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Ken Borland



Like snogging a slobber-mouthed dog as Titans set up for win while title slips away 0

Posted on March 14, 2023 by Ken

Young JP King shone with the bat for North-West.

If a tie is like kissing your sister then winning your last game but seeing your trophy hopes disappear could be like snogging a slobber-mouthed dog. The Northerns Titans maybe felt a bit like that as they set themselves up for a comfortable victory over the North-West Dragons at Centurion, but had to accept that they can no longer win the first-class competition.

The KZN Dolphins have assured themselves of the CSA 4-Day Series title and R1.5 million in prizemoney, even if they lose to the Central Gauteng Lions in Potchefstroom, because the 8.58 bonus points they gathered in the first innings push their tally to 118.04, which none of the other teams can overtake.

The Titans also face a battle for second place and the R750 000 prizemoney because if the Eastern Province Warriors bowl Western Province, currently 129 for three, out for less than 339 on Wednesday then they will pip Northerns by 0.5 of a point. There is no prizemoney for finishing third.

Northerns made heavy weather of bowling North-West out for 360 on Tuesday, letting catches slip and bowling messily. That left them with a potentially awkward target of 190 for victory, but openers Neil Brand and Modiri Litheko did a great job of lifting spirits in the home changeroom with a dashing unbeaten stand of 53 before stumps.

The Titans were probably eyeing the spoils of victory before tea when they claimed three early wickets on the third morning to reduce North-West to 90 for four, still 81 behind.

But Senuran Muthusamy and JP King took advantage of the crisis to prove their mettle. Muthusamy showed why new Test coach Shukri Conrad rates him so highly as he made a determined 62 to go with the six wickets he took in the Northerns first innings, while King, playing just his second game at Division I level, defied the Titans for four hours.

King eventually fell to the natural away-swing of Matthew Boast with the second new ball, but his 92 was a great effort, and the 10 fours and a six he struck showed he has the strokes to go with the determination.

Once Muthusamy was dismissed though, bowled by an excellent yorker from Boast, to leave North-West on 207 for five, just 36 ahead, there was a general laxity to the Titans performance. Perhaps the news had reached them that they were no longer playing for the title, but one would hope a R750 000 prize would still be motivation enough.

The Dragons tail wagged with enthusiasm in response and they added another 153 runs to give themselves a chance of winning their first four-day match this season. Duan Jansen was again an obstacle with 30 and then Juan James, the concussion substitute for Khaya Cotani, who was struck on the head first ball by Junior Dala, lashed 37 off 35 balls and put on 39 for the ninth wicket with Lwandiswa Zuma (15).

Boast was the best of the Northerns bowlers, finishing with three for 62 in 19 overs.

The Titans would have been unhappy with having let North-West come back into the match, but Brand was solid as ever at the top of the order as he reached 17 not out at stumps, while Litheko was in a rush, racing to 29 not out as he banished the memory of scoring just four runs in his last three innings.

Lions guts

The Central Gauteng Lions showed plenty of guts on Tuesday as they fought back superbly on the third day of their CSA 4-Day Series match against the KZN Dolphins in Potchefstroom.

The Dolphins had been calling the tune until Tuesday as they scored 329 and then reduced the Lions to 171 for eight. But the Central Gauteng team began their fightback with some brilliant resistance with the bat, led by Malusi Siboto.

Coming to the wicket at a difficult 128 for six, Siboto was involved in important partnerships of 27 with Connor Esterhuizen (36), 16 with Lutho Sipamla (12) and 26 with Codi Yusuf (14). But at 197 for nine, the Lions still faced a deficit of 132.

But Siboto and 19-year-old Liam Alder, making his first-class debut, then added a defiant 62 for the last wicket, making the trophy-hunting Dolphins really fight for the final wicket.

Siboto ended with a marvellous 54 not out off 167 balls, while Alder eventually fell for 23 off 63 deliveries. The last pair had crucially reduced the Lions’ first-innings deficit to just 70.

The bowlers then did a great job maintaining the comeback vibe for the Lions with Siboto having both Tshepang Dithole and Keegan Petersen caught behind, and spinner Alder claiming the wicket of first-innings top-scorer Marques Ackerman for just 10 as the Dolphins slipped to 68 for four.

Khaya Zondo (65) and Jason Smith (59) then added 111 for the fifth wicket, but Evan Jones then showed some proper skills with the old ball as he ripped through the lower-order, taking five for 46 as the Dolphins crashed from 179 for four to 222 all out.

Set a target of 293 for victory, the Lions were in good condition at stumps as they reached 64 for one.

Thando Ntini drew first blood when Josh Richards was unfortunate to be adjudged lbw for just 2, but instead of venting his spleen, captain Dominic Hendricks went about setting a solid foundation with his 32 not out.

Kagiso Rapulana also looked adept at the crease as he went to 30 not out, he and Hendricks adding 49 as the Lions went to stumps on 64 for one.

Needing another 229 runs to win, the Lions have certainly impressed with the way they have stayed professional right until the final day of the season, even though they can no longer win the four-day title, the Dolphins having accrued too many bonus points in the first innings to be overtaken.

Newlands

The Eastern Province Warriors are pushing hard for second place as they set Western Province a target of 339 to win at Newlands, the home side reaching 129 for three at stumps.

Glenton Stuurman had Jonathan Bird caught behind for 5 early on, and then returned to claim the key wicket of Zubayr Hamza, bowling him for 51.

Stuurman had earlier top-scored for the Warriors with his 38 lifting them to 184 all out. Left-arm spinner George Linde was the destroyer-in-chief for Western Province, taking three for 25 in 13 overs.

Knights hammer Rocks

The final round’s other game has already been completed with the relegated Free State Knights hammering the Boland Rocks by nine wickets.

Despite a second-wicket partnership of 146 between Pieter Malan (86) and Clyde Fortuin (133), Boland were bowled out for 319 with 23-year-old slow left-armer Monde Maqunqu taking six for 82 in 26.4 overs.

Thanks to his efforts, the Knights were left needing just 39 for victory, with Pite van Biljon and Raynard van Tonder scoring those runs in half-a-dozen overs.

No walk in the park for Northerns Titans – Mashimbyi 0

Posted on March 28, 2022 by Ken

The Titans may be on a six-game winning streak while the KZN Dolphins just scraped into the last four by winning their last game, but Northerns coach Mandla Mashimbyi knows Friday’s CSA T20 Challenge semi-final is going to be no walk in the park for his high-flying team.

The Dolphins are still waiting on the fitness of ace batsman David Miller, who has a hamstring strain, but they have other potent potential matchwinners in paceman Eathan Bosch, spinner Prenelan Subrayen, all-rounder Andile Phehlukwayo and batting kingpin Khaya Zondo.

“Winning six-out-of-seven games is no small feat and we need to enjoy that,” Mashimbyi told The Citizen on Thursday, “but the Dolphins are a formidable team in their own right.

“They have been the best white-ball team in the country for the last three years and we know that they are going to bring everything. The fact they are in the semis means they are doing something right as well.

“It’s going to be all about what you bring on the day and we will never take them lightly. We have to make sure we bring the intensity,” Mashimbyi said.

Working in the Titans’ favour, however, is that they seem to be on a similarly high-flying trajectory to when they won the T20 competition three times in a row between 2015/16 and 2017/18. They are playing with the confidence of a team that knows and executes its plan, and how to adapt when necessary.

“We must have done something right to get here, so the guys can take confidence out of that instead of feeling pressure in a knockout game. It’s a good opportunity to go out and have some fun,” Mashimbyi said.

“The guys should feel good about themselves and what is pleasing is the work they have put into what was initially a bumpy process. Different guys are putting their hands up.

“And I look forward to seeing who will be the game-changer in the semi-final, if one of our players can get the man of the match award then we will probably win.

“We are a team of 15 and we are in a good space with everyone playing a role. So it could be anyone who plays a matchwinning hand, we believe they are all capable and we have a lot still in the tank,” Mashimbyi said.

Most notably, Proteas stars Quinton de Kock and Tabraiz Shamsi have had good tournaments without ever really taking flight. They are both clearly in good form again and the big stage of a knockout match could well see them at their best.

Western Province take on neighbours Boland in Friday’s other semi-final.

Super summer for Proteas, never mind your last game 0

Posted on April 17, 2017 by Ken

 

They say you’re only as good as your last game, but that would be an unfair measure of the Standard Bank Proteas’ brilliance over a remarkable summer during which their resurgence left them as the number one ranked side in ODI cricket and the nearest challengers to India for supremacy in the Test format.

Of course, their second-placed ranking in Tests is thanks to them beating New Zealand 1-0 in their series that ended last week, with the Proteas escaping probable defeat in the final Test thanks to rain on the last day.

Then again, this Proteas side has shown before that they are at their best under pressure and who knows what Faf du Plessis and Quinton de Kock, with the help of the tail, might have achieved on the fifth day in Hamilton.

South Africa’s next assignment is the major challenge of a tour to England, but they can take heart from the fact that the conditions they overcame in New Zealand are probably the nearest to what they will experience in the United Kingdom during their visit for three ODIs, the Champions Trophy, three T20 internationals and four Tests, starting on May 19.

“We feel nicely set up for England having won all three series in New Zealand, which is not done often down there. Obviously we’re all gearing up towards the Champions Trophy and the fact that we won the ODI series 3-2 by winning what was like a final at Eden Park will be good going forward.

“Conditions were probably closest to what we will find on the England tour, there was always seam movement but not excessive bounce, which is what we expect in England. We’ve used various combinations and we have an idea for what works. We’re particularly pleased that all-rounders came to the fore and that batsmen in the lower-order were winning us games,” assistant coach Adrian Birrell said upon the Proteas’ return to South Africa.

For the Test matches, there are question marks over opener Stephen Cook and veteran middle-order batsman and part-time off-spinner JP Duminy. It will be interesting to see whether the selectors will branch out towards a new-look future team by making a couple of changes to the batting line-up.

But to make a change at the top of the order for the third Test in Hamilton, and introduce a debutant in Theunis de Bruyn batting out of position in place of Cook, was probably not the wisest move, and senior opener Dean Elgar spoke about how such selections cause uncertainty in the batting line-up.

“We had a good thing going but selection is out of the players’ control, it’s one of those things. It’s not easy for Stephen, I’ve been through it before and you can go into a dark place. The team has still been winning though, so it’s very difficult, especially when you know how much hard work he has put in and he’s a massive team guy.

“But the general thing with batsmen is that if you think you’re safe, you’re not. Your head is always on the chopping block and a good ball or a bad decision could cost you your spot. It’s unsettling that a guy like him can be left out when he’s been working his butt off,” Elgar said.

Cook will be preparing for the England tour by playing for Durham in the County Championship, while De Bruyn, who predictably failed in Hamilton having not been given the best chance to succeed, should be chosen for the SA A tour that precedes the Proteas’ trip, allowing the selectors to compare their form.

Or will Aiden Markram, also surely a certainty for the SA A squad, be the bolter who makes his debut in the first Test at Lord’s from July 6?

Or does De Bruyn not deserve another chance given that nobody should be dropped after just one game?

These are the questions that the selectors have left themselves with.

South Africa will certainly go to England with a settled attack though.

Morne Morkel, Kagiso Rabada and Vernon Philander had the Black Caps batsmen under constant pressure, relieved only by the sheer class of Kane Williamson, and spinner Keshav Maharaj will go to England raring to go after a stellar tour of New Zealand in which he topped the averages with 15 wickets in three Tests at an average of just 19.93.

There is a chance, however, that the Proteas will go the route of four seamers against England, in which case Chris Morris, full of runs and wickets at the back end of the summer, should be turned to as an all-rounder.

As brilliantly as the players have performed, enormous credit must go to coach Russell Domingo and his staff.

Nine months ago, it did not seem likely that Domingo would be taking the Proteas to England. Whether he is going to continue after the tour is another uncertainty hanging over the Proteas, but Elgar has no doubt he is the man to take the team further forward.

“If I can say one word to sum up the summer it’s that we are grateful. A year ago we were fading away, worrying about our own performance, but since then we’ve started playing for the badge and the environment has a big role in making it all possible. The last year has been amazing, but we must stay humble because we’re still not number one in Tests.

“But personally I would love to see Russell stay on, he’s still got the best years of his coaching career ahead of him over the next couple of years. He’s getting better with age. I’m a big Russell Domingo fan and I’d be more than happy if he stayed on.”

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