Piedt mystery deepens

Times Media

TELFORD VICE, Cape Town

THE mystery around Dane Piedt’s non-selection for SA’s test series in Bangladesh in July deepened on Friday when the off-spinner was named in a SA A tour squad that will play two four-day games against their Indian counterparts.

Piedt’s omission from the test squad, which was announced on Wednesday, has been linked to his ongoing recovery from a serious shoulder injury he suffered in September.

SA coach Russell Domingo argued that case in newspaper reports published hours before the test squad was named and on Thursday outgoing selection convenor Andrew Hudson told Times Media, “He (Piedt) is in the A side and we will watch his progress post injury.”

However Piedt told Times Media on May 12, “I’m 100%; it’s in the past now.” On Wednesday, after the test squad was announced, he again confirmed his full fitness.

The fact that he has bowled 269.4 overs since returning to action in December – 261.2 of them in first-class matches – is proof of that.

That said Piedt is a long way from the bowler he was against Zimbabwe in Harare in August, when he claimed the best match figures by a SA spinner on test debut with a haul of 8/152.

In first-class matches since, he has taken 12 wickets at an average of 86.75. But injured bowlers do not send down 269.4 overs. Moreover Piedt’s economy rate in the first-class games in that tally, a decent 3.98, tells us all he needs to get back to his wicket-taking best is as many overs as he can beg from his captain.

He will doubtless get them from SA A skipper Dane Vilas in India. But he could just as easily have got them from Hashim Amla in Bangladesh.

Instead, SA’s spin twins will be the deserving Simon Harmer and Aaron Phangiso, who is among the best in the business in the shorter formats but has played just 11 franchise first-class matches in a career that is almost 12 years old.

SA A’s four-day matches in India will be followed by a triangular one-day series that will also feature Australia A. The tour is scheduled for July and August.

Squads:

Four-day: Dane Vilas (captain), Temba Bavuma, Gihahn Cloete, Theunis de Bruyn, Marchant de Lange, Beuran Hendricks, Reeza Hendricks, Keshav Maharaj, Dane Paterson, Dane Piedt, Omphile Ramela, Lonwabo Tsotsobe, Stiaan van Zyl, Hardus Viljoen, David Wiese.

One-day: Dean Elgar (captain), Cody Chetty, Theunis de Bruyn, Marchant de Lange, Cameron Delport, Beuran Hendricks, Reeza Hendricks, Eddie Leie, Keshav Maharaj, Omphile Ramela, Mthokozisi Shezi, Lonwabo Tsotsobe, Dane Vilas, David Wiese, Khaya Zondo.

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Eddie Leie spins no stereotypes

Times Media

TELFORD VICE, Cape Town

EDDIE Leie wore a chain as thick as a cigar around his neck to the Gauteng Cricket Board awards last May. It glinted grand and gold in the evening’s elegance and, teamed with a crisp white shirt and a sharp dark suit, made him look like a classy hip-hop mogul.

Which is where the stereotypes end with Leie, who has been named in SA’s T20 squad to tour Bangladesh in July.

For one thing he is a leg spinner in a cricket culture where bowling means seam up and fast. Moreover leg spin is harder to master than any other flavour of bowling, or batting anywhere in the order, or keeping wicket. What made Leie choose it?

“It’s more like leg spin chose me,” he said. “As a kid I played mini-cricket where you basically run up and bowl. But one day, when I was nine or 10, I was sent to the shops.

“While I was there I started playing around with some stones. I bowled one with a leg break action and it turned! I bowled another one and it also turned! I was bowling stones onto an uneven surface, so they could have gone anywhere. But they turned!

“The next day when I went to cricket practice I started bowling leg spin.”

He has stuck with his slippery discipline well enough to take 59 wickets at an average of 39.61 in 21 first-class matches for the Lions.

But of the 84 players capped in tests by SA since unity only two have been wrist spinners. One, Imran Tahir, learnt his craft in Pakistan. That means SA’s only homegrown specialist test wrist spinner since 1992 is Paul Adams.

“In first-class cricket I still have to grow in terms of consistency and making the transition from the white ball to the red ball when it comes to things like length,” Leie said.

“But test cricket is in my plans. This is just the beginning. I want to stay at this level and learn as much as I can.”

For now Leie has been picked to play for SA in a format that, for bowlers, is about the defensive skill of survival.

However he has taken 16 wickets at an average of 18 and a run-a-ball economy rate in 13 T20 games for the Lions. In four games from November 7 to 28 last year – his 28th birthday was on the 16th – Leie claimed 9/66 and was named bowler of the match each time. These achievements do not square with how attacking bowlers often fare in T20.

“I’m a spin bowler who wants to take wickets; I want to get batsmen out,” Leie said. “Sometimes your role changes and you have to contain, but when you take wickets the runrate will go down.”

Also unlike many modern players Leie is happy to forego some of the earnings he would have earned from playing a full season for the St Lucia Zouks in the Caribbean Premier League this year, which partly coincides with the Bangladesh tour.

“For me it’s not about money,” he said. “Playing for the national team is much more important – I’d pay money to play for them.”

Whether or not he wants to be, Leie will indeed be paid. Perhaps even enough to put genuine gold chains around the necks of nice young fellas from Potch.

No Piedt in SA test squad

Times Media

TELFORD VICE, Cape Town

SIMON Harmer and Aaron Phangiso were named in SA’s squad on Wednesday for a test series in Bangladesh in July. Dane Piedt was not.

Piedt claimed match figures of 8/152 on his test debut against Zimbabwe in Harare in August. Harmer played his first test against West Indies at Newlands in January and took 7/152.

Both are off-spinners, a fact that should not have blotted out the blindingly obvious: both should have been selected. Somehow, they weren’t.

Phangiso deserves his place in the ODI and T20 squads, formats in which he has proved himself a master of control and composure. But he has played 49 of his 60 first-class matches at provincial rather than at the tougher franchise level – where he has claimed seven wickets at an average of 58.

If a Cricket SA (CSA) release on Wednesday is to be believed Phangiso is in the test squad for one sinister reason. Or, as selection convenor Andrew Hudson was quoted as saying in his only reference to Phangiso, “Aaron gives us a left-arm spin bowling option …”

AB de Villiers will keep an eye on how all that unfolds from afar, no doubt with a nappy in one hand and his television remote in the other. He will be on paternity leave what with his wife, Danielle, expecting the couple’s first child.

De Villiers will, however, be part of the T20 and one-day series that will precede the tests. As ODI captain he will welcome back Ryan McLaren, whose omission from SA’s World Cup squad prompted less eyebrow-raising than eye-rolling at a perceived pulling of transformation strings.

Dale Steyn has been granted his wish not to have to put up with “wasting the few balls I have left in my career in a Bangladesh match” by being rested for the short format matches. But the Bangladeshi crowd could be unusually hostile towards him when he turns out in the tests.

Vernon Philander, who had a low key World Cup because of a hamstring injury and indifferent form, will also put his feet up for the ODIs and T20s.

Dane Vilas, Reeza Hendricks, Phangiso and Rabada, are in a test squad for the first time. Hendricks and Stiaan van Zyl will compete for an opener’s berth and Van Zyl and Vilas will fill different parts of De Villiers’ role.

“The changes have been brought about partly by the retirement of Alviro Petersen and (De Villiers’) non-availability,” Hudson was quoted as saying.

“Reeza and Stiaan van Zyl are both options to open the batting and Stiaan can also be used in AB’s batting position in the middle order. Dane provides us with the wicketkeeping cover that would normally also be AB’s responsibility.”

Leg spinner Eddie Leie is the only uncapped player in the T20 squad. With Imran Tahir rested for this series, Leie looks certain to be blooded.

Wednesday’s announcement reflected CSA’s promise to “transform aggressively”. Of the 45 places in the three squads 20 are held by players of colour and eight of those by black Africans.

Squads:

Test: Hashim Amla (captain), Dean Elgar, Reeza Hendricks, Faf du Plessis, Stiaan van Zyl, JP Duminy, Quinton de Kock, Vernon Philander, Dale Steyn, Morne Morkel, Aaron Phangiso, Simon Harmer, Temba Bavuma, Kagiso Rabada, Dane Vilas.

 ODI: AB de Villiers (captain), Hashim Amla, Quinton de Kock, Faf du Plessis, Rilee Rossouw, JP Duminy, David Miller, Farhaan Behardien, Chris Morris, Morne Morkel, Imran Tahir, Kagiso Rabada, Kyle Abbott, Aaron Phangiso, Wayne Parnell, Ryan McLaren.

T20: Faf du Plessis (captain), Quinton de Kock, Rilee Rossouw, AB de Villiers, JP Duminy, David Miller, David Wiese, Chris Morris, Kyle Abbott, Kagiso Rabada, Aaron Phangiso, Eddie Leie, Wayne Parnell, Beuran Hendricks.

Bangladesh tour schedule: 

July 5: 1st T20, Dhaka

July 7: 2nd T20, Dhaka

July 10: 1st ODI, Dhaka

July 12: 2nd ODI, Dhaka

July 15: 3rd ODI, Chittagong

July 21: 1st test, Chittagong

July 30: 2nd test, Dhaka

De Kock now an occasional Titan

Times Media

TELFORD VICE, Cape Town

THE Titans announced their acquisition of Quinton de Kock from the Lions on Tuesday. But when and how often the boys in blue will be able to deploy the exciting young talent could put a dampener on their celebrations.

For instance, another Titan who spends most of his time playing for SA, AB de Villiers, last played a first-class match for the franchise in March, 2009.

De Villiers has been marginally more active for the Titans in the shorter formats. He played a one-day game in December, 2012 and a T20 in September, 2013. However, he has since he represented SA in 61 matches across all formats.

Clearly, laying claim to a star is no longer as important for teams below international level given the ever more cluttered schedule of matches between countries.

De Kock’s most recent match for the Lions was in December. Since then he has played a test and nine one-day internationals.

Still, the Titans would rather have De Kock in their own dressingroom than their opponents’ on the rare occasion that he is available.

“We believe he is a match-winning player who can change the complexion of an innings with his repertoire of attacking strokes,” a release quoted Titans chief executive Jacques Faul as saying.

Johannesburg-born De Kock, who attended King Edward VII, the epitome of Joburg’s Ivy League schools, was chuffed with his move: “I’m excited about the prospects of joining the Easterns Titans while working meticulously at my skills in order to take my cricketing career to new heights.”

Lions coach Geoff Toyana said de Kock’s “biggest reason for his decision seems to be that he wants to buy a house in Pretoria and that the driving to and from Johannesburg would be too much”.

Toyana said the Lions had met with De Kock several times since he revealed his intention last week after returning from playing for Delhi Daredevils in the Indian Premier League.

Delhi’s fielding and conditioning coach, Rob Walter, is the Titans’ head coach.

SA to return to happy hunting grounds in India

Times Media

TELFORD VICE, Cape Town

PLAYED four, won three, lost one. That’s SA’s test record at the grounds where they will again cross bats with India in the five-day format this year.

Last week the Board of Control for Cricket in India (BCCI) confirmed SA’s tour of four tests, five one-day internationals and three T20s. No further details were revealed.

Now the BCCI have said the tests would be staged in Ahmedabad, Delhi, Nagpur and Bangalore. However, a release cautioned that “the table does not indicate the sequence in which the matches will be played”. Neither have dates been specified. Perhaps the BCCI will get round to that next week.

Of the four grounds Ahmedabad is the only one where SA have been beaten – in their first ever test in India, in November, 1996. According to a veteran of that 64-run loss Ahmedabad itself was a key factor in India’s success.

“They took us there for a reason,” former SA off-spinner Pat Symcox said on Monday. “The toilets at the ground and the dressingrooms were a disgrace. I couldn’t wait to get out of the place. But I’ve been back and it’s changed a lot now and been modernised.”

The same goes for much of India, where travel has become a smoother experience for foreigners while hotels, service levels and internet connectivity are often better than in first world countries. But success on the field remains challenging for the unaccustomed.

“You need elasticity of the mind to understand how things work in India; little nuances like the fact that scoring a hundred is not a three-hour process,” Symcox said.

“The pace and tempo of the game varies dramatically and players touring India for the first time might not understand that. Batting takes patience, bowling takes patience; just crossing the road in India takes patience.”

SA’s players will no doubt enjoy Delhi, a bustling metropolis where they will play a test for the first time, and Bangalore, India’s most westernised city.

But Ahmedabad is in the dry state of Gujarat, a fact that has on tours past been flouted creatively by SA with help from some of their sponsors. Nagpur, the geographical centre of the country, is a provincial backwater notorious as the place where Herschelle Gibbs and Henry Williams accepted Hansie Cronje’s illicit offer of cash to under perform in a one-day international in March, 2000.

That match was played at a modest ground in the centre of the city. SA erased some of the bad memories in February, 2010 when they won a test by an innings at Nagpur’s elegant new stadium on the city’s outskirts and overcame a century by Sachin Tendulkar to win a rousing 2011 World Cup match there.

Venues for SA’s tour to India:

Tests: Ahmedabad, Delhi, Nagpur and Bangalore.

ODIs: Chennai, Kanpur, Indore or Gwalior, Rajkot and Mumbai.

T20s: Kolkata, Mohali and Dharamsala.

De Villiers tops SA’s IPL charts

Times Media

TELFORD VICE, Cape Town

AB de Villiers wasn’t part of the team that won the Indian Premier League (IPL). Neither did he top the tournament averages, the run-scoring charts nor the list of strike rates.

But, on May 10, he lit up this year’s event more spectacularly than anyone before or since with an undefeated 133 for Royal Challengers Bangalore against Mumbai Indians, who were crowned champions on Sunday.

De Villiers’ effort, which flew off 59 balls, was the highest score at this year’s IPL. He also made two half-centuries to finish as the fourth-highest run-scorer.

The next South Africans in those terms were JP Duminy, who was 11th, and, two places lower, Faf du Plessis.

Duminy was also fourth in the bowling averages while his 4/17 for Delhi Daredevils against Sunrisers Hyderabad were the fourth-best figures.

Just seven bowlers in the tournament took more wickets than the 16 claimed by Bangalore’s David Wiese, SA’s leading IPL scalper. Delhi’s Imran Tahir was one behind him.

Quinton de Kock shook off some of the poor form that dogged him in the World Cup to score two half-centuries in the three innings he was granted by Delhi Daredevils.

David Miller scored as many 50s for Kings XI Punjab. But from 13 trips to the crease.

Morne Morkel will be proud to tell people that he was not once dismissed in his seven games for Kolkata Knight Riders. He might be less forthcoming about the fact that he batted only once, scoring an unbeaten four. Morkel also took 10 wickets.

Rilee Rossouw played just two games for Bangalore. But that was one more than Mumbai’s Marchant de Lange and Rusty Theron of Rajasthan Royals.

Still, those three had a busier time of it than Kyle Abbott. SA’s best bowler at the World Cup in terms of average, economy rate and strike rate didn’t earn a single outing for Chennai Super Kings.

And then there was the curious case of Dale Steyn, who played just six of Hyderabad’s 14 games and claimed only three wickets.

IPL final made in marketing heaven

Sunday Times

TELFORD VICE, Cape Town

FANCOURT is much more like Eden might have been than the vast dinosaur skeleton re-imagined in concrete and metal that is misnamed Eden Gardens. Nonetheless Rob Walter would rather have been in be in Kolkata on Sunday.

“Absolutely,” he said into his phone from a Fancourt fairway on Friday. “Ultimately that’s where you want to end up.”

What was on at Eden Gardens on Sunday? The 60th match of this year’s Indian Premier League (IPL), otherwise known as the final.

Since April 8 – 47 days ago on Sunday – eight teams had battled it out to stay alive. Only three of those days did not feature a match, 15 days were crammed with two games each, and eight were played from May 1 to 4. That’s an awful lot of Danny Morrison.

And there there were just two sides in it: Mumbai Indians and Chennai Super Kings, a match made not in Eden but in a marketing heaven where MS Dhoni, Brendon McCullum and Lasith Malinga are unlikely archangels.

Would that Chennai’s Kyle Abbott could have embarrassed the cynical cowards who kept him out of the World Cup semi-final and haven’t had the balls to accept the blame. Alas, Abbott is among the 50 or so players who saw no game time in the tournament.

Cricket’s new world, then, is brutal as well as brave. Walter, the Titans’ head coach, knows this too well having served as the fielding and conditioning coach for Delhi Daredevils, who finished second from bottom despite calling Gary Kirsten their resident guru-in-chief.

That happened at least partly because the IPL, now in its eighth edition but once the rebellious love child of player greed and Indian hunger for any reasonable facsimile of cricket, is growing up.

“The competition is definitely stronger and teams are more closely matched,” Walter said. “There is a hell of a lot of stats analysis and understanding of the opposition. That’s not new to cricket but it is quite new in Indian cricket. And while wickets have become better in India the grounds are still small. So there are no gimme games.”

Does that make the IPL another example of the last drop of the unpredictable – fun, in another word – being wrung out of the game? Fifty-over cricket needed the 2015 World Cup to bring it back from that brink. In franchise cricket opponents are almost contemptibly familiar with each others’ every move.

“No, the IPL a great tournament,” Walter said. “It’s the perfect platform for players to grow their game and learn how to play under pressure.”

Like Fancourt. And not.