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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.

Proteas were the owner of a proud record in Australia, now humiliated 0

Posted on September 04, 2023 by Ken

The Proteas were the owner of a proud record in Australia, having won their last three Test series there, but sadly they will leave those shores after the third Test having surrendered the rubber to their great rivals and having raised serious concerns over the well-being of the game in South Africa.

Blown away by an innings and 182 runs in the second Test in Sydney to go 2-0 down in the three-match series, South Africa have been dominated in humiliating fashion. It is not overstating matters to say the Proteas batsmen have been made to look like fools by a potent Australian attack.

But it is not just in the last two games that the batting has failed; it has been a recurring theme for most of the year and Cricket South Africa, as the custodians of the national team, need to respond to what has become a full-blown crisis.

The inexperience of the current Proteas team – they took 309 Test caps on to the MCG, 234 of them belonging to four players, compared to Australia’s 572 – is a factor, but CSA are going to have to take a long and serious look at the domestic system that is feeding players into the national team.

The domestic game needs to hone both the skills and temperament of those players who are elevated to the international stage.

Hectares of playing area at the MCG, but no place for the Proteas to hide 0

Posted on July 24, 2023 by Ken

There is more than a hectare of playing area at the cavernous Melbourne Cricket Ground, the largest stadium in the southern hemisphere, but there will be no place to hide for the Proteas as they look to stay alive in the series in the second Test against Australia starting in the early hours of Boxing Day (SA time).

South African captain Dean Elgar confirmed on Saturday that the tourists will field the same bowling attack which did a good job in the first Test in Brisbane, so if there is a change to the team then it will come amongst the beleaguered batting line-up.

“Playing at the MCG is the stuff of childhood dreams and I personally watched the Boxing Day Tests on TV as a young kid. So it’s going to be a surreal moment going out on the field,” Elgar said.

“It’s the first time here for the whole squad really, we have not been in these waters before. But we have a massive job at hand, trying to level the series, and we can’t wait to get going.

“We do have our final XI picked and there was chat around the seven/four split. But the bowlers have retained their spots, so if there is a change then it will come in the batting.

“We’ve had two days of really intense preparation, but now the guys need to pitch up and respond. We’ve had good conversations, but talk is cheap now, we’d best put a performance on the board,” Elgar said.

The opening batsman said he hoped for a much fairer pitch than the minefield used for the first Test at the Gabba. A two-day Test was not only a massive fail for the game but a commercial disaster for Queensland cricket.

“The pitch feels a lot firmer now, it was quite wet yesterday [Thursday] from the rain. So it seems a good wicket, we want that balance between bat and ball, that’s all we ever ask for.

“I imagine it’s not that easy preparing pitches, but obviously we don’t want another two-day Test, hopefully that will never be repeated again.

“We have an attack that can win Test matches, but we need to get them into that situation and we know runs on the board are key. We had a bit of a hurdle last week, but we are starting afresh.

“We all feel in a good space. We had a brilliant build-up before the first Test, but then a bit of a hiccup. But both batting units had that bar one batsman. Maybe too much has been read into what happened last week,” Elgar said.

Blair Atholl the road less travelled, but Lawrence has been there before & equals his course record 0

Posted on March 14, 2023 by Ken

Playing the Blair Atholl Golf and Equestrian Estate course is the road less travelled for most of the South African Open field, but Thriston Lawrence has been there before and he equalled his course record on the massive Gary Player designed layout to top the leaderboard after the first round on Thursday.

The course has only hosted one professional event before – the Blair Atholl Championship in October 2021 – and Lawrence claimed the course record with a remarkable 64 in the final round that catapulted him into sixth place.

On Thursday he repeated that performance with another eight-under-par 64 to end the first day of the SA Open with a one-stroke lead. Lawrence, who won the rookie of the year award for the 2022 DP World Tour, birdied the second hole but then bogeyed the par-three third. From then on it was a cruise for the highly-promising 25-year-old as he gathered eight more birdies, five of them on the back nine.

The sheer length of the Blair Atholl course – at 7461 metres it is the longest in DP World Tour history – may be daunting for many in the field, but Lawrence enjoys the challenge.

“That was good fun,” Lawrence smiled after signing for his 64, “this course is quite familiar to me after I played the Sunshine Tour event here last year and I’m very happy to tie my course record from the final round then.

“I just tried to keep doing what I do, stick to the game-plan and be aggressive off the tee, and I hit good drives, my approach play was really great and I dropped a few putts today.

“It’s really long, but I like hitting full shots into the green, mid-to-long irons are my game. My long game is my strength and this course definitely suits me.

“It’s just good on the eye for me, the course just seems open for me and obviously I brought a bit of confidence today from that last round last year,” Lawrence said.

Englishman Ross Fisher, another of the longer hitters on tour, also went to town on the back nine, collecting five birdies as well, adding to the three birdies and a bogey, also on the third, he had on the front nine, to finish one behind Lawrence on seven-under. Fisher’s last DP World Tour win came at the 2014 Tshwane Open, which was played at Copperleaf, the previous longest-ever course in tour history, so that is a good omen for the 42-year-old.

Jens Fahrbring, the 38-year-old Swede, joined Fisher on seven-under with a superb bogey-free 65 as dusk settled over Lanseria.

Germany’s Matti Schmid held the clubhouse lead for much of the day with three eagles leading him to a six-under 66, where Scott Jamieson joined him late in the day, the Scot also going bogey-free. JJ Senekal also posted 66.

Luke Brown, who won the Blair Atholl Championship last year, parked himself on five-under with a 67 that also did not feature a single dropped shot. Spain’s Santiago Tarrio and Italian Edoardo Molinari also posted 67s, as did Northern Ireland’s Tom McKibbin, who made a hole-in-one on the 213-metre par-three 11th in just his second DP World Tour start.

South Africa’s Hennie du Plessis also registered an ace, on the par-three third hole.

Wilco Nienaber, perhaps the longest hitter of them all, also finished on five-under, offsetting a double-bogey five at the 17th with an eagle on the par-five closing hole.

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