Domingo in dark about SA future

Times Media


TELFORD VICE in Hamilton

RUSSELL Domingo is in the dark about his future as South Africa’s coach less than five months before his contract expires.

His current deal has been extended three times, which could be flagged as a corporate governance issue.

But it seems things are not as straightforward as simply offering Domingo a new contract.

As things stand he could be out of a job when South Africa’s tour of England ends in August.

A Cricket South Africa (CSA) release in January said, “The board of directors also resolved to commence the recruitment process for the appointment of the Proteas head coach to take charge after the tour to the UK until after the 2019 edition of the World Cup.”

Asked on Wednesday, after South Africa had wrapped up a 1-0 test series win over new Zealand in Hamilton, whether he had re-applied for his position, Domingo said, “I haven’t yet. I don’t know what the process is.

“I’m going fishing for a couple of weeks. So it’s the last of my worries at the moment.

“It’s out of my control – what happens, happens.

“When I get back home I’ll select a squad for England, prepare the side well for when we get to England, play in England, and take it from there and see what happens.”

Did he want to remain in a job he has held since 2013? 

“I don’t know. I suppose everybody wants to coach the national side. That’s where you want to coach, I suppose.

“I’ve loved my four years but if my four years are up, so be it.

“I’ve had some wonderful results, I’ve had some disappointments. But that’s part of international sport.

“I haven’t looked that far ahead. All my focus is on England and the Champions Trophy.

“What happens after that is not in my control.”

Had he decided whether he would re-apply?

“I don’t know what the process is. I’m still waiting to find out what I need to do, or if I need to do anything.

“Once we’ve got clarity on that I’ll make some decisions.”

Asked what the procedure was and when Domingo would be informed of it, a CSA spokesperson said on Thursday, “The process to finalise the job profile and advert will be approved by the board at its meeting in May.

“Thereafter applications will be invited from suitably qualified candidates and the appointment process will follow its normal course.

“We expect the process will be completed before the next assignment against Bangladesh in October.”

Domingo has been in charge for 159 matches across all formats, of which South Africa have won 91 and lost 55.

He has presided over 24 bilateral series wins and 12 losses, and is the only coach to win a World Cup knockout match with South Africa – the quarter-final against Sri Lanka in 2015.

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Rain robs Kiwis of chance to share series

Times Media


TELFORD VICE at Seddon Park

KANE Williamson was woken by a thief in the night in the wee hours of Wednesday morning. He saw nothing, but he knew what he was dealing with.

“I heard it at about 4am,” Williamson said. “I  was sort of hoping that it might stop or it might come a little early and fine up.”

What New Zealand’s captain heard was rain, come to steal his team’s thunder – a levelled test series against South Africa.

It kept falling throughout the morning and into the afternoon, and at 1.20pm Bruce Oxenford and Rod Tucker walked to the middle of Seddon Park in one last scene of made-for-TV umpiring and declared the last day of the third test, well, dead in the water.

That suited Russell Domingo just fine.

Today the weather was great,” Domingo said.

South Africa would have resumed their second innings on 80/5, needing another 95 to make New Zealand bat again.

Things would have been just fine while the overnight pair, Faf du Plessis and Quinton de Kock, were at the crease.

But would the rest of the order have been able to sustain the pressure put on them by an attack that had punched above their depleted weight on a pitch that was starting to offer sharp turn?

Because of the rain, we’ll never know.

Instead, we know that South Africa came away with a 1-0 series win by way of their emphatic eight-wicket victory in three days in the second test at the Basin Reserve in Wellington.

“Obviously it’s very frustrating coming into the last day with a lot to play for,” Williamson said.

“We have to look at this as a really positive game that was one of our best test performances of the home summer.

“It was just unfortunate not to get the last day and push for a result against one of the best test teams in world cricket.”

Du Plessis didn’t disagree.

Everyone would say New Zealand can count themselves very unlucky,” South Africa’s captain said.

“The rain has come at a terrible time for them.

“(On Tuesday) night, after the day’s play, there was a lot of belief in our team that we’ve been in situations like this before and we have overcome them.

“From a team perspective we were still very driven to make sure we do whatever it takes to get through.

“But, realistically, New Zealand can count themselves very unlucky.

“They dominated this match and deserved to have a crack at us today.

“It’s a fair assessment to say we’ve been saved by the rain.”

That didn’t mean Du Plessis – who batted for almost eight hours to save the Adelaide test on debut in November 2012 – had given up hope.

It’s important that you find a way to do it whatever your style of play is,” he said. “I was extremely motivated yesterday.

“When I went out to bat, I remember saying to JP (Duminy) I’m going to block for two days here.”

The match ended a test season in which South Africa won all four their series.

Aside from the rubber in New Zealand, they beat the Kiwis 1-0 in South Africa in August, prevailed 2-1 in Australia in November, and hammered Sri Lanka 3-0 in January.

South Africa won seven of those 11 tests, drew three and lost only one to rise from No. 7 to No. 2 in the rankings.

“To turn it around like we did has been extraordinary,” Du Plessis said.

“In different series someone has put their hand up.

“I don’t think there has been one guy that been exceptional all year.

“But when the team needed us most, there someone was always there.

“That’s what you need to be to be a good team.

“We didn’t play great cricket but we still won.”

South Africa’s next engagement is in England, starting in May with three one-day internationals followed in June by the Champions Trophy.

They will stay in England to play three T20s and four tests before they return home in August.

SA have ‘mountain to climb’ to save test

Times Media


TELFORD VICE at Seddon Park

ADRIAN Birrell has been shot in this movie before, and he wasn’t about to let the credits roll in South Africa’s test series in New Zealand.

At stumps here on Tuesday, the fourth day of the third test, South Africa were 80/5 in their second innings.

They will resume on Wednesday needing 95 more runs to make new Zealand bat again, and they will hope like hell that Faf du Plessis and Quinton de Kock – who will resume, each not out on 15 – score all of those and then some.

“Once (New Zealand) got ahead of us by a hundred runs it was always going to be a fight for survival,” Birrell, South Africa’s assistant coach, said of New Zealand’s total of 489, which was built on Kane Williamson’s 176.

“But we’ve had these before – we will fight.

“We have a captain who is very determined and who has fought before.

“We haven’t lost yet. We are 95 runs behind and there are 98 overs tomorrow – we can fight it out.”

Du Plessis famously batted for almost eight hours on debut to score an undefeated 110 and save the Adelaide test in November 2012.

But while his defensive capabilities are not in question De Kock is an attacking player.

Did Birrell think he had what it will take to withstand the pressure?

“It’s not only about batting it out,” Birrell said. “The runs we accumulate will also be important.

“We’re looking for (De Kock) to score. If he goes defensive it’s probably the worst thing for him

“We will look to score; we won’t just stonewall it.”

And there was more where Du Plessis and De Kock came from, Birrell said.

“We’ve got two in form batsman, and Vernon (Philander) who is capable of a test hundred.

“Tomorrow is a good day for that.”

South Africa lost five wickets for 46 runs on Tuesday, a slump Birrell attributed to them spending almost 12 hours in the field in New Zealand’s.

“We toiled,” he said. “I don’t think we bowled badly – 162.1 overs is a long time to be in the field; it was a hard day.

“The players are fatigued and to bat on the back of that is always going to be difficult.

“We’ve got a mountain to climb.” 

SA face week in politics to win test series

Times Media


TELFORD VICE at Seddon Park

FOR more than an hour at Seddon Park on Tuesday South Africa seemed resolved to batting out the day and a bit that would earn them their series against New Zealand.

Then five wickets fell for 46 runs and that day and a bit loomed like a week in politics.

By stumps on the fourth day of the third test the visitors were 80/5 in their second innings – or still 95 runs away from making New Zealand bat again.

Crucially, the men at the crease were Faf du Plessis and Quinton de Kock, who between them have scored five of the seven half-centuries the South Africans have registered in this rubber.

Where there’s Du Plessis and De Kock there’s hope, especially as the rest of South Africa’s available batsmen probably don’t have what it takes to survive most of a day on a pitch that is taking turn and against an attack that includes off-spinner Jeetan Patel and left-arm spinner Mitchell Santner.

How did it come to this?

Kane Williamson’s wicket was what mattered when play resumed, and South Africa got that job done before lunch when New Zealand’s captain top-edged a pull to a Morne Morkel bouncer and a tumbling Vernon Philander claimed a well-judged catch at fine leg.

With that ended one of the finest innings played against South Africa since re-admission, an admirably unemphatic monument to patience, hard work and the importance of putting team before self.

Williamson’s chanceless 176 took him more than seven-and-a-half hours, came off 285 balls and included 16 fours and three sixes. 

Better than that, it earned New Zealand a shot at victory – an opportunity they are in the process of taking.

Colin de Grandhomme rapped a feisty 57 but the home side’s middle and lower order didn’t put up too much resistance.

The Kiwis were dismissed with a lead of 175, their last six wickets falling for 108 runs with Morkel and Kagiso Rabada splitting eight scalps.

Then the wheels fell off.

Dean Elgar was caught behind playing an uncharacteristically between and betwixt prod to De Grandhomme.

Theunis de Bruyn was run out after a clumsy – and avoidable – collision with Hashim Amla, who cut hard at a wide delivery from Jeetan Patel and was caught at slip.

Patel grabbed another when JP Duminy showed alarming negligence by leaving a ball that duly bowled him, and Temba Bavuma’s reckless wafting drive at Matt Henry had him caught behind.

South Africa batted like men who had spent almost 12 hours in the field – which they had.

On Wednesday, they will have to bat like men who understand they need to spend the best part of seven hours at the crease.

Morkel joins elite on hard day for SA

Times Media


TELFORD VICE at Seddon Park

MORNE Morkel became the sixth South African to claim 250 test wickets during the third test against New Zealand here on Monday.

What will he remember about the milestone moment that arrived when Quinton de Kock launched leftward to catch, just above the turf, the edge Tom Latham offered?

“That it was a very hard day out on the field,” Morkel said.

And how. South Africa toiled for 78.3 overs for the four wickets they took on a day that ended with the home side seven runs ahead, with six wickets standing, and with Kane Williamson entrenched on 148 not out.

“There’s only one team under pressure now and that’s us,” Morkel said. “We need to come with the right attitude.

“We know they’re going to come really hard at us in the second innings to get the win.

“We always speak about it in the dressingroom, how we want to be mentally strong.

“A great way for us to finish our calendar would be if we can hang on.”

The match is both teams’ last in a season that began nine months ago.

South Africa lead the series, but victory for New Zealand would level matters.

Williamson, whose 17th test ton saw him join Martin Crowe as New Zealand’s leading century-maker, is key to the outcome of the match.

“It’s important for us to knock him over early,” Morkel said.

“We’ll attack in the morning and then assess from there.”

The stand of 190 that Williamson shared with Jeet Raval is a New Zealand record for the second wicket in tests against South Africa.

Raval scored a career-best 88, but said he had batted in Williamson’s shadow.

“I felt like a clown with the master batting at the other end,” Raval said.

“Every run I scored was bloody hard work.”

The South Africans also found the going tough, especially after the umpires changed the ball an hour after lunch.

“All I heard was that the ball had lost shape,” was how Morkel described the reason for the replacement.

“It was at a crucial stage because we had just got the ball to reverse.

“From a mental point of view it cost us about 15 overs to get back into the game.”

Morkel suggested regulations on the issue should be reviewed.

“When they change the ball they pick a ball for you,” he said.

“I’m not making any excuses, but that doesn’t add up.

“Maybe that’s something they can look at – give the fielding team three balls to pick from.”

Wiliamson’s wicket will be key for SA

Times Media


TELFORD VICE at Seddon Park

FOR almost five hours here on Monday, two New Zealanders seemed in control of the third test against South Africa.

The Kiwis in command were Jeet Raval and Kane Williamson, whose partnership endured from the sixth over of a day’s play that began at noon because a wet outfield until more than an hour after tea.

The stand realised 190 runs, a New Zealand record for the second wicket in tests against South Africa, and yielded Williamson’s 17th century – which put him level with Martin Crowe as his country’s leading exponent of three-figure excellence.

Together Raval and Williamson set about reeling in South Africa’s first innings of 314; not with panache but with plenty of patience.

By stumps on the third day South Africa had fought back to reduce the home side to 321/4.

The second new ball did the trick, claiming 3/80. But it wouldn’t have without the efforts of an attack that threw themselves into the fray with renewed vigour.

That was noticeably true of Kagiso Rabada, who went wicketless for 59 in the 14 overs he bowled with the first ball and took 2/24 in seven overs with the second.

The contest, then, is poised and will remain so as long as it continues to dodge significant interference from rain that seemed to swirl all around the ground on Monday.

New Zealand resumed on 67 without loss, and Tom Latham whittled away successfully at the the eight more runs he needed to reach his 13th half-century.

Seven balls later he was caught behind by Quinton de Kock’s one-handed dive to his left after pushing unconvincingly at an angled delivery from Morne Morkel.

Another Morkel delivery and another De Kock one-handed dive, this time to his right to snag an inside edge, removed Raval for 88, his highest score and the product of more than six-and-a-half hours of mostly solid batting.

Three overs later Neil Broom shouldered arms and was trapped in front by Rabada, who had Henry Nicholls caught behind off the glove with his next ball.

Williamson stood as tall as his 1.73 metres would allow him to through all that, and will battle on on Tuesday on 148 not out.

So far he has batted for more than five-and-a-half hours, faced 216 balls and hit 14 fours and three sixes, and with his trademark understatement.

New Zealand’s captain epitomises the martial art of speaking quietly while carrying a big stick, and South Africa know his wicket could be the knockout blow they need.

Cook’s goose done, De Bruyn’s debut a duck

Sunday Times


TELFORD VICE at Seddon Park

THE debate over South Africa’s decision to drop Stephen Cook and hand Theunis de Bruyn his first cap lasted nine minutes here on Saturday.

That’s how long De Bruyn took to leave the first ball he faced in test cricket, block the second, and steer the third to second slip off the edge of his limp, angled bat.

De Bruyn had taken guard at No. 3 in five of his six previous innings in first-class cricket for the Knights, scoring two centuries and two half-centuries.

Sounds like an argument, but should anyone other than a proven opener bat at the top of the order?

To send a No. 3 out there is nowhere as outrageous as the Springboks deploying Gerrie Sonnekus, a No. 8, at scrumhalf against the British Lions at the Boet Erasmus in 1974.

But, as Stiaan van Zyl would attest, opening the batting is a job best left to opening batsmen.

Then again, Cook has scored 17 runs in four innings in this series. No-one could do much worse.

Especially against a New Zealand attack denied their regular new-ball pair, Trent Boult and Tim Southee, by injury.

But Cook earned Hashim Amla’s empathy: “You always believe, as a batsman, that if you keep doing the hard work and sticking to your processes the best that you can that runs will come your way at some stage or another.

“Playing is the only way for the runs to come.”

De Bruyn, who has opened in 16 of his 63 first-class innings, but not for two years, looked like an opener when he walked to the middle with Dean Elgar. He took guard like an opener and faced his first two balls like an opener.

But it takes a lot more than that to be an opener.

Which might make you wonder why South Africa didn’t bring a spare specialist opener on tour instead of, as Faf du Plessis said on Friday, “a truckload of seamers”.

The answer is that fast bowlers wear out faster than a cheap suit goes shiny. Not that opening batsmen are immune to injury: show us a stalwart opener and we’ll show you someone who has broken a finger.

But openers are expected to come with stoicism as standard, which leads to them being persisted with where others are dropped.

Others like JP Duminy, who has scored one century in his last dozen test innings and, worse, given his wicket away too easily.

Saturday’s gift was a flap to fine leg, a dereliction of the duty he had to play in a manner befitting a team who had lost both openers with five runs scored.

Why was Duminy, and not Cook, not dropped?

It’s a question loaded with all the complexities of South African reality.

Because he has scored four times as many runs as Cook – 70 – and taken four wickets.

Because South Africa’s bigger problems are nearer the top of the order than the middle.

Because transformation is important.

Saturday’s selection means Dane Piedt travelled the almost 12 000 kilometres from Cape Town to Hamilton for the sake of updating his Proteas kit collection.

And that Heinrich Klaassen has been to Dunedin, Wellington and now Hamilton without Kiwis having the slightest idea who he is.

He’s the reserve wicketkeeper, remember, who would’ve played here had a device not been bespoke tailored to protect Quinton de Kock’s bashed finger.

Wayne Parnell can tell Klaassen, from memory, what it feels like to actually play international cricket on their long trip home, which started on Sunday.

Cook? Still here, stoically.