Youngsters shine in four-day format
New season sees more positive approach form players and coaches
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.