Why the MSL is a boon and a bother

Sunday Times - - Sport Cricket / Results - By TELFORD VICE

● The ball is also white, the kit is also colour­ful, and the re­stric­tions on bowlers are also out­ra­geous. So tell us again, please, why the rel­e­vant dif­fer­ence be­tween the lim­ited overs for­mats isn’t sim­ply this — one of them has, mer­ci­fully, scrapped the 30 overs of nur­dling in the mid­dle of the in­nings.

Be­cause that’s too sim­ple. Those 30 overs are good for stand­ing in the world’s longest toi­let, beer or boerie queue. And for stack­ing up ad­ver­tis­ing slots for broad­cast­ers to earn back some of the mil­lions they spend on the rights. And, sadly, for be­com­ing un­com­fort­ably numb as you watch the only thing that seems to make mean­ing­ful progress dur­ing those lost two hours: the score­board.

Cricket on opi­oids

Some­times some­one will refuse to for­get how to bat like they mean it. Other times they will defy the game plan and ac­tu­ally get peo­ple out. But, mostly, in the mid­dle overs of a one-day in­ter­na­tional you’re en­dur­ing cricket on opi­oids that makes be­ing part of the ooze of traf­fic on the way home an at­trac­tive al­ter­na­tive. If only it was a T20 in­stead …

Hang on. Bat­ting sides play more ex­pan­sively in T20s, secure in the as­sump­tion that they are less likely to be bowled out.

Cor­rect. All 10 wick­ets have fallen in 93 of the 250 in­nings that have been sched­uled in one-day in­ter­na­tion­als this year. In T20s? Only 17 times in 156 in­nings — less than a third as fre­quently as in ODIs.

And as the bat dic­tates the pace and shape of all cricket, bowlers ad­just ac­cord­ingly. So there is ad­van­tage in not dis­miss­ing a player who dis­ap­pears into a murky pud­dle of de­fence.

All of which can com­pli­cate life for peo­ple like Linda Zondi. Not only does he lead the panel that will choose 15 men who will try to go two steps be­yond and win the 2019 World Cup, he has a T20 tour­na­ment in his back­yard that could cloud the clar­ity vi­tal to achiev­ing that goal.

A boon and a bother

What does it mean for the big­ger pic­ture when Reeza Hen­dricks reels off 346 runs in four in­nings, two of them un­beaten cen­turies?

Hap­pily, Hen­dricks hasn’t come from nowhere. A cen­tury and a 50 in nine ODIs means he can play, and would not look odd in a World Cup XI.

Aaron Phangiso asks more dif­fi­cult ques­tions. He last played an ODI more than two years ago, but he could be just the ticket on Eng­land’s likely un­help­ful con­di­tions. And, go­ing into Fri­day’s game in the Mzansi Super League (MSL), he has the best econ­omy rate among el­i­gi­ble bowlers who have sent down at least 10 overs in the tour­na­ment.

Only three bat­ters have scored more runs than Rassie van der Dussen, the hard­est hit­ter in SA. It’s not dif­fi­cult to imag­ine him in­flict­ing the stuff of night­mares on un­sus­pect­ing bowlers at the World Cup.

So, is the MSL a boon or a bother to set­tling on a squad that could, fi­nally, come home with a tro­phy?

“It’s a bit of both,” Zondi said. “It’s al­lowed us to see play­ers who are in the gap be­tween fran­chise and in­ter­na­tional level.

“Some of them had only played at pro­vin­cial level be­fore this. So to see them has given us an ex­cel­lent op­por­tu­nity to look at them thor­oughly.

“It’s been slightly dis­ap­point­ing that a cou­ple of our Proteas play­ers haven’t come through, but the com­pe­ti­tion has cer­tainly helped us as se­lec­tors.”

Does Zondi have to tell him­self to re­mem­ber the MSL is just a T20 tour­na­ment?

“Ab­so­lutely. That’s a chal­lenge. I get calls from peo­ple say­ing, ‘There’s this laaitjie …’ Ob­vi­ously it’s good for them to be do­ing well and the po­ten­tial is there, but we mustn’t get car­ried away.”

The MSL de­serves to dom­i­nate the na­tional cricket con­ver­sa­tion until next Sun­day’s fi­nal. Then it’s time to get real.

World Cup ma­te­rialAaron Phangiso, left, has the best econ­omy rate among bowlers, while Rassie van der Dussen is the hard­esthit­ting bats­man in SA, with only three scor­ing more runs than him.

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