Kuhn’s long walk to test cap almost over

Times Media


HEINO Kuhn has waited 33 years and 133 first-class matches to be named in South Africa’s test squad.

On Monday, he was among the 16 players picked for the test series in England next month.

The moment might have been upon Kuhn in 2015-16, when he was the leading runscorer in the franchise first-class competition, or in 2006-07, when he was second from the top.

Instead, it came after he had scored an undefeated 200 for South Africa A against Hampshire in Southampton earlier this month.

That’s when the selectors told him his summer in England would continue for a couple of months.

Other notable decisions were the inclusion of Andile Phehlukwayo at the expense of Wayne Parnell, and that Dean Elgar would captain South Africa in the first test at Lord’s if Faf du Plessis doesn’t make it back in time from attending the birth of his and his wife Imari’s first child.

In batting terms, Aiden Markram is the plan B if Du Plessis isn’t around.

Stephen Cook, who scored 17 runs in four innings in New Zealand in March, makes way for Kuhn.

As if to celebrate his elevation, Kuhn made 105 against the England Lions in Canterbury on Thursday.

No pressure, then?

“It wouldn’t have made a difference; I play every game as if it’s my last,” Kuhn said about going out to bat with his then unannounced selection on his mind.

He made his first-class debut in February 2005 and played seven T20s for South Africa between November 2009 and January this year.

So, for a long time, it seemed as if Kuhn’s efforts to reach the highest level would go unrecognised.

“It’s always very disappointing, but it all happens for a reason,” he said. “It wasn’t my time, and now’s my time.”

Did he think of going the Kolpak route?

“I love South Africa too much. I’ve got a business there, so I’ll just play my cricket there.

“I’m not getting any younger, so I’ll finish in South Africa.”

Kuhn is one of South Africa’s most experienced cricketers and offers a strong second suit as a wicketkeeper.

How might he bring the value of his time in the game to South Africa’s dressingroom?

“I’ve played 11 years of franchise cricket, so it’s not like I’m young and inexperienced and I’m just going to listen,” Kuhn said.

“If I’ve got something to contribute I’m definitely going to mention it.

“I know everyone who’s playing there, I’m very good friends with a lot of them.

“But I do know my place: it will be my debut if I play.”

What might that something to contribute be?

“Just to keep them motivated,” he said.

“They haven’t had the greatest of times in England but I like to have fun while playing as well as I can.”

South Africa added defeat in the T20 series on Sunday to their loss in the one-day rubber and a first-round crash out of the Champions Trophy, so Kuhn might well have to add the fun factor.

He will have to do so with Markram — 11 years his junior and tipped for the top — also in the dressingroom.

How did that make Kuhn feel?

“He’s going to play a big role in South African cricket,” Kuhn said.

“I don’t see him as a threat. If he does well and gets picked I’ll be happy for him.

“I’ve been like that all my career. I’m not going to worry about the other guys taking my spot.”

Sometimes, nice guys don’t finish last.

Cook taught us that.

South Africa test squad: Faf du Plessis (captain), Hashim Amla, Temba Bavuma, Theunis de Bruyn, Quinton de Kock, JP Duminy, Dean Elgar, Heino Kuhn, Keshav Maharaj, Aiden Markram, Morne Morkel, Chris Morris, Duanne Olivier, Andile Phehlukwayo, Vernon Philander, Kagiso Rabada.

SA men miserable on mars, women victorious on Venus

Times Media


MEN are apparently from Mars and and women from Venus, but cricketminded South Africans’ of whatever gender wouldn’t have had to think too hard before picking their preferred planet on Sunday.

Normal service resumed for South Africa’s men in Cardiff, where England clinched the T20 series.

But the women got their World Cup campaign off to a rousing start with victory over Pakistan in Leicester.

AB de Villiers’ team went down by 19 runs in the deciding game of the rubber, bringing to six the number of defeats they have suffered in the nine matches they have played in England.

Dane van Niekerk talked tough leading into the tournament, and her team backed her up by surging to a three-wicket win with an over to spare.

Both of South Africa’s teams were put under pressure in matches that could have gone either way.

Only one came survived that test.

Any jokes about all those years spent in the kitchen having inured women to the heat will come with a punchline of mandatory membership of Misogynists Anonymous.

What do you call a bowler who claims two-thirds of two hattricks? Unlucky? On fire?

In Cardiff on Sunday, you called him Dane Paterson — who was twice on a hattrick.

Paterson couldn’t quite seal the deal on either occasion, but that didn’t matter nearly as much as the fact that he put the brakes on England with his haul of 4/32.

That limited the home side to a total of 181/8 when they seemed set for far more.

They got that far thanks to London-born, Boland-raised and schooled Dawid Malan and his hard-hit 78 off 44 balls.

Malan shared 105 for the second with Alex Hales, and his dismissal in the 14th over was the start of a slide of 6/54.

Paterson was mauled for 30 runs off the first 14 balls he bowled, but then he had a wide delivery slapped into cover’s hands by Sam Billings and bowled a ridiculously improvising Liam Livingstone first ball with a full toss.

Entrusted with bowling the last over of the innings, Paterson induced Joss Buttler to sky to point and yorked David Willey.

Alas, South Africa’s batsmen couldn’t match Paterson for BMT.

Opener Jon-Jon Smuts made 29, AB de Villiers scored 35 — off 19 balls! — and there was spirited stuff down the order from Mangaliso Mosehle and Andile Phehlukwayo, who clobbered South Africa’s biggest stand, 54, off 32 deliveries.

But that wasn’t enough, and South Africa will now add the T20 series to a scrapheap on which the one-day rubber and the Champions Trophy are already rusting.

Almost 250 kilometres northeast of all that in Leicester, a South African attack that harboured the No. 1-ranked bowler in the world — Marizanne Kapp —- and the self-described “fastest bowler in the world” — Shabnim Ismail — failed to rid the crease of Pakistan opener Nahida Khan.

Until, that is, the 39th over, when Ismail’s throw from deep cover to Kapp was flat and true, and the latter’s underarm lob hit the stumps with Khan out of her ground.

Khan’s 79 is the best effort by a Pakistani at the World Cup, and it helped the team reach 206/8, their highest total in the tournament’s history.

She stood tall as the first four wickets fell for 124 runs, and her dismissal sparked a landslide of 6/49.

Laura Wolvaardt, only 18, made South Africa’s intent plain by cracking the first two balls of their reply, bowled by Asmavia Iqbal, through point and cover for four.

With Lizelle Lee, she put on 113 for the first wicket before Sana Mir had Lee leg before for 60.

Then Wolvaardt was run out for 52.

Six wickets disappeared for 53 runs, two more runouts among them.

Could it be that South Africa’s women were as prone to choking as the men?

Happily for them, no.

Sune Luus and Ismail found a way to bring it home in an unbroken stand of 30 off 24 balls.

Both South African teams, then, felt the pressure.

The difference was the women dealt with it better.

Women could win Proteas culture clash

Sunday Times

TELFORD VICE in Canterbury

DANE van Niekerk knew captaining South Africa at the World Cup was a big deal. On Thursday she was given an idea of how big.

An hour after her team had hammered West Indies in a practice match in Leicester, Van Niekerk and her Windies counterpart, Stafanie Taylor, along with Australia’s Meg Lanning and Sana Mir, the Pakistan captain, boarded a helicopter bound for London.

Once there they were whisked to No. 1 Westminster Place, the headquarters of the National Liberal Club, which counts seven British prime ministers among its members.

The grand old Gothic clubhouse, festooned with sad-eyed portraits and centred on a marble spiral staircase of operatic proportions, lives up to all that.

You can hear the harrumphing that would have ricocheted off the walls in 1976, when full membership was opened to women after 94 years.

What Winston Churchill might have said of eight women marching into his club as captains of international cricket teams would make for an interesting parlour game.

It would also be irrelevant, because women’s cricket has long since grown up. Scoffing at it is as wise as Bobby Riggs taunting Billie Jean King.

But this World Cup is different. It’s the first to be fully televised and the prizemoney has been increased tenfold to US$500000.

“When I made my debut it was at a club ground with no-one watching,” Heather Knight, England’s captain, said. “Now we play at county grounds, which are full, and the game is on the telly.”

Some things, though, don’t change.

“You don’t come to compete,” Van Niekerk said. “You come to win a World Cup and that’s our expectation.”

Protea Fire?

“We’ve got our own culture, we really wanted to get away from that,” she said.

Can’t blame her, can you?

How will the Global T20 be different? Or will it?

Sunday Times

TELFORD VICE in Canterbury

WOULD you like your big hitters brown or white? Fast bowlers french fried? Some sauce on your spinners?

And do you want to supersize that to cover the cricket world?

Haroon Lorgat, Cricket South Africa (CSA) chief executive and the driving force behind the Global T20 league (GT20), reckons those questions have been answered.

“A lot of the different cultures one would have experienced in the past have changed,” Lorgat said at the GT20 launch in London.

“You find uniformity more now. You go to places and you see … McDonald’s. You look at global corporate companies, they’ve got a single culture. They’ve got synergies between different continents, different offices.

“We’re in a very singular kind of village now.”

The GT20, which will be played in November and December, is CSA’s answer to the T20 tsunami that has been sweeping the game since the inaugural Indian Premier League (IPL) in 2008. Similar tournaments exist in Australia, Pakistan, Bangladesh and the Caribbean.

So similar that it has become difficult to turn on your television and not see Chris Gayle pulverising bowlers in the colours of some invented franchise.

Or, as Ashwell Prince said, “We’re watching the same players in different jerseys go from here to there the whole year round.”

How, then, will the GT20 be different? Will it be different?

“We’ve tried to say to our Protea marquee players, ‘Your home base is your home base’,” Lorgat said. “Similarly, we’re going to try and get the international players to build an affinity with a particular team and not float about or change [teams] so frequently.

“It’s something we’re going to impress on the owners as well. But you can’t regulate all of that.

“We’ve said for the first two years, that’s how we want to do it. So we’ve fixed the marquee players to start building the fan base.

“I can see, maybe, in time to come, where owners have multiple teams, they’ll try to have the same players. Because that makes sense to them in terms of what they’ve got in their squads — the relationships they’re trying to build, the kind of cricket brand they’re trying to play.

“You can see that starting to filter into more uniformity.”

But Prince has a plan: “A player shouldn’t be allowed to sign for franchises in more than one league.

“Then he would have six weeks of the year to go and make his money, whether that be in the IPL or in South Africa or in the Big Bash.

“The rest of the time he can commit himself to his country.”

What a solid, meat-and-potatoes idea. Pity cricket prefers burgers these days.

Leading Edge: An old bloke walks up to a cricket ground …

Sunday Times

TELFORD VICE in Canterbury

AN old bloke in a hat whose brim, wide as it is, only just manages to keep his notable nose in the shade, creaks up to the gate at the St Lawrence Ground in Canterbury.

Lean and leathery, he could have been a not quite fast bowler decades ago. But, no doubt, given a prominent seam and an English pitch he would know what to do.

His hands roam the vast pockets of a jacket that might have fitted someone twice his size. He doesn’t find what he’s looking for.

So he delves into the pockets of the trousers billowing from just below his sternum, and comes up with the goods at last: a tenner and a fiver.

He collects his ticket, slips it into one of those unfenced pockets, where it probably won’t be seen until a relative goes through his clothes on a sad day not many years from now, and asks: “So, who are Kent playing today, then?”

No-one. At least, not at the St Lawrence Ground. They are more than 300 kilometres away in Worcester, and a day away from being beaten by four wickets.

But there is cricket where the old bloke is — England Lions versus South Africa A in a proper first-class game.

Our Kentish man nods, takes halting steps through the gate, eases his ancient frame into a seat hot from the dazzling midmorning sun, flops one knee over the other, rests his hands, fingers laced, on his thigh, points his nose towards the middle, and does that thing the English, especially if they’re old, do better than anyone else: he watches the game; properly, with all the intense elegance he would bring to watching Kent or England or his grandson’s club side.

It’s a moment of wonder for all those who don’t come from this world, where what’s important is that there is cricket to watch, not who is playing it.

South Africans should be relieved at the English’s lack of rudely competitive spirit, of their embrace of the game itself and less so the winning and losing of it.

Not before time South Africa’s main reason for spending the northern summer in England hoves into view.

The test series starts at Lord’s in 11 days’ time. If you have charted South Africa’s downward spiral in England, the thought of four tests at the end of a difficult tour will not cheer you.

The visitors are unravelling, and it’s difficult to fathom how they are going to arrest that process.

Players who are tried and tested have become as trying to watch as they are testing to listen to explaining another failure.

But if they turn away from this darkening place and find the light, an old bloke in Kent will tip to them a hat only just wide enough to keep his nose in the shade.

Any win will do for ailing SA

Sunday Times

TELFORD VICE in Canterbury

Seldom has victory in a T20 been greeted as wildly as in South Africa’s three-run win over England at Taunton on Friday. Another success in Cardiff on Sunday will clinch the series and provoke even more giddy scenes.
As well it might. Of the eight games South Africa have played in England in the past month, they have lost five.
That’s not nearly good enough for a team significantly more used to winning than losing. 
And it’s only the tip of an iceberg of deeper, darker questions.
Where’s AB de Villiers’ head at? What’s going on with Russell Domingo’s job? Will Imari du Plessis give birth in time for Faf to make it to Lord’s for the toss on July 6, when the test series starts?
So to emerge victorious in a game that, had it been lost, would have meant another series defeat, carried weight beyond its worth.
“As a country we deserve it, to show back home that we still really care about playing for South Africa,” Chris Morris told reporters in Taunton.
That’s a clear indication that criticism the team had endured for their performance in the one-day series against England and the Champions Trophy had found its mark.
“There’s a lot to play for,” Morris said. “First and foremost there’s that honour of playing for South Africa and the honour of playing international cricket.
“Not many people have ever lived the dream that we’re living at the moment.”
South Africa were also playing for Domingo, who has returned home after his mother was critically injured in an accident.
“He’s going through a really tough time,” Morris said. “It’s never a nice time in your life to have to deal with that.
“Coach, this one’s for you.”
Get well soon, mom. 
And you lot: keep winning.

Kuhn set for test call-up

Times Media

TELFORD VICE in Canterbury

HEINO Kuhn is set to be named in South Africa’s squad for the test series against England, Times Media has learnt.

Kuhn could be among four members of the South Africa A squad playing a four-day match against the England Lions  in Canterbury to crack the nod to lengthen their northern summer.

The other likely suspects are Temba Bavuma, Theunis de Bruyn, Duanne Olivier.

But, unlike them, Kuhn, at 33 older than them and the owner of seven T20 international caps, has not played test cricket.

And that despite the fact that he was the leading run-scorer in the franchise first-class competition in 2015-16, and second on the list in 2006-07.

Kuhn also tops the charts on the first-class component of South Africa A’s tour with 320 runs at 106.66 and two centuries — one of them an effort of 200 not out against Hampshire.

He made 105 out of South Africa A’s first innings of 283 against the England Lions in Canterbury on Thursday.

South Africa might pick more batsmen than usual in the squad because of the increasing likelihood that captain Faf du Plessis will miss the first test at Lord’s, and because AB de Villiers has chosen not to play in the series.

Du Plessis is back in South Africa to be with his wife, Imari, for the birth of their first child.

The baby is due in the first week of July, and the match starts on July 6.