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Ken Borland

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.

Results, and team-mates, kind to Bavuma 0

Posted on January 24, 2023 by Ken

Despite his own lack of form, results on the field have been kind to Proteas captain Temba Bavuma, and his team-mates have certainly shown their compassion for their skipper’s current struggles.

While Bavuma has scored just 17 runs in his last five innings, South Africa are now top of Group II in the T20 World Cup, and victory over Pakistan in Sydney on Thursday will almost certainly seal their semi-final place. They also have a match against the winless Netherlands, who are already eliminated, in which to qualify for the knockout round.

So the only likely change to the Proteas team for that Pakistan clash will be whether the second frontline spinner, Tabraiz Shamsi, returns to the starting XI.

“Every player goes through slumps and it seems worse when the games are so close together,” Aiden Markram said in support of Bavuma. “We’ve all been there and we all support Temba.

“We all know his important role in the team is not just about his batting. I think his leadership has been very good and he’s made some excellent on-field decisions.

“No one doubts his ability at all, we know he will come right. I’ve been there myself, more than once,” Markram said.

Although the door to the semi-finals has now leaned ajar for the Proteas after their delightful victory over India, Markram said they have learned to not get ahead of themselves.

“Being top of the log is a good thing, but we certainly don’t think we have one foot in the door. It’s going to be a massive game against Pakistan and then the Netherlands.

“We’ve seen in this Super 12 that any side can beat any team on their day. We just have to make sure we get better in each game, and that will give us the best chance of qualifying,” Markram said.

Bavuma is not the only captain under pressure at this World Cup, but his strike-rate this year is 77.22, compared to the 119.90 of Australian skipper Aaron Finch and the 115.59 of Kane Williamson of the Black Caps.

Tristan Stubbs has only scored 7 and 6 in his two innings at this World Cup, but the young man is coming in late in the innings and trying to hit boundaries. Considering his role and inexperience, it would be unfair to expect too much consistency from him at this stage, but if he does come off, then the results could be spectacular.

No big smile on Boucher’s face because saving job is 1st priority 0

Posted on May 13, 2022 by Ken

One would not have guessed from Mark Boucher’s face that he was celebrating another Proteas series win on Monday, but the lack of a big smile was probably because the South Africa coach knows his first priority now is to save his job in the face of those in South African cricket who are intent on his removal.

The Proteas ended their season on Monday in Gqeberha with a crunching 332-run win over Bangladesh for a 2-0 series win and an overall record of five wins from seven Tests this summer.

Combined with their unexpectedly good showing at the T20 World Cup and their brilliant 3-0 ODI whitewash of India, their coach should be sitting pretty and all smiles.

But instead Boucher will be facing a disciplinary hearing next month over charges of gross misconduct. In terms of his on-field job, in the here-and-now, about the only shortcomings of this Test side have been their annoying tendency to lose the first Test of a series, as they did against India and in New Zealand.

“It’s been a good summer, but we are still learning, we’re definitely not the complete team yet,” Boucher said sternly. “We’ve had our challenges, but we’ve played some very competitive cricket at times.

“There have also been times when we have played some bad cricket, like the first Tests against India and New Zealand. But we have grown a lot in a short space of time.

“For me personally, it has been tough. I’ve really enjoyed coaching the guys and the cricketing side of my job, it’s a tight unit. But outside that team environment, it’s quite difficult to say I enjoyed it.

“I don’t think anyone would be able to say they enjoy what has been put on my plate,” Boucher said.

The 45-year-old was famous for being a fighter though in his playing days, and overcoming challenges is his trademark, something his team managed to do against Bangladesh when they were lumped with a second-string side due to five players choosing to go to the IPL instead.

“It gave us the opportunity to play a couple of other guys and see what sort of players we have in the system. And also the opportunity to play a different brand of cricket, which has been good to watch.

“It’s a nice position to be in. The IPL guys did vacate their spots, and there is good competition now for those places. Through Covid we’ve looked at a lot of players and I think it’s paying off now,” Boucher said.

But even though things on the field are going well right now, the sum of all real South African cricket lovers’ fears could well come true if Boucher is fired for incidents that happened in the changeroom two decades ago.

Gaps in defensive matrix also a concern for Sharks 0

Posted on April 28, 2022 by Ken

While most of the attention around the Sharks has been focused on the lack of clinical finishing in their attack, the gaps in their defensive matrix are also a concern as they go into their vital United Rugby Championship match against the Dragons at Kings Park on Friday night.

As coach Sean Everitt has pointed out, while the Sharks were extremely wasteful of their opportunities in last weekend’s loss against Edinburgh, they also leaked three tries in sodden conditions, so it’s not as if their defence was faultless either. And the Dragons scored three tries against the Bulls at Loftus Versfeld to show that they have the weaponry to hurt the home side if they lose their shape in defence.

“In the last week everyone obviously looks at the opportunities we created on attack and were not converted, but we also need to look at the tries we conceded,” Everitt said.

“We let in three tries, so that means we need to score four to win the game, but that’s very difficult in these conditions.

“There were small details we fell short on in terms of taking our opportunities, but it’s a massive issue that we conceded three soft tries that we could have handled normally,” Everitt said.

The Sharks coach seldom volunteers much comment on individual performances, but given the spotlight on Curwin Bosch, Everitt felt the need to set the record straight on his starting flyhalf.

“There’s been a lot of talk about Curwin and we need to be factual,” Everitt said. “His kicking has been really good until last week and his kicking stats are the best we have.

“Against Zebre Parma he controlled the game and attacked much better than he had before. In terms of game-management, he did really well against Edinburgh.

“He showed his class in tough conditions and we were able to win 65% territory. Plus no-one sees the leadership he puts in through the week, how he performs well in training,” Everitt said.

Victory against the Dragons is crucial for the eighth-placed Sharks because they host the in-form Lions in their next match, before closing the round-robin campaign with games against top sides in Leinster, Connacht and Ulster.

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