SA outbatted, outbowled, outfielded

Times Media


IT needed something special from South Africa’s batsmen after their bowlers blew their chances to win the first one-day international against England at Headingley in Leeds on Wednesday.

But something special never came, and another loss in Southhampton on Saturday will decide the series and ask uncomfortable questions about South Africa’s readiness for next month’s Champions Trophy.

AB de Villiers won the toss and chose to field, and his attack repaid that apparent confidence by conceding 339/6 – the highest total posted in the 39 ODIs played at Headingley.

South Africa’s reply floundered and foundered to 267 in 45 overs, which made England winners by 72 runs.

Only Chris Morris, aside from part-time JP Duminy, looked the part in an attack that bowled too full, bled runs and had to rely on loose strokes to take wickets.

Morris claimed 2/61 and owned the only maiden of the innings. Duminy went wicketless in his six overs, but the 34 runs he gave up made him South Africa’s tidiest bowler.

None of Morris’ and Duminy’s colleagues could keep the pressure on for long enough to bowl maidens, much less force errors.

And when they did put the batsmen on the spot, too often their hard work was squandered by shoddy work in the field.

Opener Alex Hales took advantage of all that while the ball was new with a 61 that rattled off 60 balls with eight fours and a six.

Hales and Joe Root steadied England in a second-wicket stand of 98 that followed Wayne Parnell having Jason Roy caught behind in the second over.

But the stars for the home side were Eoin Morgan and Moeen Ali, who put on 117: a record for England’s sixth wicket in ODIs against South Africa.

The partnership started after the home side had slumped to 198/5 in the fifth over and endured into the 48th.

Morgan went to his ton in the 45th, which leaked 22 runs and saw him smash Imran Tahir for three sixes.

Morris removed Morgan for a 93-ball 107, but Moeen was still there at the end with an undefeated 77 – 50 of them in fours and sixes – off 51 balls.

No bowler besides Morris sent down their full quota, but even he could have done without a last over that cost him 13 runs.

South Africa’s batsmen, then, would have to pull the game out of the fire as their bowlers had done so many times before.

But the only time redemption seemed part of the equation was during a second-wicket stand of 112 between Hashim Amla and Faf du Plessis.

It was bookended by Quinton de Kock skying Chris Woakes to short fine leg in the seventh over and Amla being trapped in front after misreading an inswinger from Mark Wood in the 25th.

Amla made a classy 73 off 76 balls, only his second half-century in 11 completed innings for South Africa regardless of format.

Seven balls later Du Plessis, who clipped his 67 off 61 deliveries, was undone and caught behind by a decent away swinger from Liam Plunkett.

What of De Villiers, that proven matchwinner?

He scored a promising 45, then holed out at deep midwicket to Moeen.

Promising 45s do not win matches like this.

Cricket relegated by Manchester blast as ODI series looms

Times Media


CRICKET paled into insignificance on Tuesday, the eve of the first international of South Africa’s tour of England.

Talk of safety and security has replaced the usual debate about conditions, tactics and team make-up in the wake of the bomb blast at a pop concert in Manchester on Monday that killed 22 people and injured scores more.

“The players are uneasy; there was a lot of chatter at the breakfast table,” South Africa’s team manager, Mohammed Moosajee, told reporters in Leeds, where the first one-day international will be played on Wednesday.

“I’m happy to say we’ve had constant communication from the ECB (England Cricket Board) and the security manager, and there have been some reassurances and guarantees put in place that the security arrangements currently as they stand will be supplemented starting today.

“There is a heightened sense of awareness and of the security situation.”

Moosajee said that would translate into beefed up arrangements.

“We’ve been told there will be more visible policing at the stadiums, at practice sessions as well as the hotels that we will reside at.

“The hotel we will stay at when we are in Manchester for the last test match (from August 4 to 8) is walking distance away from where the events unfolded (on Monday).

“So there have been some genuine concerns and I think the process has started to make sure the players are reassured that arrangements are being made to try and keep them safe.”

The Champions Trophy, which is scheduled to be played in London, Birmingham and Cardiff from June 1 to 18 – between the ODI and test series – could provide targets for more attacks.

The International Cricket Council (ICC) moved on Tuesday to reassure the public that the event would be secure.

“We operate on advice from our tournament security directorate – in conjunction with the ECB and relevant authorities – to ensure that we have a robust safety and security plan for both tournaments,” an ICC statement said.

“We will continue to work with authorities over the coming hours and days and review our security in line with the threat levels.

“The security situation has been very much front and centre of our preparations and we constantly review our procedures to guarantee they are as effective as possible to keep everyone safe.”

Moosajee said the fact that the South Africans were in a country that is considered safer than others had influenced their reaction to the bombing.

“As things stand, there was no mention of us even thinking of abandoning the tour,” he said.

“If the intelligence information provided tells us something else then obviously we will have to reconsider.

“A lot of it is a perception in the sense that you are coming to a first-world country; generally the measures are in place to provide that kind of security.”

Not that the South Africans were complacent: “If someone has planned for an attack to happen you can have all the intelligence in place but if something is going to fail on the day, it’s going to happen.”

But they understood their role in not allowing fear to stop people living life as they chose.

“I don’t think that, as sportspeople, we should allow ourselves to be held to ransom because otherwise you won’t have world events; you won’t have touring teams,” Moosajee said.

Were the players scared by what had happened?

“There was uneasiness,” Moosajee said. “I am not sure you can say frightened; there were a lot of questions and rightly so.

“Players deserve to have the answers from the questions they pose.”

More happily, questions over the fitness of AB de Villiers – who missed South Africa’s tour matches against Sussex and Northamptonshire on Friday and Sunday with a respiratory issue – have been answered.

He has been cleared to play on Wednesday, which would end an absence from the national that started on March 5 and saw him miss the test series in New Zealand.

Quinton de Kock scored a century in the tour matches and there were half-centuries for Hashim Amla, Faf du Plessis, JP Duminy, David Miller and Wayne Parnell.

South Africa will be less confident about their attack going into Wednesday’s match, what with five of the nine bowlers used on tour conceding more than a run a ball.

ODI series in Champs Trophy shadow

Sunday Times


THE last time South Africa won a bilateral one-day series in England the teams wore white and the ball was red.

It will be 19 years ago on Tuesday, and that May 1998 rubber marks the solitary time South Africa have taken a one-day series off England in England.

Only in Sri Lanka, where South Africa have won four of their 16 bilateral ODIs, have they had less success in those terms than in England, where their winning percentage is 26.67. Overall it’s 62.69%.

And here we are, on the cusp of another ODI series in England: Eoin Morgan and AB de Villiers will lead their teams at Headingley on Wednesday in the first of three matches.

One reason for the rarity of South Africa’s ODI wins in England could be ascribed to exactly that – rarity. They have played four bilateral series there in the format there. That adds up to fewer ODIs than South Africa have had in New Zealand, India, West Indies or Sri Lanka.

Another reason could be scheduling: only in ’98 were the ODIs played before the tests. Any cricketer who has toured England with a national team will know what a slog that can become, what with county games strewn before and between the serious stuff.

So, coming at the end of a long though invariably enjoyable tour in which the focus was primarily on the tests, the ODIs were often afterthoughts.

Not so in ’98, although South Africa’s ODI side had to shake off the winter’s cobwebs and come to terms with the conditions, factors that have been shorn of significance in an era in which cricket has become as generic as it is ubiquitous.

“Often you went on that tour a bit underdone because of the time of the year, and English conditions are completely different to ours,” Shaun Pollock, a stalwart of the ’98 campaign, said.

“In those days, in the tests and even the ODIs, there was always more in the surfaces for the bowlers. These days they tend to make them flat; they want plenty of runs.”

All that said, whatever happens at Headingley on Wednesday, and indeed at The Rose Bowl in Southampton on Saturday and at Lord’s next Monday, will be cast into the shadow of the looming Champions Trophy the instant the last ball is bowled.

South Africa have never reached the final of a World Cup, a Champions Trophy or a World T20, nevermind won it. What chance they would end the drought in England next month?

“As we’ve seen with all the other tournaments that we’ve gone to, we’ve got a team that can win if they play the right cricket on the day,” Pollock said.

“I think the semi-final is the big one. If we can get over that hurdle it will mean a lot and give the guys confidence.”

South Africa’s coach at the 2013 Champions Trophy, which was also played in England, was Gary Kirsten, whose team – in his own description – “choked” in their semi against the home side at The Oval.

Like millions of his compatriots, Kirsten hoped for a different outcome this time.

“The Protea ODI team have won 16 of their last 20 matches and are showing tremendous form going into the tournament,” Kirsten said.

“The balance of the team is as good as I have seen and they have a number of genuine match-winners in the batting and bowling line-up.

“The inclusion and performance of some key younger players will take pressure off the more senior players to perform at crucial times during the tournament.

“The team is settled and the coaching staff have incredible work ethic and good knowledge to assist the players.

“Why would we not be quietly confident.”

Kirsten phrased that last comment as a statement, not a question.

The questions, of course, will be asked on the field.

CSA pass buck to committee on SA coach

Times Media


PROSPECTS for light at the end of the tunnel that has become naming South Africa’s next coach receded on Thursday when, instead of taking a decision, Cricket South Africa (CSA) passed the buck to a committee to help them make up their minds.

The contract of South Africa’s current coach, Russell Domingo, expires after South Africa’s tour to England, which is scheduled to end on August 8.

Domingo told reporters on Saturday he had not been informed of the process for filling the position.

He was asked on Tuesday, at a press conference before the squad’s departure for England, whether South Africa’s performance in the Champions Trophy – which forms part of the tour – would affect his chances of keeping his job.

He advised reporters to ask CSA’s board.

A CSA release on Thursday said a panel consisting of their lead independent director, Norman Arendse, cricket administrators Rihan Richards and Oupa Nkagisang, and former South Africa coaches Gary Kirsten and Eric Simons had been nominated to find a replacement.

They will “serve on the selection panel to screen and recommend a suitable candidate to the board for appointment”.

That is the latest twist in a saga that started on January 28, when the last paragraph of a CSA release dealing with franchise and provincial developments 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.”

What that release did not say was that, as Domingo’s contract had been extended three times, sound corporate governance meant CSA had to either offer him a new deal or replace him.

That neither has happened in almost four months is a distraction South Africa do not need as they bid to win a major trophy and beat England.

But, instead of explaining the reasons for the seeming inaction and delay, CSA president Chris Nenzani opted for the easy way out and took aim at the messenger.

“There has been uninformed negativity in the media about the board’s decision to start a process to recruit a coach for the men’s senior national Team,” Thursday’s release quoted Nenzani as saying.

“But the reasons for our doing this were obvious and the committee we have appointed to oversee the process will make sure that we have all bases covered.”

Nenzani didn’t detail what was “uninformed” about reporting on the issue. Neither did he spell out what was “obvious” about CSA’s reasons for not resolving the matter.

The most valuable nugget to be gleaned from the release was: “In terms of the timeline the appointed coach and his management team will be in place by the beginning of September.”

If Domingo is not reappointed, that could mean South Africa’s new coach and their assistants will have 27 days to settle into their positions before the start of the test series against Bangladesh.

More sensibly, the board have decided to retain the national selection panel, which has served the game with aplomb and insight, until the end of the 2019 World Cup.

Another potentially good decision was the appointment of Robin Peterson as the “eminent past player” representative on CSA’s cricket committee to replace Ashwell Prince, who now coaches the Cobras.

Strydom opts for new challenge as Dolphins CEO

Times Media


POTCHEFSTROOM’S loss is Durban’s gain with the news that Heinrich Strydom is the new Dolphins chief executive.

Strydom, who currently is in the same position with the North West Cricket Union and is also the Lions’ general manager, takes over at Kingsmead on August 1, the Dolphins said in a statement on Tuesday.

Dolphins company secretary Rajesh Behari has served as CEO in an acting capacity since Pete de Wet left at the end of July to head up Central Districts in New Zealand.

The appointment isn’t the only wind of change blowing through Durban cricket circles, what with the franchise advertising for a financial manager.

But Strydom promised not to arrive wielding a bunch of new brooms.

“I am not coming in to change everything,” the statement quoted Strydom as saying.

“There are a lot of really good things at the Dolphins but I do believe that we can be in the top three franchises in the country.

“Having the chance to get this franchise into that position was one of the biggest draw cards for me.
“I want to spend some time just getting everything together and looking at all aspects of the business.”

Strydom has been a senior administrator for much of the past 10 years, even though he is only 34, and has helped make Potch a preferred venue for touring teams.

The Australians have asked to be based there and Spain sent their football team there ahead of their triumph in the 2010 World Cup.

Strydom’s efforts surely had something to do with Potchefstroom being awarded the first test in South Africa’s series against Bangladesh in September.

“Taking on a national franchise was always the next step for me and I am really looking forward to the challenge,” the statement quoted Strydom as saying.

But he could have his work cut out at Kingsmead, which had its outfield rated as poor after a rain-ruined test against New Zealand in August.

Durban has long battled unfavourable weather for matches at all levels and has suffered poor crowd attendance at tests.

The latter seems likely to cost Kingsmead the Boxing Day test, which is due to feature India next summer.

As an opening batsman Strydom played five first-class matches and two list A games for North West from January 2006 to January 2012.

He will take a memory from his playing days into his new role.

“It is an exciting prospect to work with Grant Morgan, a man I know quite well having played against him in a club champs final,” the statement quoted Strydom as saying.

That was at Centurion in September 2004, when Morgan – now the Dolphins coach – opened the batting for Pretoria High School Old Boys and Strydom did the same for North West University.

Morgan scored 16 and Strydom made 48.

But Morgan had the last laugh – Old Boys won by 38 runs.

Now they’re on the other side of the boundary, but still opening the batting in a sense – this time together.

‘We don’t want to be Champs Trophy favourites’ – De Kock

Times Media


QUINTON de Kock has heard it all before, and the last thing he wants to do is add to the noise.

This time that noise is about the Champions Trophy in England next month.

“I don’t want to say too much – I don’t want to jinx myself or jinx the team,” De Kock said.

“The Proteas have always been seen as favourites when they go into big tournaments.

“This time we don’t want to be that.

“We just want to be that team who go there and do our best.”

South Africa did that more often than not in 2016-17, winning 23 matches and losing only five across all formats.

Part of that success was winning 14 of their 16 one-day internationals, which would seem to bode well for the Champions Trophy.

It did for Imran Tahir, who has been central to many of South Africa’s victories and is the No. 1-ranked ODI and T20 bowler.

“We’ve been playing very good cricket, it’s just that on the day we need to deliver,” Tahir said.

“We’ve been doing that consistently.

“I know that when it comes to big events people talk about us, but I believe with this team we can change a lot of things.

“We’re hoping to give something really special to South Africa’s people.”

But De Kock, like many other South Africans, had been shot in this movie too many times before.

“We know we’ve got a lot of backing at the moment because of the season we’ve just had,” he said.

“People can say we’re going to win, but we hear that at every ICC (International Cricket Council) tournament.

“So we’re just going to take it game by game and not get too ahead of ourselves.”

Thing is, South Africa need to get ahead of themselves in another sense.

They have yet to reach a final after seven trips to the World Cup, five to the Champions Trophy and another five to the World T20.

Getting ahead of themselves, even by just one step, would represent progress.

Two steps forward would be a triumph, an end to the nightmare that has recurred every time South Africa try to take on the world.

But, like De Kock, you didn’t hear that here.

Steyn removed from England equation

Times Media

TELFORD VICE in Johannesburg

DALE Steyn has ruled himself out of South Africa’s test series in England in July after failing to recover as efficiently as he had hoped from a shoulder injury.

The champion fast bowler has been sidelined since November, when he fractured his shoulder for the second time in 13 months during the first test of South Africa’s series in Australia.

He was booked off for up to six months. But he said on Saturday he would remain out of the equation beyond that deadline.

“My recovery is going well but it is taking a little longer than I expected it to,” Steyn said.

“I am able to a lot of things – running, hiking, gym work.

“But bowling is not one of them and I won’t be ready in time.”

South Africa found ways to win test series against Australia, Sri Lanka and New Zealand without Steyn.

But England in England will be their toughest assignment since their tour to India in 2015.

And Steyn was the deadliest bowler on either side on South Africa’s last tour to England in 2012, when he took 15 wickets.

He had been due to play in two matches for South Africa A in the UK in July to prove his readiness for the tests, but has since retrained his international comeback sights on the home test series against Bangladesh in October.

“One of the reasons for me playing with the A side was so that I could get some match fitness before the tests,” Steyn said.

“So before that Bangladesh series I will need to play a bit.”

That could happen during a limited overs tournament between the A teams of South Africa, India and Australia in the coming months – or on the county circuit.

“South Africa will be playing a test series in England and maybe at some ground down the road Dale Steyn will be playing for another team,” Steyn said with a smile.

He said even though his shoulder was free of pain his journey back to full fast bowling fitness was far from complete.

“I’m working on little muscles at the moment and when I start bowling again it will be off one pace,” Steyn said.

“Then two paces, three, four …

“We have to understand that fast bowling is not something normal people do so it’s going to take time.

“Normal people do things mostly below the shoulder line; it’s unusual to have something above the line except for things like bowling and tennis.

“I just have to be patient.”

And so say millions of other South Africans. Happily for them, their team are not short of quality pace bowling.

With Kagiso Rabada already established, Duanne Olivier on the up, Morne Morkel back from injury and Chris Morris blooming late, the stocks are high.

But Vernon Philander – another key to South Africa’s triumph in England in 2012 – needs to recover from a groin injury in time to lead the attack.

The chances of that happening seem promising, but with Steyn out ensuring Philander’s fitness must be South Africa’s prime focus.