SA have 8.5-million more reasons to beat Australia

TMG Digital


TO all the reasons why South Africa want to beat Australia in their test series starting at Kingsmead on Thursday, add 5.8-million more.

The Aussies need to win the four-match rubber at least 3-0 to displace South Africa from their second place in the rankings.

A South African win by any margin, even a drawn series, will mean they retain second place and win US$500 000 — R5.8-million at Tuesday’s exchange rate.

Thing is, the last time South Africa won a home series against the Australians the Soweto Uprising was still six years away and the Aussies’ prime minister was John Gorton.

Who? Exactly.

Ali Bacher’s South Africa blanked Bill Lawry’s Australia 4-0 in the second half of the summer of 1970-71.

In the seven series the teams have contested in this country since then the closest the home side have come to winning is drawing in 1993-94 and 2011-12.

Something similar has happened when South Africa have visited Australia in recent years — they’ve won all three rubbers they’ve played there since 2008-09.

And that was good enough to trigger Dean Elgar’s ever-ready jab.

“Having the ability to beat them in Australia is a very encouraging factor going into this series, knowing that the last time we played we had the upper hand,” Elgar said on Tuesday.

“But in saying that it’s a new series, a blank piece of paper, on Thursday and anything can happen.”

Not that the history between the teams is a blank piece of paper. It’s filled with tough, tense encounters in which lines of propriety are crossed more readily than in other match-ups, not least because both teams come from intensely competitive cultures.

“There’s a lot of pride at stake but there’s also a lot of respect between the two teams,” Elgar said.

The big picture is indeed big enough, but the subplots are just as worthy of focus.

Top of the list is Morne Morkel’s announcement on Monday that the series would be his last as an international player.

“I think there’s a mutual feeling of shock because you don’t expect a guy to be retiring so soon,” Elgar said about the 33-year-old fast bowler.

“He’s been playing 12 years of professional cricket which is a long time in its own right.

“I’m sure each individual would feel he still has a lot more to give but we respect his decision.

“He’s provided South African cricket with 12 years of unbelievable professionalism within the side, and the hard work he’s done on and off the field is a massive credit to him.”

Then there’s the likely state of the pitches, which earned largely unwanted attention last month when South Africa battered India into submission on rip-roaring surfaces.

Elgar remembered Kingsmead as being “quite slow and low” in the test against England in December 2016.

“I think Durban’s wickets have changed over the years,” he said. “I don’t see it being too dissimilar to what we had against England, which produced a good test match for both sides.”

Not quite: off-spinner Moeen Ali took seven wickets to bowl England to victory by 241 runs.

And there’s a half-decent off-spinner in Australia’s team, Nathan Lyon, who is ranked fourth among slow bowlers.

But it’s difficult to believe an arsenal of fast bowlers of the calibre of Kagiso Rabada, Morkel, Vernon Philander, Mitchell Starc, Josh Hazlewood and Pat Cummins won’t take the lion’s share of the wickets and leave the spinners to fight over the scraps.

Like they do in Australia, the big boys rule in South Africa.


Morkel a tall act to follow in SA attack

TMG Digital


THERE will be a hole 1.96 metres tall in South Africa’s attack from April with the news that Morne Morkel has pulled the plug on his international career.

Morkel told reporters in Durban on Monday that the test series against Australia, which starts at Kingsmead on Thursday and is scheduled to end at the Wanderers on April 3, will be the last he will be seen in a South Africa shirt in any format.

“It was an extremely tough decision but I feel the time is right to start a new chapter,” Morkel said. “I have a young family and a foreign wife, and the current demanding international schedule has put a lot of strain us.

“I have to put them first and this decision will only benefit us going forward.”

Morkel and his Australian wife, Roz Kelly Morkel, have a young son.

Theories that Morkel was thinking of calling it quits have swirled for months, with the prevailing version that he would try to make it to the 2019 World Cup.

In September the fast bowler said he would seek clarity from then new South Africa coach Ottis Gibson on the issue: “I will ask him what his plans are for 2019; I only have a one-year contract so I need to weigh that up as well.”

Morkel was South Africa’s leading wicket-taker in the test series in England last year and he claimed 13 against India this summer.

He is in the form of his career and an important part of a bowling unit that is undergoing unwanted change in the shape of intermittent injuries to stalwarts like Dale Steyn and Vernon Philander.

So, why retire now?

His father, Albert Morkel, told the Mumbai Mirror in January that, “He [Morne Morkel] is 33 and can’t wait too long.

“There have been developments in which there is no guarantee that his place is assured in the South African XI.

“In the absence of any such assurances, he would leave for England.

“Three major counties have offered him deals.”

Morne Morkel denied the story at the time, saying: “There’s still plenty of goals I want to achieve; there’s no truth to that.”

It seems he will chase those goals at other levels. “I still feel there is a lot of cricket left in me and I am excited for what lies ahead,” he said on Monday.

Morkel has taken 294 wickets in his 83 tests, which puts him in fifth place on South Africa’s list of all-time wicket-takers.

In 117 one-day internationals he took 188 wicket at an economy rate of 4.95.

Reward offered for rugby’s safe return

This is not about nostalgia. It’s about when rugby was a simpler, better, faster game.



THE hardest bastard yet to pull a Springbok jersey over his head walks into a Cape Town café. This is not a joke.

His right eye is ringed by swollen, blue-black bruised skin. He seems to have acquired a limp, which is apparent as he takes up a table with a man who has red and yellow tattoos of flames licking up his neck.

Flame fella: “Jirre, it took three of us to fuck him up, hey.”

Former Springbok: “And all for 120K. I mean, I know for a fact that he put 2.3-million down on another deal. So why don’t you just pay the 120K?

“And those cars he gives away! They aren’t even his to give away. I said to him, ‘China, my brothers are asking me where the money is. This looks bad, hey’.

“But, jissus, he’s broken now.”

Other fella: “What if he doesn’t pay again?”

Former Bok: “Then we’ll have to moer him again. I promise you, I will make that man kiss your feet. He will call you sir.”

They don’t make rugby players like that anymore, which is probably a good thing. Thing is, they also don’t make rugby like they used to.

Years ago the same player burgled a late try to snatch an improbable victory over the All Blacks.

Up in the pressbox we hurried through changes to reports that had all but declared New Zealand the winners even as celebrating South Africans made the stadium shake from its foundations to its floodlights.

Would the place remain in one piece? Happily it did. But other questions swirled, and they remain unanswered.

How had the player not knocked on? Had he even touched the ball?

When something similar happens now everything stops and we are condemned to endure the purgatory of slow motion replay after slow motion replay that somehow must help a hapless official stuck in front of a television monitor distinguish between the ball and a player’s invariably equally pale, just as bulbous knee.

All those years ago all we had was the referee and all he had was a quick look at the touch judge, and in a flash the Boks had a try they probably didn’t score. And here some of us are with a priceless memory of that magical moment.

Good luck trying to think of a moment made magical by the methodical plodding of a TV ref.

The importance of right and wrong? That’s philosophy, not sport — which if it isn’t dramatic is boring.

This is not about nostalgia. It’s about when rugby was a simpler, better, faster game. When a ruck was a ruck and a maul was a maul and we didn’t need a miked-up official to tell us the difference.

Remember scrums? They haven’t been seen for decades.

Proper scrums, that is, when front rows line up, feel their locks’ shoulders connect with that special spot where butt meets thigh, and crash into likeminded opponents. And the loose forwards hang on for all their worth.

Take it from someone who was, in a galaxy, far, far away, a tighthead: the trickiest part of scrumming is avoiding a clash of heads with someone in the front row opposite. That and making sure, when your lock puts his hand between your legs, he latches onto the waistband of your shorts and nothing else.

The rest comes down to technique, competitive instinct and strength, strictly in that order.

There was none of this clumsy choreography to the tune of, “Crouch! Bind! Set!”, which sounds like instructions for putting a bowl of jelly into the fridge.

You need to scrum? Get on with it: scrum already.

Part of why the game that used to be rugby has fallen victim to nanny statism is that players are no longer built on a human scale.

The steroid smacked behemoths who thunder around the field these days could kill one another by flexing their triceps at close quarters. They need the help of a referee, armed with pavlovian powers, just to stay alive.

That’s not to say everything about the game has changed for the worse.

Modern tactical kicking is so accurate it looks like the ball is being dropped by drones at points pre-determined on a map.

It resembles nothing like the result of a weirdly shaped object being met, briefly and brutally, by the even more weirdly shaped human foot.

Lineouts have become ballet in boots with players pirouetting hither and thither until the ball is precision delivered to the anointed receiver.

Back in the day hookers threw to Nos. 2, 4 or 8 and no-one else, and hoped like hell the ball would get within a metre, give or take, of hitting the target.

Once every other season some atheist hooker would think it a good idea to fire a short, flat throw at the prop standing at the front of the lineout. Usually the prop had been forewarned, but when they were caught short the comedy was classic.

Tightheads in particular used to have the catching skills of a drunk sloth because they had been drilled to never so much as think about the ball.

As a prop you always played the man, and only the man. The ball? There was no ball. It didn’t exist.

Here you go: catch what doesn’t exist.

And who knows how much money in unpaid debts would be enough for today’s players to hand out a beating.

Considering Japan and Toulon fullback Ayumu Goromaru earned R14.4-million before endorsements and bonuses in 2017, a piddling R2.3-million — nevermind R120 000 — doesn’t seem nearly enough.

SA see the light on pitches as Indians leave victorious and Aussies loom

“We’ve left the groundsmen to prepare the best possible pitches they can this time.” – Ottis Gibson, South Africa coach

TMG Digital


SOUTH Africans searching for positives in the debris of India’s tour should be pleased to know that their team have stopped telling groundsmen how to do their jobs.

And a good thing too, what with a series of four tests against Australia starting at Kingsmead on Thursday.

“We have to get to Durban and see what we get,” South Africa coach Ottis Gibson said on Saturday.

“Everybody knows what happened at the Wanderers, so we’ve left the groundsmen to prepare the best possible pitches that they can this time.”

The Wanderers earned three demerit points for the pitch prepared there for the third test last month, which was temporarily suspended after Dean Elgar was hit on the helmet by a short delivery — the last straw after batsmen had taken umpteen blows on their hands and bodies.

Blame that on the bee the South Africans had in their bonnet about leaning on groundsmen to skew conditions further in their favour than they would normally be.

Gibson spoke after India underlined their superiority over South Africa this summer by winning the third T20 at Newlands by seven runs to seal the series 2-1.

Virat Kohli’s men won twice as many matches as the home side on their tour and claimed two of the three trophies.

They won on Saturday even though Kohli, their captain and star batsman and his team’s driving force, missed the match with a back injury.

The Indians were dominant in the one-day rubber, which they owned 5-1 to push South Africa’s 2-1 success in the test series far back in the memory.

South Africa were hamstrung by injuries to Faf du Plessis, AB de Villiers, Quinton de Kock and Dale Steyn.

Of those players only De Kock has been confirmed as good to go against the Aussies on Thursday.

“Our captain missing [Du Plessis] has been a massive loss,” Gibson said.

“I’m not sure that AB will be 100% but he’ll be somewhere near and he can take his place in the team. Dale Steyn isn’t far away again.

“We’ve missed the seniors. Having them back will give everybody a lift.”

The upside is that several young players were given opportunities to stake their claims, and they took them encouragingly often.

“We’ve seen some exciting new players in the one-day series,” Gibson said.

“Lungi Ngidi made a debut. Heinrich Klaasen made a debut, and he’s been excellent.

“Junior Dala made a debut in this T20 series also was also very good.

“We saw a little bit of Christiaan Jonker [on Saturday], and he played an outstanding innings.

“The result of the series is hard to take but you have to look forward to the future, and the future looks for the some of the youngsters like it’s going to be bright.”

Fast bowler Ngidi took match figures of 7/90 on his test debut in Centurion last month and was South Africa’s leading wicket-taker in the ODIs.

Wicketkeeper-batsman Klaasen played important innings in both white-ball series and topped the batting averages for the home side in the ODIs.

In the T20s no South Africa bowler came close to Dala’s return of seven wickets at an average of 15.71.

Jonker played his first game for South Africa on Saturday and smote a fiery 49 off 24 balls that helped his team run the Indians close.

But those singular highlights didn’t add up to a significant challenge against a highly competent, assured, superbly led Indian team.

They kept winning and winning well, and best of all they were impeccably gracious in victory.

Even without Kohli, India too good for SA

South Africa would have been accused of having one foot on the plane had they not been the home side.

Sunday Times

TELFORD VICE at Newlands

DAVID Miller opened the batting. JP Duminy shared the new ball. Virat Kohli didn’t even play.

Rumours of the demise of the unpredictability of T20 cricket are exaggerated.

At least, they were at Newlands on Saturday, when India’s long and winding tour of South Africa ended in victory for the visitors by seven runs.

They put up what looked like a middling 172/2. Until South Africa replied with a mediocre 165/6 that would have weighed in far lighter were it not for a ballsy but belated stand of 51 between debutant Christiaan Jonker — who clubbed his 49 off 24 balls — and Farhaan Behardien.

That meant India won twice as many matches on this tour than South Africa and claimed two of the three series. But South Africa’s success in the tests will count for disproportionately more.

There wasn’t a lot to India’s innings besides the 65 that Shikhar Dhawan and Suresh Raina shared from the second to the 10th overs.

The rest came in bits and bobs. Hardik Pandya made 21, and Rohit Sharma, Manish Pandey, MS Dhoni and Dinesh Karthik all fell for between 11 and 13.

Tabraiz Shamsi dropped Dhawan twice, but he found a way to end the major partnership when Raina holed out to long-on for 43.

Dhawan advanced India’s cause until the 16th over, when he was run out for 47 by a stirring direct hit from deep midwicket.

The man who delivered that fine throw also took 3/35 in four impressively focused, aggressive overs. His name? Junior “Million” Dala.

What with Dala, Andile Phehlukwayo and Shamsi limiting the damage to 25 runs from the 14th to the 17th overs and Chris Morris taking two wickets in the 20th, South Africa avoided a fate worse than chasing 200 to win.

Kohli, whose sore back made this the only game of the tour he didn’t play, looked antsy in the dressingroom.

But there was an unflattering flatness about South Africa’s batting, a malaise that would have been described as a case of “one foot on the plane” syndrome had they not been the home side.

Duminy, who had pulled a half-century straight out of the Boy’s Own Annual to help level the series in Centurion on Wednesday, lit another fire within to score a fine 55 and feature in three partnerships of more than 30.

But he found even less significant support than the Indians had mustered.

Jonker and Duminy together might have pulled it off. Next time: give that man another game.

Namaste India, g’day Australia

South Africa have performed like a 4×4 thrust rudely into reverse from the third test against India.

Sunday Times


THAT Steve Smith doesn’t give a lot away is an under-statement about the least Australian Aussie since Gough Whitlam, the famously liberal Labour prime minister of a country where the Liberal Party is a bunch of monstrous raving right-wing loonies.

Off the field Smith neither glows nor plunders, unlike others who come from a land Down Under. Instead he is a credit to his impeccable media training, that — and this is true of sport the world over — educates players and coaches in the grey art of saying as little as possible as politely as possible.

This week offered a prime example. Smith was asked how much it will mean to his team to keep intact Australia’s record of never having lost a test series in South Africa.

“It means a lot,” he said. “We got beat by South Africa at home a year ago and that was a low point for Australian cricket. It will be great of we can turn the tide here.”

Cut that for six.

In fairness, what else was Smith supposed to say? That a first ever South African win over Australia at home would sit pretty next to them retaining their unbeaten home record against India this season?

As if.

But a hairline chink in Smith’s otherwise impregnable mental armour did seem to open.

“For us as a team, winning away is a big goal. Like most teams around the world we don’t play well awa … well, every team around the world hasn’t played well away from home for a while.”

For a moment there was something there, wasn’t there? An acknowledgement that even the best media training couldn’t stop the truth from smacking you upside the head: played 14, won six, lost six.

That’s Australia’s record in test series on the road since 2010. They haven’t been successful on foreign soil since 2015-16, when they won in New Zealand. Even Bangladesh kept them at bay in a drawn series last year.

But, of Australia’s 11 home series since 2010, they’ve won eight and lost two — to England in 2010-11 and South Africa in 2016-17.

Smith’s point stands in relation to South Africa’s home record, which shows that they have won nine and lost two of the 13 series in their backyard since 2010.

But away since 2010 South Africa have lost two series and won eight. That might make them want to play this rubber somewhere else. Or at least not right here, right now considering they have performed like a 4×4 thrust rudely into reverse from the third test against India last month.

Even if South Africa had won the third T20 at Newlands on Saturday they could not have changed the fact that the Indians have made mortal opponents who, conventional wisdom had it, would decimate them in this country.

It’s been a puzzling decline for a team who struggled to compete after they won the first two tests, and which can’t be explained away by the injuries that took giants like Faf du Plessis, AB de Villiers, Quinton de Kock and Dale Steyn out of the equation.

South Africa went to Australia in 2016-17 without the holy trinity of Graeme Smith, Jacques Kallis and Mark Boucher and lost Steyn to a broken shoulder early in the piece. And, of course, they won.

There is, then, an unusual amount of pressure on them to play like South Africa and not like the poor facsimile they have been in too many of their white-ball games against India.

Much of it comes from other South Africans, like this one: “Whether it’s football, rugby, cricket, athletics, netball, we want to have one over the Aussies. It’s like the Springboks playing against the All Blacks.”

That’s Farhaan Behardien, who as a white-ball specialist is unlikely to be given the chance to tangle with the Australians. Instead he will, like us, watch from distance.

“We just don’t want the Aussies to win,” he said.

Steve Smith would get that. Gough Whitlam? Maybe not.

Leading Edge: Goodbye, Mr Kohli. And thank you

Whether at the crease, in the field, or in press conferences, Kohli has been an arresting presence.

Sunday Times


THE stink of sweat and rage hung like a pair of unseen corpses from invisible nooses in a windowless room buried in the bowels of the Feroz Shah Kotla in Delhi. It was December 2, 2015.

No-one was surprised, and not only because the Kotla is an unlovable mongrel of a ground detested by even its own fleas.

Spectators who have not secured the relative luxury of a plastic seat out in the blazing sun have to sit on years of accumulated dirt covering bare concrete.

Pigeon shit falls from a ceiling alive with feathered frenzy onto the laptops and heads of the unfortunates in the pressbox.

A roomful of perspiring reporters in a place air-conditioning forgot was the source of the stink of sweat.

The rage shimmered from Virat Kohli, who was captaining India in a home test series for the first time.

His eyes looked like ping-pong balls about to escape their sockets and fly across the wretched room.

The bristles of his beard seemed to stand on end with pointed disgust.

His forehead was a battering ram against the indignity of it all, his chin the prow of a ship cutting through a storm of floating filth.

By then India had won the series, and they would add the Delhi test to South Africa’s crown of thorns.

But all Kohli was asked to talk about was the state of the pitches in Mohali and, especially, Nagpur. They were, if you followed the press’ narrative, 22 yards of dishonesty that had cheated South Africa out of a fair chance of winning.

Would you not also have been livid? Would you not also have spat anger at every withering question, each more weedily wordy than the last?

It’s not easy to feel sympathy for people like Virat Kohli, who seem to have landed themselves a fairytale life complete with a Bollywood actress wife and the luxury of never having to consider the price of anything.

But you wouldn’t have been human if you couldn’t find at least a pang of empathy for a man who had succeeded handsomely and was being treated like a miserable failure. Poor bastard.

The Western Province Cricket Club is to the Kotla what Beauty was to the Beast, vividly verdant in otherwise beige Rondebosch.

In a delightfully air-conditioned, sun-filled room of the grand clubhouse perched high above the field sat Kohli for the first press conference of India’s current tour. It was December 30, 2017.

There was no stink, of rage, sweat or anything else. There was only Kohli’s measured, thoughtful, articulate, respectful replies to everything that was asked of him.

When he looked at and listened to each warbling reporter as they asked their questions it was as if there was no-one else in the room, and that the question was the finest yet put to anyone in the entire history of journalism.

It seemed as if Kohli was learning, gratefully, more from the question than could ever be gleaned from his answer.

Until, that is, he gave his answer, which was illuminating and fulsome and ever so helpful.

Who was this nice man and what had he done with the snotty little brat we had to put up with at the Kotla? Whoever he was, we’ll keep him.

He had a wobble in a presser after the Centurion test — when Kohli calls a reporter, “Sir”, that reporter is in the firing line — but that has been forgotten.

Not that aficionados who watch the game with both eyes open will forget what Kohli has done on the field this summer.

Whether at the crease or in the field, he has been an arresting presence.

Cricket needs more Kohlis. Thank you, sir. And goodbye.

SA looking for a fight, and rain

TMG Digital


LIKE drought-stricken Cape Town itself, Farhaan Behardien is praying for rain. Well he might.

“For once the rain is on our side; it’s hampered us over the last decade or so,” Behardien said with a skew smile and a glance out the window on Friday at Newlands, where South Africa’s T20 series against India will be decided on Saturday.

South Africa have won only two of the eight white-ball games they have played against India this summer, not least because they have lost Faf du Plessis, AB de Villiers and Quinton de Kock to injury.

“Take Shikhar [Dhawan], Rohit [Sharma] and [Virat] Kohli out of their team and put AB, Faf and ‘Quinny’ back in our team, and the complexion changes 100%,” Behardien said.

Fair enough. But rain did its bit in both of South Africa’s successes by blunting the sharp double-edged sword of India’s attack, leg spinner Yuzvendra Chahal and left-arm wrist spinner Kuldeep Yadav — who between them claimed 33 of the 51 wickets that fell to the visitors’ bowlers in the six one-day internationals.

They took three in the ODI South Africa won, by five wickets in the rain at the Wanderers on February 10, but Kuldeep went for 8.5 runs an over and Chahal for 12.4. In the rest of the series those numbers were 4.1 and 4.2.

A hand injury has kept Kuldeep out of the first two T20s but Chahal’s 1/39 in the first of them, at the Wanderers on Sunday, became 0/64 in Centurion on Wednesday — when it rained and South Africa won by six wickets.

It’s difficult enough bowling wrist spin at the best of times, nevermind in these days of the white-ball game being outrageously weighted in favour of batsmen.

Add rain to the equation, which makes an already slick ball damn near impossible to grip properly, and spinners are always going to come second.

Saturday’s forecast is for a morning shower and then a cool and cloudy 18-degree day and evening, but there shouldn’t be much of the wet stuff around when the first ball is bowled at 6pm.

So South Africa will have to get the job done the old-fashioned way if they are to add the T20 rubber to the test series they won in the first few weeks of India’s tour.

But they have done some homework on the two spinners. Kuldeep, Behardien said, “does show you a scrambled seam when he bowls his googly, and when he bowls leg breaks the seam is straight”.

And, amid the consternation over their white-ball form, the home side have managed to unearth a red-bearded diamond in Heinrich Klaasen, whose 30-ball 69 had plenty to do with them levelling the series on Wednesday.

“He has come from a long line of players from the Tukkies institute,” Behardien said of the wicketkeeper-batsman, his Titans teammate who stepped into the breach left by another Titan, De Kock.

“He used to bat in the middle order but now, for the Titans, with the middle order being strong with myself, Albie [Morkel], David Wiese or Chris Morris, he normally goes in at No. 4, which gives him a little bit more responsibility.

“He has floated around that middle order around some experienced players for the last three years, so he has built up his character and his game.

“‘Bouch’ [Titans coach Mark Boucher] has had an influence on the way I play and the way he plays and the way we train, and it’s no surprise that he has stepped up.

“He is a very hard character, he is a competitor, he wants to be on the stage, he wants to play for a long time. That’s the way he is.

“He has similar competitiveness to guys like AB and Faf — guys who want to be in the fight, who want to pick a fight with the opposition. He is not scared of that.”

Fighting talk is never a bad thing, but South Africa should keep praying for rain.

Joltin’ JP bringing it home to Newlands

Duminy seemed fuelled by rage as elegant as it was eloquent as he sculpted his strokes with lasting intent.

TMG Digital


WHERE have you been, JP Duminy? A nation turns its lonely eyes to you …

You have to be old enough and know something about baseball for that to make sense.

In 1968 Simon and Garfunkel, an American folk rock duo, released a song called “Mrs Robinson” that featured the line: “Where have you gone, Joe DiMaggio/A nation turns its lonely eyes to you.”

DiMaggio played for the New York Yankees from 1936 to 1951, becoming one of the best batters baseball has yet produced; a marvel of elegant, eloquent rage.

He was also married, tempestuously, to Marilyn Monroe from January 1954 to October 1955.

But even if you knew none of the above you knew, if you watched Duminy bat against India in Centurion on Wednesday, that you had seen something not often seen.

Duminy hit four fours and three sixes in his 40-ball 64 not out to help South Africa win the second T20 by six wickets with eight balls to spare.

The other key innings was Heinrich Klaasen’s 69, an even more explosive effort that flew off 30 balls with three fours and seven sixes.

Do the math: Klaasen ran just 15 of his runs. The rest were a flood of boundaries launched into the drizzle that made bowling — especially the spin bowling that made India the better team in the one-day series — and fielding damnably difficult.

But we have seen Klaasen threaten to let loose like he did on Wednesday twice in recent weeks.

He faced a total of 70 deliveries for his 43 not out and 39 in the fourth and fifth ODIs and hit 48 of his 82 runs in fours and sixes.

The first of those innings took South Africa to their only win of the six-game series.

No such heroics had come from Duminy, who has been a shadow of the player he promised to be when he hit Brett Lee, Peter Siddle and Mitchell Johnson, among other, lesser bowlers, to all parts of the Melbourne Cricket Ground to score 166 and help South Africa clinch their first test series triumph in Australia.

That will be 10 years ago this December, time in which Duminy has struggled to approach those levels of excellence in most of his other 308 innings for South Africa across the formats.

Wednesday marked an exception. Duminy seemed fuelled by rage as elegant as it was eloquent as he sculpted his strokes with lasting intent. Was it something he said?

“We’ve got to come up with different ways of countering how good they’ve been,” Duminy said after his 51 — the first time he had reached 50 in 23 completed innings — shone out of South Africa’s dismal total of 179 in the third ODI at Newlands on February 7, when India won by 124 runs.

Duminy came up with that different way on Wednesday. The ball, as the cliché goes, stayed hit when he hit it. Which was often: only six of the deliveries he faced were dot balls.

He batted through four partnerships and, most importantly, led his team to victory.

They couldn’t have done it without him, which is the only measure that matters of a captain.

Duminy settled the issue with successive sixes over square leg and long-on, his follow-through on the latter moulding his body into what could have been interpreted as a question-mark, as if to ask: “Where the hell have I been all these years?”

It’s only T20 and it’s only one innings, but the way Duminy took the fight to the Indians told of a career that might have been.

Alas, it will not be. With his 34th birthday looming in April there is no chance of Duminy rewriting his script.

But he does have the chance to remind people, again, of the player he could have been when the levelled series comes to Newlands on Saturday.

It isn’t often that you can accuse T20 of poignance but this is one of those times.

Another line of “Mrs Robinson” has it that, “Joltin’ Joe has left and gone away.”

Not Joltin’ JP. He’s bringing it home.

Batsmen fail to crack SA nod despite domestic runglut

“I think our franchise system is OK. I’m not going to say it’s the world’s best. But it is what it is.” – Sarel Erwee, Dolphins batsman

TMG Digital


BATSMEN have never had it so good in South Africa as this season, and that’s a fact.

After seven rounds of the franchise first-class competition you have to go 17 players down the list to find someone who averages less than 50.

If the trend continues carries we’re looking at a record runglut of a summer.

The current highwater mark for batsmen averaging 50 after a completed season is the 14 who got there in 2003-04.

There were 12 in 1996-97, 2001-02 and 2014-15, and 11 in 1999-00 and 2004-05.

So 15 and upward this summer would merit a place in the annals.

That seems likely, what with 49 centuries — three of them double hundreds, 11 others scores of at least 150 — and 101 half-centuries having been made in 625 trips to the crease.

There have been 20 declarations in the 21 matches played and only six games have not included at least one.

Three of those declaration-free matches were the only matches in the competition that have not been drawn.

“Sheesh,” was Dolphins opening batsman Sarel Erwee’s reaction to being told that, despite scoring three centuries and a half-century in his 10 innings and averaging 49.40, all of 16 batsmen were doing better than him.

He was the unlucky No. 17.

“The pitches are quite a lot slower this season,” Erwee said. “They’ve taken a lot more turn and they haven’t assisted the seam bowlers as much.

“Most of the seam bowlers aren’t as experienced as in past seasons, where you’ve had a lot of South Africa A players or even South Africa players playing domestic four-day cricket.

“This season you haven’t had as many of them.”

Five of the top six wicket-takers are spinners, and the five leading seamers have 132 franchise first-class caps between them — on average of 26.4 each.

“Also, a lot of batsmen have taken ownership and put their hands up.”

They have, but despite that South Africa’s problems against India this season have centered on their batsmen — and Aiden Markram is the only frontline batsman South Africa have capped in the six tests they have played in 2017-18.

Do the selectors not trust the system?

“I don’t think they are thinking that,” Erwee said. “I think our franchise system is OK. I’m not going to say it’s the world’s best. But it is what it is.

“Maybe the selectors are looking for that standout season from someone, where they get to the 900 or a thousand-run mark. That’s where batsmen try to get themselves to.

“The top batsmen are sitting close to 700 runs, so by the end of the season they could be in line for national selection.

“I think the selectors are probably getting it right in terms of the players they’re choosing and the players they’re looking at for the long run.”

Vaughn van Jaarsveld, Erwee’s teammate, is top of the heap with 691 runs. Pieter Malan and Rassie van der Dussen are also closing in on 700.

But, with so many batsmen among the runs, it might be difficult for the selectors to see the wood for the trees.

Success as a group could be impeding progress as individuals.