Hughes death resonates with SA club

Times Media


PHIL Hughes’ death in Sydney on Thursday has resonated with Old Selbornians, the East London club who know only too well how the cricket world feels right now.

On October 27 last year, Darryn Randall was playing for Old Boys in a league match against Fort Hare in Alice when he was felled by a bouncer and declared dead on arrival at a local hospital.

Australian test opener Hughes died after being hit in the neck by a delivery while batting for South Australia in a Sheffield Shield match against New South Wales at the Sydney Cricket Ground on Tuesday.

The blow split an artery and caused massive bleeding on Hughes’ brain. He was resuscitated and had emergency surgery, but died in hospital yesterday. He was 25.

Old Boys cricket section president Gary Watson said on Thursday a parent of one of club’s players would travel to Australia on Friday to present Cricket Australia with a framed letter of condolence and a club shirt as a gesture of support and solidarity.

“The suggestion came from the players,” Watson said yesterday, who added that those who had witnessed the Randall incident “are still traumatised”.

“It affected them properly,” Watson said. “Can you imagine batting with your partner and your buddy, and a minute later he’s dead at the other end?

“A month ago today we stood around the wicket at Old Boys, and had a beer and remembered him.”

The world’s media has been flooded with tributes to Hughes.

SA test captain Hashim Amla said his death had “resonated with me and many in the cricket world family”.

“He was a fellow player and this news has certainly hit my heart,” Amla said. “I personally admired him for his mettle and the way he made a mountain of runs despite an unorthodox style.”

Tony Irish, the chief executive of the SA Cricketers’ Association and the executive chair of the Federation of International Cricketers’ Associations, said in a statement that “players and players’ associations around the world who have all expressed shock and sadness over Phil’s death”.

“Phil was a popular and respected cricketer not only in Australia and amongst Australian players but also amongst other players around the world,” Irish said. “I speak on behalf of the world’s professional cricketers in saying what a tragic loss this is of a young man who would have had many years of international cricket ahead of him.”

All three Sheffield Shield matches being played at the time Hughes was injured were abandoned as draws, and the second day’s play in the third test between Pakistan and New Zealand in Sharjah was postponed from Thursday to Friday.

All five grades of Sydney league cricket this weekend have been called off, as has as a tour match India were due to play in Adelaide today and tomorrow.

Thursday’s planned announcement of next season’s county fixtures in England was put on hold.


Suits keep dead ball alive, but catch-22 looms

Times Media


IN cricket seasons past, when a six was hit the ball was dead the instant it crossed the boundary. But, in franchise T20 matches this summer, the ball is never more alive than when it soars into the stands.

When that happens, intensity leaps. Television cameras transfer their attention from the field to the crowd with a jolt. The commentary crackles with sudden excitement to follow that lead, describing in detail and at length what happens next.

Replays of spectators catching or trying to catch the ball invariably seem more plentiful and longer than those of the stroke that put the ball within the fans’ grasp.

Through this looking glass, it is difficult to tell whether the stars are the paying public or the professionals paid to entertain them.

There is a powerful reason for all the fuss: money. Should a six be hit during a game that is broadcast on television, and should a spectator over the age of 18 – a legal issue – catch the ball cleanly – no juggling – with one naked hand – no glove – and should the catch be captured by the cameras – for auditing purposes – the catcher stands to win R1-million or part thereof.

If there is only one winner, they hang on to all the cash. If there are more, they share it equally. Happy days.

But former test batsman Barry Richards, who knows his way around cricket’s business end having served as Queensland Cricket Association chief executive for nine years, saw a dark lining in what might appear to be a silver cloud.

“The marketing suits have too much say in what happens in the game and the players have too little say,” Richards said on Wednesday.

“Now that there’s money involved, spectators are going to be pushing and shoving each other out of the way to try and catch the ball.

“What happens when one of them gets injured? Who pays for that?”

Going into Wednesday night’s match between the Titans and the Dolphins in Benoni, no injuries had been reported. But there were two winners.

Bosman Puren made his grab when the Knights’ Pite von Biljon smashed Lions fast bowler Dwaine Pretorius for six in Potchefstroom on November 9.

Five days later at the Wanderers, Kallie van der Merwe hung on when Rassie van der Dussen put Sybrand Engelbrecht over the midwicket fence.

Van der Merwe, a 20-year-old draughting student, plays for Heidelberg Cricket Club and follows the game. But that day he had his eyes on the prize.

“I went to that game to win the money,” Van der merwe said on Wednesday. “I watch a lot cricket, but that time that’s why I went – for the money.”

By then, Liam Banks and Arno Kotze had done what was required to cash in, both during the triple header at the Wanderers on November 2. But there was a catch – they were 17 and 15 years old respectively.

That they were disqualified by their ages was unbeknown to at least one cricketer, Beuran Hendricks, who tweeted a photograph of one of the two fans that he captioned, “Big ups to this guy …”

News of the catch-22 spread along with unhappy reaction. “Rules must be broken at times,” one tweet read. “Poor guy was cheated,” went another.

Richards, too, thought the rule unfair: “He did what they asked him to do. It’s his money – put it in a trust for the kid.”

Since that marketing mishap, either Cricket SA or the sponsors have tweeted a link to the competition rules at least six times.

So far, they have not been caught out again.

You can’t out-Aussie the Aussies, so don’t try –


SO, Virat Kohli wants his team to play “the brand of cricket that Australia plays”. He needs to know that South Africa have tried to do exactly that since the 1950s – always to their detriment.

The only times South Africa have won Test series in Australia, in 2008-09 and 2012-13, they played a brand of cricket that was resolutely South African. That meant doggedness that verged on the obsessive.

JP Duminy reached a higher plane of batsmanship by gutsing it out for umpteen hours. Graeme Smith evaded the team doctor on his way down the dressingroom stairs to bat with a broken hand – even though the series was already won, but just to prove a point. Faf du Plessis went zen for more than a day.

None of those players thought out of the box of their South Africaness to accomplish what they did. Instead, they made the box bigger.

But success has not come easily for South Africa when their opponents have been Australia. They have won only 21 of the 91 Tests they have played against them, and lost more than twice as many – 50. And those two series victories Down Under are South Africa’s only happy endings against the Aussies since re-admission in 1991.

Most galling for South Africans is that, of the seven series Australia have played in South Africa since 1991, the closest the home side have come to winning have been in the drawn rubbers of 1993-94 and 2011-12.

The five defeats can be pinned not only on the Australians playing better cricket, but on the South Africans trying to out-Aussie the Aussies – or their idea of who and what Aussies are. The overt aggression has seeped into the stands, where we have been treated to banners questioning the paternity of one of Adam Gilchrist’s children and ongoing hours of the puerile nonsense of “Siddle is a wanker.”

Too often teams think, as Kohli appears to think, that channelling their inner Australian is how to find the path to enlightenment and with it victory. The Australians themselves would disabuse the innocents of that notion. Their advice to keep winning would be to do what you do well better than before.

It is the broadest of broad strokes, but it encapsulates the Australian approach and with it what every team should do all the time – not only when they want to impersonate another and not only when they take on Australia.

The most unusual aspect of the way the Aussies do things is their refusal to entertain sentimentality. If Sachin Tendulkar was an Australian, his career would not have been kept artificially alive as it was by India.

No major batsman should keep his place after going 38 completed test innings without scoring a century, much less one of the greatest yet seen. That was the sorry end to Tendulkar’s career, a shame indeed.

Similarly, Australia would never have put up with Jacques Kallis not only picking and choosing which one-day internationals he would play, but failing to reach three figures in his last 29 completed trips to the crease.

India and South Africa are not alone in their unhealthy obsession with treating their great players with undue and unfair deference. The Australians are, however, alone in treating theirs as they do all the others. That is an important part of the reason why they are not often down for long – no-one overstays his welcome; renewal is a necessary aspect of growth and continued wellbeing.

When Ricky Ponting retired before the third Test of South Africa’s tour to Australia in 2012-13, there was applause and more than a few damp eyes among the journalists assembled in the bowels of the WACA for the press conference.

That he was Ponting counted for something, but not as much as the freshness of the memories of the 134 and 221 he had scored against India in Sydney and Adelaide in the space of his previous dozen Test innings. His greatness was current, and therefore more real than imagined.

Which means that Kohli should not want the Indians to play like Australians or indeed like the Indians or yore. He should want them to play better than Indians have ever played, times two. He should also understand that cows – sacred or not – are never welcome in the dressingroom.

‘We were the better team’ – De Villiers

Times Media


SA limped home from their unsuccessful tour to Australia on Monday to reveal the news that they will have to do without JP Duminy for at least one more match.

Duminy’s lingering knee injury forced him out of the one-day series Down Under, which Australia won 4-1 having beaten SA – Duminy and all – 2-1 in the T20 rubber. The nuggety left-hander, the lynchpin of SA’s middle order, will also miss at least the first test against West Indies next month.

But AB de Villiers thought it wise to say: “There’s absolutely no doubt in my mind that we’re the better team. We didn’t play the big moments as well as we wanted to, but I really believe we could have beaten them 4-1.

“Playing in their home country, they will be one of the favourites (for next year’s World Cup). But I still believe we’re a better team and we will be the team to beat at the World Cup.”

It was an outlandish and dangerous statement from a captain whose men had been properly beaten by a side who are known to use whatever ammunition they can find to drill holes in their opponents’ confidence. This time, the ammo has come looking for them.

SA are not in the same World Cup group as the Australians, but they can be sure De Villiers’ words will be bent out of shape and thrown back at them, tipped with venom, if they clash in the play-off rounds.

Although De Villiers pulled his weight as a player in the series – he was the top scorer on either side with 271 runs in four innings – his team’s performance that mattered more.

“I did contribute, but I’m disappointed that I got out at crucial times,” he said. “We were inconsistent; we didn’t have that ruthlessness we’ve seen in the last 12 months or so.”

He promised to put his actions where his mouth was: “We all get tired of talking after a while. We’ve got to step up now and do the basics really well.”

Coach Russell Domingo also toed the positive line, albeit more cautiously.

“The scoreline wasn’t a true reflection of the closeness of the series,” Domingo said. “For long periods, we competed and we had opportunities to win more than one game.

“But we’re obviously disappointed in the result and we know a lot of hard work lies ahead before we head back to Australian shores in the next few months.”

The Titans will not have De Villiers and Faf du Plessis to call on in their remaining T20 matches. De Villiers cracked a rib while fielding in the fourth match of the ODI series in Melbourne, while Du Plessis has a hip problem.

Aaron Phangiso should have recovered from his hand injury within a week, while Imran Tahir and Vernon Philander need another week to get over hamstring and shoulder niggles.

Domingo said the squad to play three tests against the Windies, a series that starts in Centurion on December 17, would be selected on Monday.

How did SA’s players rate in Australia?

Times Media


AUSTRALIA completed a 4-1 hiding over SA in their one-day series on Sunday. We run the rule over the performances of SA’s players (marks out of 10):

AB de Villiers – 8

Wonderful batting from the most gifted player in the game. Would have earned a nine if he had led his team to another victory, and a perfect 10 had SA won the series.

Quinton de Kock – 6

Had a solid time of it behind the sticks, but needed his 107 in front of them on Sunday to push him above average for the tour.

David Miller – 5

Could do better. Must do better.

Hashim Amla – 6

His 102 in Canberra aside, this was a sub-par series for an exceptional player.

Rilee Rossouw – 5

No ducks this time, but he will need more than his 51 on Sunday to stay in the mix.

Farhaan Behardien – 4

His 63 on Sunday – scored in a pressureless dead rubber, lest we forget – cannot hide the obviousness that despite his grit he is out of his depth at this level.

Imran Tahir – 6

Another solid rather than spectacular specular display. He did not go forward, but he also did not go backward.

Faf du Plessis – 4

Ninety-seven runs in five innings is significantly fewer than SA need from him, and not nearly good enough for a player of his experience and ability.

Dale Steyn – 6

Not as scary, nor as successful, than he would have liked. SA need players of his calibre to win matches. This time, he did not.

Robin Peterson – 5

Taking 4/32 in the last match was better than a kick in the head. But, by then, the series was over. In his only other game in the rubber, in Melbourne, his 1/44 off eight overs was a decent display that included the wicket of Steve Smith.

Ryan McLaren – 4

In a word, average.

Vernon Philander – 5

Brilliant in Perth for his 4/45 and 1/16. Poor in Canberra for his 1/70. And why has he forgotten how to bat?

Morne Morkel – 6

Took 10 wickets in four games but also bowled 10 wides. But he does have his impending nuptials on his mind.

Wayne Parnell – 3

Nothing in sport is as infuriating as a player who seems to go out of his way not to make the most of his talent. Needs a smack upside that weird hairstyle.

Kyle Abbott – 6

Blotted his otherwise immaculate copybook with no-balls just when he needed them least.

SA lost Aussie series in their heads first, then on the field

Times Media


QUINTON de Kock’s sixth century was not good enough, and neither were career-best scores for Farhaan Behardien and Rilee Rossouw nor Robin Peterson’s third four-wicket haul – SA still crashed to defeat in the last one-day international against Australia in Sydney on Sunday.

Not only did the Aussies claim the series 4-1, they also knocked SA off the top spot in the ODI rankings. And deservedly so. The visitors were seldom outplayed in the series, but even more rarely were they the better team.

On Sunday, they scored what looked like a competitive 280/6 only for Australia to reel in the target – which was revised to 275 off 48 over by a rain delay – with two wickets standing and five balls to spare.

AB de Villiers, who missed the match with bruised ribs, admitted that his men were “hurting and disappointed”.

“It’s not ideal and not what we planned to do,” he said. “Had we done the basics better, we probably could have won a lot more than one game.

“It’s very disappointing looking back knowing we didn’t do the basics well. It’s the kind of thing a consistent cricket team needs to do to be successful all the time.”

Not for the first time, SA may have lost the series in their heads.

“Sometimes, when you tend to talk about something too much you put so much emphasis on it and put pressure on yourself, you do funny things in those situations,” De Villiers said.

“We put a lot of emphasis on powerplays. I put a lot of emphasise on our fielding. Those were the things that let us down. I always talk about basics, and that let us down.

“Maybe I must stop talking about the little things we mustn’t do and talk about the things we should do.”

But De Villiers did not shy away from talking about something his bowlers should not do – squander runs and deliveries on no-balls. They bowled 10 of them in the series.

“It’s just unacceptable. It shouldn’t happen. It’s just not good enough. We’ve never bowled that amount of no-balls in a series; nowhere near. It’s cost us badly.”

De Kock hit 56 of his 107 in boundaries in another display of youth at its most confident. It was a welcome performance considering it marked just the third time in his last dozen innings that he has passed 50.

Behardien snapped a streak of 10 innings in which he had not scored an ODI half-century. He made 63 off 41 balls and marshalled the innings effectively into the last over of the innings.

Rossouw earned a reputation for something else besides suffering four ducks in his first six ODIs by scoring a patient 51.

Australia were cruising on 264/4 in the 44th over when Peterson had Steve Smith wonderfully caught by Rossouw running and diving from deep cover. Smith scored 67, the third time he has scored at least 50 in the rubber.

Including that delivery, the Aussies lost four wickets for three runs in 12 balls – three of them to Peterson, who took 4/32.

But there was to be no fairytale as James Faulkner and Mitchell Starc got the Aussies home comfortably enough.

The South Africans will be home on Monday afternoon, and not comfortably considering they have just five ODIs worth of preparation left before the World Cup.

Leading Edge: V should stand for violence in Steyn v Clarke

Sunday Times


DALE Steyn has been involved in 33 days of cricket for SA since the Newlands test against Australia in March. And yet, he remains hung up on the 33 or so seconds when push came to shove on the hot afternoon of that match’s climax.

To recap, Michael Clarke said something to Steyn, who levelled his bat at the Australian captain. Cue the umpires assuming SWAT team positions, because the gods forbid cricketers should be seen to be human.

Actually, to say Steyn is hung up is unfair. Closer to the truth is that he keeps being asked about the incident and he keeps answering.

The issue returned in Australia when Steyn told reporters it had been “blown out of proportion”. That is disingenuous, considering it is Steyn who is keeping it alive.

He could say he has not thought about it. Instead, he has said he will not speak to Clarke until he receives a face-to-face apology from him; not some sorry soundbite tossed out at a press conference.

Not that the press can be blamed for wringing all the juice from the story, what with SA’s tour to Australia holding no relevance except as a string of practice matches for the World Cup.

Clarke, canny operator that he is, has said, “I think my apology at the time was well taken and respected by Dale.”

I think all football-minded South Africans should have wanted to smack Bafana Bafana upside the head for blowing a 2-0 lead against Nigeria. What I know is different: South Africans hailed the 2-2 result as a triumph and not as the punishment for playing slapgat soccer that it is.

So, Clarke can think all he likes that he has cleared the air with Steyn. But he knows that’s not true.

Quite what Clarke said to Steyn is not yet out there. Let’s assume the worst: that he used the c-word on him. Not the one invoked against SA when they crumble under pressure, but the other one – four letters; has the United Nations initials in the middle; ends in t.

And so what if he did? Can an epithet that is uttered freely on freeways clogged with rush-hour traffic give birth to a grudge that has lasted as long as a pregnancy?

The difference is that Clarke did not have his windows up that day at Newlands and Steyn did not have his music pumping. It’s easy to spit the c-word at the idiot who has cut you off when you know he can’t hear you.

Of course, Clarke wanted Steyn to hear him and he wanted the reaction he got. What he doesn’t want is for the badness to linger, if only because he knows Steyn could kill him whenever they are at opposite ends of the pitch.

Now there’s a thought. Not death, of course, but the threat of injury. For all its anality, cricket is comfortable with violence. Steyn and Clarke know that – and that actions speak louder than words.