Faf a father, SA set to resume normal service

Times Media


THE picture on Faf du Plessis’ Twitter account on Thursday told a thousand words.

It was of his hand, his little finger curled into the much smaller hand of a baby.

As if those thousand words weren’t enough, Du Plessis added a dozen more: “Our biggest blessing yet came in a small package. So very grateful.”

Congratulations, Faf and Imari du Plessis, on the birth of your first child.

And congratulations, South Africa, on the expected return of your captain ahead of the first test against England at Lord’s next Thursday.

Du Plessis had returned home for the birth and was in danger of missing the match. How much danger?

Enough for Dean Elgar to be installed as a stand-by captain and for Aiden Markram to be added to the squad as batting cover.

What with coach Russell Domingo also expected back in England on Thursday after going back to South Africa last week to be with his mother, who had suffered a serious accident, normality should now return to the visitors’ camp.


Tougher tests await SA, New Zealand

Times Media


NEW Zealand, South Africa won’t need reminding, are the only team besides England and Australia to have won the women’s World Cup.

South Africa, New Zealand won’t need reminding, made their highest total in the tournament’s history to beat Pakistan in Leicester on Sunday.

All of which will be in the mix in Derby on Wednesday, when South Africa take on New Zealand.

Dane van Niekerk’s team overcame three runouts to get past Pakistan’s 206/8 with three wickets standing.

“Seeing the lower order perform against Pakistan, we haven’t really done that in a while but we’ve spoken about it a lot,” Van Niekerk told reporters in Derby.

“It gives the batting line-up a lot of confidence knowing that we have got capable batsmen at the bottom to finish games.

“Hopefully we don’t have to use them too often but it’s good [for] momentum.”

Or, as she might have said, a win is a win. But the South Africans were 113 without loss before seven wickets crashed for 64 runs to make the contest too close for comfort.

New Zealand, the champions in 2000, had no such drama in their tournament opener against Sri Lanka, winning by nine wickets with 12.2 overs to spare.

But the Lankans are the weakest team in the field, so South Africa should present the Kiwis with a stiffer test on Wednesday.

And there’s a chance New Zealand will be distracted by the fuss over their captain, Suzie Bates, bringing up a century of one-day internationals.

“I never thought I’d play this long,” Bates told reporters. “I was at university and cricket was bit of a hobby.

“I really didn’t see it going professional. So to still be playing at 29, and be able to play in my 100th game, is exciting.

“When I first started and got really serious about trying to be as serious as I can be, and when I started leading the team, I probably didn’t have a lot of things outside of cricket.

“When it didn’t go well, it was terrible. When it did, you were on top of the world.”

Women’s cricket, Bates said, had come a long way.

“It’s unrecognisable from when I started. It was hobby for everyone.

“Many were studying, some were at school.

“People got away from their day jobs for tours and live a dream.”

Time to wake up — the dream is real.

‘CSA talked AB out of quitting tests’ — Smith

Times Media


GRAEME Smith claims AB de Villiers was talked out of test retirement by Cricket South Africa (CSA), and has advised him to give up the one-day captaincy in the best interests of his performance at the 2019 World Cup.

“The last year to 18 months has seen AB criticised for ‘picking and choosing’ his tours, and I don’t feel that the PR around the issue has been handled at all well by those around him,” Smith wrote in a column published in The Independent on Monday.

“It’s my belief that AB was looking to walk away from the test game last year at some point, but has been encouraged to carry on by CSA.

“His personal prerogative is ensuring he does all he can to add as much longevity to his international career as possible, as well as taking in to account the harsh realities of touring such as the amount of travel involved, and the toll that takes on your body.”

Smith railed at disappointment in South Africa and England at De Villiers’ decision not to play in the test series against New Zealand, England and Bangladesh this year.

“What has AB de Villiers got to prove to anyone?” Smith wrote.

“He’s a star, and those players are often expected to be available all of the time no matter what the consequences might be personally.

“AB is due to assess his future with CSA later this summer, and my advice to him would be to step away from the captaincy and concentrate his energy [on] maintaining his levels in white-ball cricket for the next two years.

“Put simply, if that is what’s best for him and the longevity of his career, then that is what’s best for South African cricket.

“Those criticising AB, and this decision in particular, need to ask themselves whether they would rather De Villiers played in the upcoming series and walked away from international cricket in a year, or have the opportunity to see him go on and play for his country at another big tournament.”

Smith shouldn’t be surprised to hear that South Africans have asked themselves exactly that.

But, with De Villiers having passed 50 only twice in nine innings for South Africa on their tour of England and presided as captain over six losses in those nine games, Smith might be surprised at the answer.

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.