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Ken Borland

Conrad not the manufacturer of a dramatic new way, but has made brave calls 0

Posted on February 28, 2023 by Ken

New Proteas Test coach Shukri Conrad has made some brave calls for his first series in charge, against the West Indies.

New Proteas Test coach Shukri Conrad is not aiming to be the manufacturer of some dramatic new way of playing five-day cricket, but he has nevertheless made some brave calls as South Africa head into a new era in what most players still consider the pinnacle of the game as they take on the West Indies in the first of a two-match series in Centurion from Tuesday.

Conrad has not only installed a new Test captain in Temba Bavuma, whose predecessor Dean Elgar remains in the team but needs to regain his ability to make tough runs, but also cut a trio of players who would probably have expected to still be involved.

Dropping two of the three leading run-scorers in the series in Australia over the festive season is certainly a tough call if you are Kyle Verreynne, who scored two half-centuries in the three Tests, or Sarel Erwee, whose last Test innings was the dogged 42 not out he scored to help South Africa save the third Test in Sydney.

Lungi Ngidi has also been a regular in the Test team, playing 11 of the 18 Tests in the last two years. He has taken 33 wickets in that time, at an excellent average of just 21.63. Ngidi has also conceded only 3.06 runs-per-over in that time, all of which suggests he plays an important role in the Proteas attack, but Conrad has seemingly gone the bold route of wanting the express pace of uncapped Gerald Coetzee instead.

Heinrich Klaasen and Aiden Markram are the batsmen to benefit from the axing of Verreynne and Erwee. There is no doubting that both are amongst the most talented strokeplayers in the country, but Klaasen has scored just 48 runs in four Test innings, and Markram makes yet another return based on just how damn good he looks whenever he picks up a bat, except when it comes to actually scoring runs at Test level.

Typically of Conrad, who is never afraid to back his big calls, he has already stated that Markram will return to opening the batting alongside Elgar. The new coach is not reinventing how the Proteas play Test cricket, but he is certainly aiming for a more aggressive, positive approach.

Conrad was walking around the SuperSport Park field on Monday morning during the Proteas’ final preparations like a sergeant major, but he is not all bark and bite; he found time to give the no-doubt hurting Elgar an arm around the shoulder and a rub of the neck.

If the 55-year-old Conrad is the equivalent of the Proteas’ chairman of the board, then Bavuma is the new CEO tasked with getting the best out of the staff.

Bavuma is no stranger to international captaincy, of course, having led the Proteas in 17 ODIs and 25 T20s. He is highly-respected by his team-mates for his tactical acumen, technical ability and tenacity.

Bavuma has been no stranger to tough times recently, and he was stressing the need for his team to embrace a fresh start against the West Indies.

“These are exciting times, it’s the start of a new journey and I would like us to start with a clean slate and play the way we want to play,” Bavuma said at Centurion on Monday.

“We have got enough resources in the 15-man squad to adapt to conditions and back up whatever tactics we want to employ. And there are other leaders within the team, guys who have been around for a while, who I can definitely lean on. We just need to ensure we are all speaking the same language.

“The brand of cricket we play is how we want to measure ourselves, but we still need to man up. We know as a batting unit that we need to score the runs, we need to go out and do what we need to do.

“A lot of these guys have won a series against India not long ago when no-one really backed us to do that. I always preach playing together as a team and we don’t want to lose that,” Bavuma said.

Fresh starts almost always involve a positive approach to things, and it seems the Proteas are as concerned with how they go about playing as what they produce. Conrad will have to live or die by his brave choices, and perhaps he will discover that sometimes producing the goods is all that matters, no matter how you look doing it.

Feelings of nostalgia for last Proteas team to win at Newlands will dissipate if they win series v India 0

Posted on February 09, 2022 by Ken

The last time South Africa won a Test at Newlands was in January 2019 when they beat Pakistan by nine wickets. It’s not that long ago, but there is nevertheless a feeling of nostalgia for a side that included such great names as Steyn, Philander, Amla, Du Plessis and De Kock.

The Proteas need 111 runs with eight wickets in hand on Friday morning to beat India and win the series against the world’s No.1 ranked side, so the current team certainly must have something going for them as well.

A much-criticised batting line-up will have earned themselves massive respect if they chase down targets of more than 200 in the fourth innings two weeks in a row; the new-look Proteas bowling attack has already shown that they are a force to be reckoned with.

Lungi Ngidi has played a key role in that attack in this series and he was at the forefront at Newlands on Thursday as he spearheaded a fightback after lunch that saw South Africa reduce India from 152/4 to 198 all out. Ngidi took 3/12 in a seven-over spell, including the key wicket of Virat Kohli, splendidly caught in the slips by a leaping Aiden Markram, for 29 to set the collapse in motion.

“From the first Test, the team has been using the sort of language that there are going to be moments when someone has to put up their hand,” Ngidi said. “We don’t have superstars but we have good players and cricketing brains.

“This time it was my session and for me the important thing was to make sure I cashed in. I did decently in the West Indies as well, but against this calibre of players this is definitely one of my best series ever.

“I’m also very proud of Marco Jansen [19.3-6-36-4], he just wants to do well for the team. He has taken to Test cricket like a duck to water and he has a very bright future,” Ngidi said.

South Africa’s batting line-up have had many disappointing performances of late, but they are still in position to complete a remarkable series victory on the fourth day. Much will depend on rookie Keegan Petersen, who is on the brink of his third half-century in four innings as he went to stumps on 48 not out.

India’s stellar attack are going to push them all the way though and the pitch is going to offer enough assistance to still make it a fraught run-chase.

“The ball has been doing something this entire Test series and there are patches on this pitch that if the ball hits them, it does something more,” Ngidi said.

“It’s going to require patience, but we’ve seen from Rishabh Pant that you can score a hundred and there have also been a couple of seventies. So with the right application you can score runs.

“But if the bowlers hit the right areas then they can also take wickets. So it’s a good pitch – everyone is in the game and bat and ball are well-matched.

“If we can have a sixty-run partnership early tomorrow [Friday] then that will put us in position, but if they get early wickets then they are back in the game. It is very well poised,” Ngidi said.

Proteas have ticked these boxes 2

Posted on January 13, 2021 by Ken

While an injury-depleted Sri Lankan side beaten 2-0 on the Highveld is not going to provide the best measure of the Proteas’ progress as a Test side, South Africa have nevertheless ticked some boxes in the recent series. These are the positives coach Mark Boucher can carry forward to the tour of Pakistan and then the home series against Australia.

  • The Proteas have a pair of veteran batsmen in Dean Elgar and Faf du Plessis that the rest of the batting line-up can bat around.

The gritty, tenacious qualities of Elgar at the top of the order have always been apparent, but the 33-year-old is now also leading from the front with a more positive, aggressive mindset. Good starts are crucial for a batting line-up to consistently produce the goods and Elgar’s reliability is undimmed.

Du Plessis has brushed aside any suggestions his Test days may be numbered through his sheer hunger to still be playing, to still improve and still be scoring big runs. To have him in the crucial No.4 position, looking as good as he ever has, is a massive boon for the Proteas.

  • Lutho Sipamla’s successful introduction to Test cricket has increased South Africa’s pool of quality fast bowlers.

Sipamla suffered a nervy first day in Test cricket when he bowled his first 12 overs for 66 runs, going maiden and wicket-less. But he ended the series with highly creditable stats of 10 wickets for 167 runs; in other words, after his tough start, he bowled 27.5 overs and took 10 for 101. Although obviously still raw, the 22-year-old showed he certainly has something. The spells where he was able to find a consistent line and length were especially probing.

With Kagiso Rabada making his way back from injury, Beuran Hendricks also in the picture and much excitement over the potential of Glenton Stuurman, the Proteas have half-a-dozen quicks to choose from.

  • Wiaan Mulder has the potential to do a similar all-round job to Jacques Kallis.

Mulder is ostensibly a batting all-rounder, but we only saw glimpses of his talent with the bat during his useful innings of 36 in the first Test. But his bowling was a revelation as he finished the series with nine wickets at an average of just 20.55. The 22-year-old has wonderful skill with the ball and is clearly a thinking bowler. His control was also very good and, as Boucher said, he is not just a holding bowler but he also has a reputation for having a golden arm so he makes timely breakthroughs, as he did in both Tests. Which makes him an ideal fourth seamer, much like Kallis was. They are both bustling, strong bowlers and while Mulder will surely never touch the same heights of batting greatness as Kallis, he certainly has the ability to be an important run-scorer in the top six even.

  • Rassie van der Dussen has made an encouraging start to life at No.3

Replacing the great Hashim Amla was always going to be massive boots to fill, but Van der Dussen has performed creditably at one-down in the batting order, averaging 45 there in four innings, with two half-centuries. His slow start at the Wanderers drew an unnecessary amount of criticism and the fact that his approach was perfect for the match situation was borne out by the collapse of nine wickets for 84 runs that happened after his matchwinning partnership of 184 with Elgar.

Proteas won in own conditions but Boucher still pleased with several features of their play 0

Posted on January 11, 2021 by Ken

Mark Boucher conceded on Tuesday that his first series win as South Africa coach had come in their own conditions at home, but he was nevertheless pleased with several features of the Proteas’ play as they wrapped up a 2-0 triumph over Sri Lanka with an emphatic 10-wicket win in the second Test at the Wanderers.

“It was good to get the win, albeit in home conditions. But it was nice to see the batsmen spend some time in the middle and get some confidence back, and hopefully we can now build on that momentum in Pakistan. We will keep working on the technical stuff but they were quite solid on tough pitches. It was important for them to keep their intensity up and have a positive mindset.

“The bowlers have only played a handful of games between them, but they have lots of potential and they learnt pretty quickly. To see their growth makes me happy, if you compare them from that first innings at Centurion to how well they bowled here. They are a young group of bowlers and we just want them to keep it simple and try and get the best out of the conditions,” Boucher said on Tuesday.

While opening batsman Dean Elgar was the obvious choice for the man of the series award, scoring 253 runs at an average of 126.50, Boucher said the performances of rookies Wiaan Mulder and Lutho Sipamla were the other big positives of the rubber.

Mulder played a useful innings of 36 in the first Test at Centurion, while his skilful work with the ball – taking nine wickets at 20.55 – was brilliant and brought crucial balance to the attack. Fast bowler Sipamla topped the bowling averages for the series with 10 wickets at 16.70.

“I’m very happy to have Dean in such good form, he was nice and aggressive and technically I’m very happy with where he is too. He was able to score runs in tough conditions,” Boucher said. “We didn’t really see the batting side of Wiaan, but he is a very good batsman who could go into the top six. But he was fantastic for us with the ball, he’s there to make breakthroughs and it’s great to have that all-round option.

“Wiaan is still very young [22] but the talent is obviously there. And he has a great attitude, he’s so keen to learn and hopefully he can now stay on the park because I see a great future for him.

“One couldn’t judge Lutho on his first day in Test cricket because he had so many nerves. But he’s also very young [also 22] and he would never have felt that intensity of nerves ever before. But it showed Test cricket means so much to him, which is a good sign. He still needs to work on his lines and lengths, but he was definitely one of the positives.

“He learnt a helluva lot in this series, maybe he was a bit guilty of searching for wickets yesterday [Monday], trying to get some swing, and not hitting the deck hard, but today [Tuesday] he had decent pace and asked lots of questions,” Boucher said.

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