posted on February 10, 2023 by Ken

Ryan Fox’s omission from the International Presidents Cup team gave birth to plenty of controversy, and the New Zealander showed his class on the opening day of the Nedbank Golf Challenge at Sun City as he soared to the top of the leaderboard with an amazing eight-under-par 64.

At the time of South African – and 2007 Nedbank Golf Challenge winner – Trevor Immelman choosing his International team, Fox was ranked 47th in the world. But half-a-dozen players ranked below him were chosen, Immelman going as far down the rankings as No.114 Taylor Pendrith.

Fox is now up to 26th in the world rankings, the second-highest in the field behind No.25 and defending champion Tommy Fleetwood. The son of former All Blacks great Grant Fox was hurt by the fact he does not play on the U.S. PGA Tour and his major showings were poor in an otherwise stellar 2022.

But Thursday was a dream day on the Gary Player Country Club course for Fox, who leads veteran Luke Donald (65) by one thanks to five birdies and an eagle on the back nine.

“I don’t know what happened to be honest,” Fox said. “I couldn’t believe Louis Oosthuizen shot 64 on this course when Tommy won in 2019. I played okay on the front nine [-1] but from the 11th hole I felt that I pretty much couldn’t miss any shot.

“I’ve become better with the Driver, I have more confidence with it now and I wasn’t as intimidated off the tee as I used to be here. I kept the ball in play better and I had a lot of good numbers in, which makes a massive difference.

“You’re not between clubs and you don’t feel like you’re guessing. It was also easier to pick the wind today, it didn’t swirl so much.

“On the back nine I was in one of those zones you don’t get very often, and in that state you just need to get out of your own way,” Fox said.

Fox made just one mistake with a bogey on the par-four third, and being that error-free was an unattainable wish for most of the 66-strong field, even though it was a mild day at Sun City.

Only three golfers were bogey-free. Incoming European Ryder Cup captain Donald was one of them with an outstanding 65, where he also burnt up the back nine with five birdies.

Italian youngster Guido Migliozzi also had four of his five birdies on the back-nine, as he signed for a bogey-free 67 and third place.

Min-Woo Lee, Fabrizio Zanotti and Richard Bland finished on four-under, while the other bogey-free round came from another Italian, Edoardo Molinari, who shot 69. He is in a tie for seventh with Richie Ramsay, Lucas Herbert, Rasmus Hojgaard and Adrian Otaegui.

The leading South Africans were Branden Grace and Justin Walters, a shot further back on two-under-par 70.

Wishing for a summer of peace in golf 0

Posted on January 18, 2023 by Ken

After a bitter, confrontational year, there are many in international golf who just wish the whole LIV Golf affair and the resulting civil war would be resolved and the game could go back to the way it was.

Even Rory McIlroy, probably the most vocal supporter of the establishment tours, this week admitted that the whole feud has “gotten way out of control” and some sort of truce and lasting peace needs to be found.

LIV Golf holds their season finale this weekend with their Team Championship at Donald Trump’s National Doral. The purse is believed to be a staggering $50 million and it will surprise no-one that Trump has come out and praised the Saudi Arabian backers of the event and their big-money disruption of the status quo.

Back here in South Africa, as we prepare to go into the high-season of summer golf and the big co-sanctioned events, there is some good news. Golfers such as Louis Oosthuizen, Charl Schwartzel and Branden Grace, who have always been favourites of local fans, will be on the fairways competing for some of the big prizes in the major tournaments despite having joined the LIV circus.

Schwartzel and Grace will be joining the likes of Dylan Frittelli, Oliver Bekker, Dean Burmester, Thriston Lawrence, Danie van Tonder, Erik van Rooyen and even the little-known MJ Daffue, the Pretoria product who has earned his PGA Tour card and led this year’s U.S. Open at the halfway stage, at the South African Open from December 1-4.

Christiaan Bezuidenhout is also hopefully going to play one or two events.

Oosthuizen is going to play in the Alfred Dunhill Championship at Leopard Creek from December 8-11, but will miss the SA Open because he is going to be in the U.S. for his children’s first week of the new school year.

At the moment, none of the LIV defectors will be going to Sun City to play in the Nedbank Golf Challenge though, because that is a DP World Tour event, part of their season-ending series, the invitations based on their order of merit rankings. The DP World Tour’s attempt to prevent LIV golfers from playing in any of their events was blocked by a UK court though, with a final ruling expected in February.

Although events like the SA Open and Alfred Dunhill Championship are co-sanctioned with the DP World Tour, they are played under the auspices of the Sunshine Tour and they are not going to turn away such drawcards as Oosthuizen, Grace and Schwartzel.

The Sunshine Tour is also going all out to ensure those who have never been drawn to golf as a spectator sport have plenty of reasons to come to these tournaments, especially the SA Open, which is being played at Blair Atholl Estate for the first time.

Sunshine Tour commissioner Thomas Abt explains that “We want to create an exciting and fun event, not just for the hardcore golf fans but for their partners and children too”.

“We will be showcasing the best of South African golf, but what else is there that attracts people? We have a strong vision of fan involvement, so there will be exciting fan parks.

“We want to create a real sense of occasion, we have some interesting options there, plus on every day, we will have three spectators putting for cash – R10 000 on the first three days and R100 000 on the final day. And it’s all at a spectacular destination,” Abt says.

Hopefully the golf family will be reunited in South Africa this festive season. At the end of the day, surely the game, its rich traditions and history, are worth more than a few making many millions of dollars?

After all, professional golfers always tell you it’s not the size of the paycheque but the prestige of the title that really matters. Or has LIV Golf brought us to the end of such idyllic notions?

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