Young­sters shine in four-day for­mat

New sea­son sees more pos­i­tive ap­proach form play­ers and coaches

Saturday Star - - SPORT - Stu­art.hess@inl.co.za

STU­ART HESS

AT THE half­way point of last sea­son’s four-day com­pe­ti­tion – when it still had a spon­sor – there was only one word on ev­ery­one’s – from play­ers to coaches, ad­min­is­tra­tors and fol­low­ers – lips: “Draw”.

Of the 15 matches played to the mid­way point of the then Sun­foil Se­ries, 14 had fin­ished as draws. Bat dom­i­nated ball – there were 40 cen­turies in the first half of the com­pe­ti­tion. Pitches seemed to be the pri­mary prob­lem – they were “just sh*t” re­marked one coach – as they were cer­tainly slow.

This year – thank­fully, many will say – some bal­ance has been re­stored. There have been 10 out­right re­sults and just five draws. Pitches have also been bet­ter but the sur­faces haven’t favoured one dis­ci­pline over oth­ers as was the case last sum­mer.

A to­tal of 24 hun­dreds have been scored this sea­son, bowlers have taken 16 ‘5-fors’ and there is a more even spread of suc­cess for spin­ners as there is for the seam­ers.

“Maybe we can look at last sea­son and say ev­ery­one learned some­thing,” said Highveld Li­ons coach Enoch Nkwe, who along with Ri­vash Gobind at the War­riors are the two rookie fran­chise coaches on the block.

“The pitches have def­i­nitely been bet­ter, but that’s not the only rea­son we’re see­ing more out­right re­sults. Play­ers and coaches are will­ing to play dif­fer­ently to be more pos­i­tive. Even when matches have been com­pleted in three days, they’ve been com­pet­i­tive and that is a tes­ti­mony to the skills of the play­ers, which have im­proved this sea­son.”

The Cape Co­bras have led the way, and notched up wins in their first four matches.

The foun­da­tion for the Co­bras has been their youth­ful bat­ting line-up with new ac­qui­si­tion Jan­ne­man Malan, David Bed­ing­ham and Kyle Ver­rynne all star­ring.

Opener Pi­eter Malan has con­tin­ued the con­sis­tency he started show­ing last sea­son by climb­ing to sec­ond on the run-scor­ers ta­ble and his three hun­dreds are the most for any bats­man.

At the Li­ons, Nkwe has in­sti­gated a pe­riod of re­newal, plac­ing the em­pha­sis on a stronger men­tal­ity, while al­low­ing play­ers to be them­selves within the con­fines of the team’s dis­ci­plinary frame­work.

It has helped a young player like Wi­han Lubbe to re­ally kick­start his se­nior ca­reer and cen­turies in the last two weeks sug­gest, at this early stage that Nkwe’s meth­ods are work­ing.

“We’ve given some­one like Wi­han the free­dom to be him­self.”lubbe is one of four Li­ons play­ers among the top 10 scor­ers at the half­way point, in­di­cat­ing a to­tal turn­around from the woes that have be­fallen them in the bat­ting de­part­ment in re­cent sea­sons.

The Knights have shown great re­silience to over­come the dis­ap­point­ment of that re­gion not get­ting a Mzansi League fran­chise to keep them­selves in con­tention in third place, thanks to Pite van Biljon’s runs and some very good bowl­ing from Duanne Olivier – who it has been re­ported has been of­fered a Kol­pak con­tract by York­shire – vet­eran all-rounder Ryan Mclaren and Ot­tniel Baart­man, the 25 year old right armer from Oudt­shoorn.

The Ti­tans have strug­gled for con­sis­tency with both bat and ball, and had their rhythm up­set by all the na­tional call-ups.

Per­haps the two stand­out names among the top 10 lead­ing wicket-tak­ers are the War­riors’ An­rich Nortje who is start­ing to trans­fer the po­ten­tial he’s shown in the semi-pro ranks to fran­chise level, while Tladi Bokako at the Co­bras has shown con­sis­tency of line and length.

The four-day com­pe­ti­tion will take a hia­tus for a few weeks as at­ten­tion switches to the Mzansi Su­per League and re­sumes in late De­cem­ber.

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