Jozi Stars’ title defence hopes are hanging by a thread after losing a fifth successive match in the Mzansi Super League (MSL). Although mathematically it is still possible for them to make the playoffs, they will need more than just their own results to go their way. Despite shuffling their batting line-up, the Stars did not manage to score enough runs and their 129 for 3 was never going to be enough against a strong Paarl Rocks side. James Vince picked up from his undefeated 86 against the Spartans last Sunday, scoring 43 to ensure the Rocks successfully chased down their target inside 17 overs. They move to third on the table, four points behind leaders, the Nelson Mandela Bay Giants.
Will Chris Gayle play his 400th T20 in South Africa?
In his 399th T20 game, Chris Gayle was dropped down the order to No.3 after a poor start, with 46 runs in five innings so far. At first, the move seemed successful. Ryan Rickelton and Reeza Hendricks opened the Stars’ innings with a strong stand of 64 in 9.4 overs before Rickelton was dismissed for 40. That brought Gayle to the crease with enough of a foundation to get going immediately. But Gayle only managed a single before he was struck on the pad by Hardus Viljoen and given out. Replays showed the ball had pitched outside leg but with no DRS, Gayle would not have even been able to review. He is now in danger of leaving the tournament without making much of an impression or completing a personal milestone. Gayle is available for one more match in this tournament when the Stars play the Tshwane Spartans on Sunday. If he plays, it will be his 400th, but the Stars have already hinted they made need to make significant changes to their side.
Tabraiz Shamsi has packed his phone away for this season and is now showing off his skills as a magician in the making. Shamsi keeps a handkerchief in his pocket which turns into a wand, and when he takes a wicket, he brings it out in celebration. The contraption made its first appearance in this edition of the MSL when he had Hendricks caught at long-off. None of Shamsi’s team-mates went too close to him when the catch was taken, perhaps knowing he needed some space, and allowed the Paarl crowd to see their very own Harry Potter at work.
KG on the comeback trail
Kagiso Rabada has not looked his usual sprightly self since the tour of India, until his first ball at Boland Park. It wasn’t the first ball of the innings, as it might ordinarily have been. Rabada was used as first-change after Gayle was given the new ball, and he quickly showed what he is capable of. He fired in a full delivery outside off, and Henry Davids, who was caught on the back foot trying to cut, inside-edged onto leg-stump, which went cartwheeling away. Rabada returned in the 15th over, with the cause all but lost and managed to have something of a last say when he caught Mangaliso Mosehle off his own bowling. A lengthy check for a no-ball showed that Rabada was just on the line and Mosehle had to go. Rabada could have had a third off the next ball but Gayle dropped an Isuru Udana skier at point.
The match was tensely poised with the Paarl Rocks on 64 for 4 halfway through their chase, still needing 66 runs off the final 10 overs when Duanne Olivier released the pressure with an over that cost 15. Vince was the beneficiary of Olivier’s misdirected line down leg and the vacant third man area, where he sent three, successive boundaries. The required run-rate dipped under six an over after that, and dipped to four when Simon Harmer’s second over cost 17. There was no stopping the Rocks from there.
Members’ Council likely to rescind CSA’s domestic restructure
Cricket South Africa’s (CSA) Members’ Council is likely to go back on their proposal of having a 12-team provincial set-up in place of the six-team franchise system. The decision was mooted during a meeting of the 14 affiliate presidents, who made up the council, in Johannesburg on Friday. The council also plans to appoint a committee to chart the way forward.
The decision of the Members’ Council comes 10 days before CSA’s board is due to deliberate on the organisational structure as well as the future of Chris Nenzani, the president, and Beresford Williams, the vice-president. The duo is under pressure to step down following CSA’s recent turmoil, which includes a stand-off with the South African Cricketers’ Association (SACA).
SACA has opposed CSA’s plans of restructuring the domestic game because the move is seen as a way to cull expenses after the board projected losses of R654 million over the next four-year cycle.
The players’ body claimed it wasn’t consulted over the proposal, which would result in 70 cricketers losing their contracts, by extension their jobs, if the move was formalised. SACA also later launched a case against CSA on this very issue at the Johannesburg High Court. CSA responded to the showcause notice seven months later, in November.
All this took place under Thabang Moroe. The board CEO was suspended in December after CSA was mired in further controversy following the resignation of three board members and suspension of six staff members. Major sponsors pulling out of their contracts with CSA also played a part in Moroe’s suspension.
Since then, Jacques Faul has taken over as acting CEO. One of the most important items on his agenda is to repair CSA’s relationship with SACA and obtain clarity over the domestic system.
To that end, CSA appointed former ICC CEO David Richardson to head a steering committee to make recommendations on the domestic structure. However, SACA refused to engage while the matter remained sub-judice. If the Members’ Council formally withdraws plans to restructure the game, it is likely SACA will withdraw its case and agree to discussions with CSA.
It is imperative for talks to be held soon as the contracts of franchise and provincial cricketers will expire in April. If a new system is put in place, that leaves little time to finalise arrangements for the 2020-21 season.
Recent Match Report – South Africa Under-19s vs United Arab Emirates Under-19s, Under-19s World Cup, 23rd Match, Group D
South Africa Under-19s 299 for 8 (Beaufort 85, Parsons 84, Bird 43, Lakra 3-48, Sanchit 3-57) beat UAE Under-19s 112 for 3 in 23.5 overs (Figy 36*, Aravind 31) by 23 runs (DLS method)
Bryce Parsons and Luke Beaufort struck classy half-centuries but it was inclement weather that had the final word in South Africa’s game against United Arab Emirates. It ensured the hosts qualifed into the quarterfinals, winning by 23 runs via the DLS method in what was a must-win game for both sides.
UAE were at 112 for 3 after 23.5 overs when a dust storm – and subsequently rain – stopped play at 4pm. The rain relented thereafter, but conditions didn’t improve enough for a restart, and the match was called off at 5.30pm, securing South Africa’s quarterfinal appointment against Bangladesh on January 30.
Aware that the weather may play a role later in the day, UAE had begun their chase of 300 in blazing fashion, scoring 46 runs inside the first six overs, but they lost both openers within that period. No. 4 Ansh Tandon then fell in the tenth over, after which Jonathan Figy and Kai Smith put on an unbroken 45-run stand for the fourth wicket. Both batsmen were set and enjoying the pace on the ball, but then the weather got in the way.
UAE captain Aryan Lakra felt the game was his team’s to be won, had it not been abandoned. He vowed to make an impression in the Plate League, where UAE now find themselves, fighting among the teams that finished in the bottom two of their groups.
“Really heartbreaking for the team,” Lakra said at the post-match press conference. “We got pretty close. If it wasn’t for DLS, we had two set batters in the crease. If we had the full game, we had enough firepower to chase the total down.”
South Africa’s innings, of 299 for 8, was set up by the 152-run third-wicket stand between Parsons and Beaufort, their third straight fifty-plus stand of the tournament. Parsons was the aggressor, scoring his 84 off 83 balls, and Beaufort dug in after his dismissal to finish with 85 off 104. South Africa were in a bit of trouble early on, losing openers Jonathan Bird (43) and Khaya Cotani in the 11th over, delivered by left-arm spinner Lakra, but the Parsons-Beaufort stand put them back on track. Fast bowler Sanchit Sharma, who removed both set batsmen, was the star of UAE’s bowling performance, finishing with 3 for 57.
South Africa captain Parsons later said his team had learned a lot from their opening-game defeat to Afghanistan, especially with respect to batting against spin. He also looked forward to changing cities and move to Potchefstroom, which traditionally offers a faster surface.
“We’ve got good memories at Potchefstroom and it’s now time to show the world what we can do,” Parsons said at his press conference. “We don’t know much about Bangladesh, so we need to focus on ourselves.
“The UAE spinners were really good today, so we played them well. Although the quarterfinals will now force every team to reset, we just want to carry on with the momentum. [After the Afghanistan loss] both our next two games were must-wins, so nothing changes for us.
“The boys have shown their character. We bounced back well after the first loss. The boys learned what mistakes they did against Afghanistan and practiced hard. We’ve shown in the last two games that we can play spin, get big scores, and we need to move away from that Afghanistan defeat.”
South Africa’s quarterfinal against Bangladesh is scheduled for January 30, while UAE now play Scotland in the Plate League on January 27.
Anrich Nortje is last man to leave as South Africa endure the party that wasn’t
It sounded like a party. The Unity Stand was drowned in song that the so-called traditional watchers of the game in this country would not have recognised. The Gwijo Squad – a supporters’ club formed in 2017 who sing Zulu and Xhosa songs – made their first appearance in this series and immediately changed its tone.
It didn’t matter that South Africa were conceding the highest 10th-wicket partnership at the Wanderers and allowed England to finish on 400 or that the hosts were 60 for 4 in reply. In fact, it fuelled them. The worse South Africa’s situation got, the louder the Gwijo squad’s messages of hope rang out and the more they intended to inspire. They reserved the loudest for Temba Bavuma, son of this stadium and the only black African player in the XI.
Loosely translated (credit to Makhaya Ntini) those lyrics mean: “That’s Temba, and if you didn’t know it before, you will see him now.”
When Bavuma drove the first delivery he faced through the covers, teasingly close to the boundary, they erupted into a cheer that belied the seriousness of the situation South Africa, and Bavuma, were in. They’re both chasing the game and they both have massive points to prove.
South Africa’s chances of winning the match look increasingly thin, especially as the follow-on target is still 113 runs away. Defeat will mean a third consecutive series loss and may spell the end for captain Faf du Plessis. It was his dismissal – an unlucky one given that he was hit above the knee roll on a pitch renowned for its bounce, but the on-field decision was upheld on umpire’s call – that brought Bavuma to the crease, with a grossly unfair burden.
South Africans expect Bavuma to perform, especially after the fracas over him being left out of the second and third Tests, despite having recovered from a hip injury and with his career-best 180 still to come. “In Temba we Trust,” read one banner. But their faith was only repaid for 38 minutes, before Bavuma was caught, low in the slips, by none other than South Africa’s arch-nemesis, Ben Stokes.
Only then, did South Africa’s real hero (if anyone in their XI can be given such a lofty title) emerge. Anrich Nortje, whose nightwatchman’s vigils in the first and third Tests earned him the respect his top-order should command, walked out to a hopeless situation.
Having dragged South Africa to the edges of an advantage earlier in the day, with his maiden Test-five-for, he was now expected to drag them away from the point of no return. Late in the day. With not so much as an acknowledgement that he was there. Unless you count the lady draped in a South African flag who managed to invade the playing area and make some solid ground towards the crease before security officials caught up with her.
In muffled tones, the Gwijo squad continued to sing while the Barmy Army overpowered them with their version of Living on a Prayer (We’re halfway there, five wickets down and all that). It was hardly the reception that Nortje deserved.
His efforts in the morning saved South Africa’s blushes after they had looked likely to endure a fourth successive opening session without claiming a wicket. Nortje changed that, during the course of an eight-over spell which injected energy into a limp attack and showed the advantage of proper pace on this pitch. Nortje kept the speedgun north of 145kph on almost every ball and the last delivery of the 48 he bowled in the morning clocked in at 148kph, more than an hour he sent down his first. If you want evidence of commitment and consistency, that’s it.
Like most of the attack, Nortje erred with his lengths and was often bowling too short, but unlike them, he produced several threatening deliveries that targeted the body and teased the outside edge. With the old ball, he got Ollie Pope playing on, then Joe Root and Sam Curran in successive deliveries to put South Africa in a position from which they could limit England to something close to the average first-innings score at the Wanderers: 319. Nortje’s 3 for 40 could have changed the game, and his new-ball strike to remove Chris Woakes should have meant the England innings was almost at an end.
Instead, it went on for another 8.2 overs as questions over du Plessis’ captaincy mounted. Why were the bowlers persisting with short and wide lengths and lines? Why were there eight fielders on the boundary? Why was Dwaine Pretorius unused in that period? “I really don’t have any answers for you,” a sheepish Nortje said afterwards.
No-one could have expected him to. Although Nortje has leapfrogged Kagiso Rabada to the top of the series wicket-takers’ list, with 16 at 26.68, and in this match, he replaced Rabada as the leader of the attack, he is not the person who should be held to account. Nonetheless, he was the designed representative to address the media, after he was dismissed by the last ball of play. Again, it was not the audience Nortje would have wanted but, as he has already discovered, “you can’t choose”.
Those words came in reference to his first five-for being eclipsed by the batting fragility when he would have preferred it to have been taken in a dominant situation, but there are other things Nortje could not choose in this Test. He could not pick his bowling partners, and even though he refused to lay the blame on any of them (“It’s a collective unit. It’s not one or two of us.”) it is obvious that Dane Paterson and Beuran Hendricks would not be first-choice if Kagiso Rabada and Lungi Ngidi were fit. He could not choose the fielding strategy, which seemed misguided, and he could not choose how early he was needed with the bat. Most of all he could not choose where the attention will focus today, and it’s not on him.
Maybe for tonight, it’s not even on South Africa’s problems. Minutes after Nortje was dismissed, the Wanderers crowd began making their way to their Saturday nights and the Gwijo squad assembled for one last song and dance which they kept going all the way to the main gate. It sounded like a party. But the scorecard will tell that it really was not.
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