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Ken Borland



Nkwe defends schedule as CSA ignore calls for more red-ball cricket 0

Posted on January 31, 2024 by Ken

Calls for increased red-ball cricket for the country’s domestic players have been ignored by Cricket South Africa in the fixtures for the forthcoming season, but director of cricket Enoch Nkwe has defended the schedule, saying there will be opportunity for more four-day cricket when there is more sponsorship for the format.

The coming season will once again see just a single round of matches in the CSA 4-Day Domestic competition, plus a five-day final. The majority of the competition will be played between November 4 and December 30, with two rounds in February and the final scheduled to begin on February 28. A shortage of long format cricket has been blamed for the Proteas’ poor results in recent years, especially in Test cricket.

The SA A team will also play three four-day matches against West Indies A between November 21 and December 8. But the programme will then be overwhelmed by T20 cricket, with not only the SA20 in January but then a T20 Challenge for more than seven weeks from March 8 to April 28. Most of the country’s top players will be unavailable for this tournament, with the IPL starting on March 29. And, at the end of a long season and so close to the SA20, there is bound to be an element of ‘cricket fatigue’ amongst fans and players.

“We did look at a double-round first-class competition, but we decided to put more investment into the SA A team,” Nkwe told Rapport. “Making a very strong Test side is a priority, and we can expose a pool of players in the SA A side, allowing Test coach Shukri Conrad to see them up close.

“We spend close to R300 million on all aspects of domestic cricket, on and off the field, and our members [unions] add to that as well. With more investment in four-day cricket, we will be able to have a double round, but it costs more because of the longer accommodation. We’re still looking to engage the corporate world on assisting with that,” Nkwe said.

In terms of a seven-week T20 competition shorn of its top players at the end of the season being a hard sale, Nkwe said it was an opportunity for fringe players to put forward their credentials.

“Ideally we’d like our T20 to be played before the SA20, but it’s a challenge fitting it all in. It all depends on what is more the priority in each season. This season we are starting with the One-Day Cup this month because of the 50-over World Cup beginning in October. Then with the next T20 World Cup in June 2024, we want to play a lot of T20 leading up to that.

“The T20 Challenge will test our system, it’s what we’re looking to implement – to tap into our depth by providing opportunities and growing it. I’ve seen really good T20 players in Division II and hopefully the competition will bring a different energy.

“Yes, there will be pressure at the back end of the season, but we had a long season in 2019, that was a lot more hectic. Managing players has become our number one priority, and also keeping our domestic cricket strong. But the ICC schedule is a challenge, making us juggle things. It will be red-ball cricket that is the priority in some seasons,” Nkwe said.

The former Proteas coach said they would also be encouraging the teams to transact loan agreements to ensure a high standard of play in domestic cricket.

“The loan system has always been there – you’ll remember I brought Lizaad Williams to the Lions in the 2019 T20 Challenge – it’s just not being used. But we’ll be encouraging the coaches to work together because we can’t have our best talent not playing.

“We’ve hit the reset button for domestic cricket because we recognise that it adds a lot of value, it is impactful in the way it feeds into the Proteas. We’ve introduced a five-day final to mirror what the World Test Championship does, SA A playing the middle of the season is a big investment and we’ve reinstated the Colts competition. It’s about a strong pathway moving forward and we are slowly all getting aligned,” Nkwe said.

T20 auctions will be searching for Klaasen, as he showcases new game with pared down options 0

Posted on September 15, 2023 by Ken

Heinrich Klaasen heaves another boundary in his record-breaking innings against Australia.

Heinrich Klaasen ensured that he will remain one of the most sought-after players in whatever T20 league auctions he wishes to put his name forward for with a breathtaking, extraordinary innings at SuperSport Park in Centurion on Friday that blew Australia away and allowed South Africa to level the ODI series at 2-2.

Klaasen plundered 174 off just 83 deliveries to lead the Proteas, who had been sent in to bat, to an imposing 416 for five. Australia were then bowled out for 252, as South Africa registered their second biggest victory over their great rivals, triumphing by 164 runs.

The first half of the Proteas innings was a cautious affair as the top-order never seemed entirely sure what a two-paced pitch that also provided some nibble off the seam was going to do. After 25 overs, the score was 120 for two, Quinton de Kock (45), Reeza Hendricks (28) and Rassie van der Dussen (62 off 65 balls) having done a fine job in laying a solid platform.

The first ball of the 26th over saw Aiden Markram (8) caught at extra cover off Michael Neser, bringing Klaasen to the crease. Even though he breezed to a 38-ball half-century, he did not look as though he had hit top gear.

In fact, as Klaasen said later, it was actually Van der Dussen’s aggression that provided the spark. The pair of Pretoria-born batsmen had added 74 off 59 balls for the fourth wicket when Van der Dussen was caught behind attacking Josh Hazlewood, leaving South Africa on 194 for four in the 35th over.

What followed was utter mayhem as Klaasen and David Miller (82 not out off 45 balls) lashed another 222 runs off just 100 deliveries, including a scarcely-believable 173 runs in the last 10 overs. From eyeing 300 to hoping for 350 and then totally exceeding that too, it was an onslaught that brought back memories of the famous 438 game against the same rivals down the road at the Wanderers in 2006.

Remarkably, the Australian attack actually did not bowl as badly as the figures suggest. It was just that whatever plan they came up with for the rampant Klaasen, the 32-year-old had an answer and it almost always involved a boundary. He hit 13 fours and 13 sixes in less than two hours of batting. Middle-stump yorkers were blasted back over bowlers’ heads; full and wide deliveries were steered with an open blade over backward point.

And, counter-intuitively given how he seemed to have a shot for every delivery, Klaasen said his success these last couple of years is down to him actually decreasing the number of options he employs.

“In the last few years, the turning point for me has been taking a lot of options out of my bag. When I was young, you look up to a guy like AB de Villiers and you try and play all the shots.

“But the genius is in knowing when to play them. Like a golfer who’s trying to hit the green every time, you have to stick to the game-plan and use the right clubs. Now I have three different options for every game and I play every ball as it is, I don’t try and recap the previous ball.

“I didn’t know how many sixes I had hit, which shows I was only focused on the next moment, my mind was in the right space. I went through a bad phase in my career when I was taking a risk too early in my innings and I ended up being dropped from the Proteas.

“I came back to my domestic team [Titans] and my coaches [Mark Boucher, Richard das Neves and Matthew Reuben] said I’m using too many options. Richard and Matthew have done lots of work throwing thousands of balls at me, and Albie Morkel has also given me some great ideas,” Klaasen said on Friday night.

The willingness to avail himself of advice was also backed by an enormous amount of work in the nets.

“I never used to be one for hitting a lot of balls, but I had to because I had to invest in my batting. I developed a blueprint in training and it’s still working. Now I stand still and watch the ball and almost just let my body take over with what I’ve practised. It also involves a lot of homework on the opposition, it’s all about options and taking what’s on offer from the bowlers,” Klaasen said.

In the field, the Proteas were also much improved up front with the new ball. Lungi Ngidi removed both David Warner (12) and Mitchell Marsh (6) in the first five overs, and his final figures of four for 51 in eight overs were a welcome return to form for him.

The dangerous Travis Head was struck twice on the hand by the pacy but inconsistent Gerald Coetzee, and retired hurt for 17 off 11 balls, and it fell to wicketkeeper Alex Carey to try and keep things going with the bat for Australia.

Although never ahead of the steep required run-rate, the tourists were also not too far behind and when the towering frame of Tim David (35) began unveiling the big hits in a stand of 72 off 53 balls with Carey, it looked possible that the Proteas might still be involved in a close finish.

But Ngidi returned to remove David, Markram taking an excellent running catch at extra cover, and Kagiso Rabada then wrapped things up with three for 41 in 7.5 overs. Carey was the last wicket to fall, Rabada denying him a century when he had him caught behind gloving a hook for 99 off 77 deliveries.

The Proteas have discovered a new lease on life in the last two matches, setting up a series-decider at the Wanderers on Sunday. With Klaasen and Markram riding high after their extraordinary centuries in Potchefstroom and Centurion, and the rest of the batsmen in the runs too, the batting unit will go to the World Cup in good shape.

Spinner Keshav Maharaj, Ngidi and Rabada were impressive with the ball and the bowling attack will want to build on the progress shown.

In the meantime, Klaasen can bask in the glory of what he said was the sort of innings that only comes around once or twice in a career.

That’s how special it was.

CSA need a batting crisis plan that includes current players & coaches 0

Posted on September 04, 2023 by Ken

A dismal year of batting has come to an end for the Proteas, in which they reached previous lows achieved before only by the Bangladesh team as it first made its way in Test cricket, and Cricket South Africa urgently needs to implement some crisis planning that includes current players and coaches, and those who have recently retired.

South Africa were bowled out for less than 200 in seven successive Test innings, that dismal run only coming to an end in the second innings in Melbourne as a last-wicket stand of 27 between Lungi Ngidi and Anrich Nortje saw them stagger to 204 all out.

Only one team has had worse runs: Bangladesh with 12 scores of less than 200 in a row in 2001/02, just a year after they played their first Test, and eight in a row in 2018.

There were other unwanted statistics: South Africa’s batting average of 24.1 runs-per-wicket in the calendar year is the fourth-worst ever and scoring just two centuries and 19 fifties in 2022 is also amongst the top-three of meagre returns.*

The declining quality of domestic cricket has been fingered by many as being to blame for the poor quality of the Proteas batting, but the only people who will really know if this is true or not are those intimately involved with the local game. Coaches like Robin Peterson and Vinnie Barnes, current players like Dean Elgar, Rassie van der Dussen, Temba Bavuma and Aiden Markram, former greats like Faf du Plessis, Hashim Amla and AB de Villiers, even a youngster like Kyle Verreynne who has just come through the domestic system, should all be in the room and canvassed for their opinions.

It is with reluctance that I say the bean counters at CSA will also have to be involved because financial constraints have undoubtedly caused some of the problems.

We also need to have an urgent look at the standard of our pitches. Surfaces that favour pace bowlers have been pretty stock-standard in South African cricket for a long time and traditionally the country has produced some great fast bowlers.

But our depth is not as good as many believe – the pickings are fairly slim once you go past the fabulous foursome currently playing for the Proteas. One of the reasons for this is that our domestic pitches offer too much assistance – whether through excessive seam movement or inconsistent bounce – and our bowlers don’t learn the skills and game-plans required to do well on the better batting surfaces generally found at international level.

Australia have probably the deepest stocks of quality pace bowlers because they grow up learning their trade on good batting wickets, with pace and bounce that reward good bowling.

And that helps their batsmen, because they are always facing quality attacks at home as they come through the system.

The lack of depth in quality in our domestic attacks also affects the development of our batsmen – they are not tested for long enough periods and dodgy technique is not exposed and punished as it should be. Being able to build an innings and withstand pressure bowling from both ends for long periods are weaknesses we are currently seeing at Test level.

Unfortunately, when it comes to systemic issues, there are no quick fixes. The kneejerk reaction of getting an entirely new top six in is unlikely to work because that removes what little experience there is and the Proteas will start at zero again.

Unless CSA really look after, nurture and prioritise the level below the Proteas, then these unusually low batting returns, which are happening in all three international formats, will become the norm.

It is also going to require CSA undoing some of the policy decisions made in recent years that have weakened the domestic game.

*Stats courtesy of Sampath Bandarupalli of CricInfo

Jake says whether his decision was right or wrong is only going to be decided at the end of the season 0

Posted on July 20, 2023 by Ken

Bulls coach Jake White said whether he was right or wrong to rest his first-choice players from European Champions Cup action and then they still lost to the Stormers in their United Rugby Championship derby in Cape Town is only going to be decided at the end of the season.

Despite bringing a fresh, best-available team to Cape Town to tackle the defending champions, the Bulls were humbled 37-27, allowing critics to wonder whether it was worth sending the second-stringers to Devon last weekend and being soundly beaten by Exeter Chiefs.

“We have five points from two games in the Champions Cup, both us and the Stormers do,” White pointed out. “The decision had nothing to do about today, it was not a measure of whether I was right or wrong.

“We will only measure that by June next year. There was no way the same team could play today after flying 26 hours in economy and only arriving back Monday lunchtime.

“We’ve lost four times in a row now to the Stormers, but we will see in June when we have three competitions on the go. If I was only concerned with European competition then maybe I would have done things differently.

“But my brief as director of rugby comes from a decision made by the board. Next year’s Currie Cup will be played Wednesday-Saturday-Saturday, which is a helluva ask. Plus we only have eight training days in January because of the travel,” White said.

The former Springbok coach said the naivety of his team was a concern, putting it down to inexperience.

“It didn’t help playing 20 minutes with 14 guys, but we showed moments of inexperience, which was disappointing,” White said. “There were four minutes of madness when they scored three of their four tries.

“You can’t say you should have won when you’ve conceded four tries, but our attack was held up on the Stormers’ line a couple of times. The Stormers really stormed the breakdown.

“They would rather concede penalties than the try, and defence coach Norman Laker has been there a long time. In fact their whole coaching staff has been there a long time, so they are much more fluent.

“I don’t enjoy losing, but it’s a complete and utter juggling act at the moment. We are still young, every player in the Stormers pack is older than his Bulls counterpart. We have six guys who are 23 or younger,” White said.

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    Even when God calls you and chooses you to serve him, there may be inner conflict and confusion because you are not always willing to do what God is asking of you.

    But this inner struggle is part of spiritual life … Commit yourself to God and open yourself to the inflowing of the Holy Spirit.

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