Thursday, 11 December 2014

SA to win Tests, West Indies to take T20Is

The upcoming South Africa vs West Indies tour will not be as one-sided as it might have been a year or so ago. Although the Proteas are probably the better team on paper, they have not been in great form lately, and the men from the Caribbean are extremely good in the shorter formats of the game. To make matters worse, JP Duminy is injured and may miss all the Test matches.

Proteas Batsman JP Duminy is injured.
With three Tests, starting 17 December, three T20 Internationals and then five One Day Internationals, we can look forward to a lot of great cricket over December and January. The Test series is probably where SA will be the strongest, and the T20Is is where we will be the weakest.

The Proteas have also included some new players in the Test squad which will make it interesting. Stiaan van Zyl, Temba Bavuma and Kagiso Rabada are exciting prospects. I am especially looking forward to seeing how far Rabada goes in his career. We need a young, good fast bowler in our international squads, as our more experienced fast bowlers are showing their age. Even Dale Steyn will not be good forever...

All in all, I think the Proteas will win the Test series at least by two matches. I think the West Indies will take the T20I series. Their prolific T20 players such as Chris Gayle, Dwayne Bravo, Sunil Narine, Andre Russel, Kieron Pollard and Darren Sammy will likely be too much for us. I can even see us losing it 3–0. The ODI series could go either way.

Kieron pollard could hurt South Africa in the shorter cricket formats. Image from 

Thursday, 04 December 2014

Three players who make the Black Caps a dark horse

Stephen Fleming recently said in an interview on Hooked on Cricket, that New Zealand, Australia, England and South Africa all have a very good chance to win next year's cricket world cup. New Zealand have never been given much of a chance to win a world cup before. Could it be that they are a dark horse to win next year's? I believe so.

The ICC Cricket World Cup 2015 will be held in New Zealand and Australia. The hard, bouncy pitches in these countries will support the fast bowlers, while making it harder for spinners. This will suite the above-mentioned teams, yet pose a challenge to sub-continent teams, which usually rely on their spinners. New Zealand have had a tough couple of years lately but now seem to be getting it right.

Here are some players I love watching in the New Zealand team, and who I believe will pose a threat to their opposition:

Brendon McCullum

Brendon McCullum. Photo from
Even if he doesn't keep wickets anymore, he is a match-winning batsman. The 33-year-old once scored 158* in an Indian Premier League T20 match! The aggressive batsman is generally inconsistent, either scoring few or scoring lots of runs. But he has accumulated 5 200 runs in One Day Internationals at an average of 30.05, and at a strike rate of 90.56 (as of 04 December), making him both a dangerous and experienced batsman.

Ross Taylor

Ross Taylor. Photo from
My favourite Black Cap player to watch. Taylor has been in and out of the squad because of injury, and because of favour, or rather lack of it, with management. Yet he remains indisputably their best batsman. The 30-year-old has been through it all and tempers his world-class skill with patience and innovation. He has scored 4 238 runs in ODIs at an average of 40.07, and at a strike rate of 82.39. This guy has big match temperament (BMT), one to watch out for.

Mitchell McClenaghan

Mitchell McClenaghan. Photo from
He may not be the most experienced fast bowler in the side, but from what I have seen from him he has what it takes to make a difference in the world cup. The 28-year-old is quick, has a nice action, controls the ball well, and has proven that he can take on the best teams. In his ODI debut he took 4 wickets for 20 runs against South Africa. He has taken 50 ODI wickets at an average of 23.48, with an economy of 5.77. Not the best stats, but he is better than they show, and will be a handful on the fast and bouncy pitches.

Wednesday, 19 November 2014

SA vs Australia – the ultimate contest

Every South African cricket lover knows that the matches between South Africa and Australia are either the best or worst ones to watch. There is no middle ground, no run-in-the-mill "let me see what else is on TV because this is so boring" kind of match. Games between these proud, sports-obsessed nations are always exciting and memorable. 

You may remember watching for hours with eyes transfixed on the screen, ignoring your tummy moaning for food, as JP Duminy (166) and Dale Steyn (76) put on a ninth-wicket partnership of 180 to turn the fortunes of a Test match in Melbourne in 2008. Or you may remember the time Allan Donald dropped his bat and was run out in the 1999 Cricket World Cup semi-final. 

The contest between SA and Australia has always been heated. Here Proteas batsman Hashim Amla plays a ball from Australian bowler Nathan Coulter-Nile. Photo taken from

Yes I am bringing to attention the nightmare of how we tied with Australia but did not progress in the world cup because the Aussies finished higher in the Super Sixes stage, all because Donald dropped his bat and did not start running early enough to score us the winning run. Indeed, the ferocity of the contest between the nations goes back to the famous 1969-70 tour in SA, which SA won 4–0, through the likes of Barry Richards and Graeme Pollock.

With the current One Day International (ODI) series between the teams at 2–1 to Australia with two matches to go, we can expect the rest of the series to be exhilarating. The last two games will be played on 21 and 23 November. The current series includes mini-contests: Dale Steyn (SA) and Mitchell Johnson (AUS) will be gunning for the unofficial title of best bowler in the series, by taking the most wickets. 

AB de Villiers will look to score many runs against Australia in the current ODI series.

This while Glenn Maxwell (AUS) and David Miller (SA), who play together for Kings XI Punjab in the Indian Premier League (IPL), will want to see who finishes with more runs and the highest strike rate. India are currently rated the best ODI team in the world by the International Cricket Council (ICC), with 117 points. SA are second with 115 points, and Australia are third with 114 points. A series win for either the Proteas or the Aussies could put the team at the top of the table.

Sunday, 13 July 2014

Expiration date of players (Kallis, Jayawardene and de Kock)

Quinton de Kock (21) is a superb young batsman. How many other young cricketers do not receive chances because older players are given positions ahead of them? Photo from CricInfo.

It was nice to see the Proteas beat Sri Lanka in a One Day International series in Sri Lanka for the first time. South Africa won the series 2–1 on 12 July thanks to centuries by Quinton de Kock and AB de Villiers in the deciding match. SA posted 339–5, their highest ODI score against Sri Lanka, and de Kock's 128 was the highest ODI score by a South African batsman against Sri Lanka. In response, Sri Lanka could only muster 257 all out.

But the series highlighted a prevailing issue: the expiration date of players.

Jacques Kallis (38 years old) again failed in a series, scoring 0, 1 and 4 (average of 1.67). At least he can say his scores were increasing. Mahela Jayawardene, Sri Lanka's veteran/legend also struggled with scores of 10, 48 and 2 (average of 20). Whereas South Africa's upcoming batsman Quinton de Kock (21 years old) scored 27, 4 and 128 (average of 53).

Heading towards 100: Jacques Kallis of South Africa walks off on 78 not out during day 3 of the 2nd Test match between South Africa and India at Sahara Stadium Kingsmead in Durban, South Africa
Jacques Kallis is a true servant of South African cricket. But perhaps it is time for him to retire. Photo from
Kallis and Jayawardene have performed heroically for their countries since 1995 and 1997 respectively. Kallis is SA's best ever all-rounder and leading run scorer in Tests and ODIs. Kallis retired from Test cricket at the beginning of this year, and Jayawardene retired from International T20s at the end of the T20 World Cup.

But if both these legends keep failing, no past success should allow them to keep their positions.

Mahela Jayawardene. Photo from

Wednesday, 02 April 2014

Incomparable conclusion

I have been away from the blog due to surgery on my wrist, a bone sticking out where it is not supposed to, coupled with a ganglion (two cists in the wrist), were promptly removed. I am now recovering.

The Proteas' failure against Australia was made up for in our success so far in the T20 World Cup. The four remaining teams should provide an awesome conclusion to the tournament.

India and West Indies have both won T20 World Cups and Sri Lanka is the second best T20 International team in the world, according to ICC rankings ( Yet against all odds, South Africa, with its questionable limited overs squad and performances, finds itself in the semis.

The semi-final fixtures: 
Sri Lanka vs West Indies, 03 April, 15:00
India vs South Africa, 04 April, 15:00

The final will be held on 06 April at 15:00 and all these games will be played in Mirpur, Bangladesh.

India has classy players. MS Dhoni and Virat Kohli can both hit the ball from Bangladesh to Australia with little effort and Ravichandran Ashwin takes wickets while keeping economical.

West Indies, though weaker in Test matches, is more dangerous the shorter the format is. Needless to say teams must watch out for Chris Gayle and Kieron Pollard, who can both hit the ball to the moon with no effort. Amid the team's mediocre bowling lineup stands Sunil Narine, who is also one of the best spinners in T20s.

Sri Lanka has the legends Kumar Sangakkara and Mahela Jayawardene (who are both retiring from T20 Internationals after the tournament), but Angelo Mathews is easily one of the best all-rounders in the world.

Last, but hopefully the winners, South Africa's AB de Villiers, Hashim Amla and Imran Tahir are key.
Interestingly JP Duminy is doing very well for us. But I think if we are to win our most destructive batsman needs to have a good innings. If Quinton de Kock does well at the start of the innings it should motivate the rest of the team to perform really well.
South Africa will hope Quinton de Kock (21) will perform well near the end of the T20 World Cup. Image taken from

Sunday, 09 February 2014

Three players who should not be in SA squad

Whenever a Proteas squad is announced I consider whether we have selected the best squad out of what is available. Usually I only think one or two changes should have been made, but now I am unhappy with the selection.

The Proteas squad to play Australia in the three tests starting on Wednesday in Centurion:

Graeme Smith (captain), Hashim Amla, AB de Villiers, JP Duminy, Faf du Plessis, Dean Elgar, Rory Kleinveldt, Ryan McLaren, Morne Morkel, Wayne Parnell, Alviro Petersen, Robbie Peterson, Vernon Philander, Dale Steyn, and Thami Tsolekile.

For me three of these players should not be in the test squad.

Thami Tsolekile (33)

iol spt feb13 Tsolekile
Tsolekile bats in the lower order for the Lions. Image taken from

While he is a good wicketkeeper, he is old and is an average if not poor batsman.
Wicketkeeping is very important in cricket because the guy behind the stumps has to be able to catch a ball and whip the bails off quickly if need be. 
But a guy who is at least decent at that, while being able to bat well, is a better option.
Mark Boucher was a world-class wicketkeeper but also a finisher with the bat. 
Sangakarra, Gilchrist and Prior were also good wicketkeeper-batsmen.
The best sides always had wicketkeepers who could bat a little, and Tsolekile's first-class average of 30.26 is not impressive.

I think Quinton de Kock would have been a better choice. 

Rory Kleinveldt (30)

I have seen him bowl, get hit for a few boundaries, and still not change his line and length. Image taken from
To be brutally honest, he is the worst bowler I have seen bowl for SA since Roger Telemachus.
He has average speed, little movement and petty strategy.
He can bat a little but otherwise is a mediocre player.
Hi test bowling average is 42.20 and in ODIs it is 37.33. 
His first-class bowling average is not even that good (29.09).

Abbott should be in the squad instead of Kleinveldt.

Wayne Parnell (24)

To his advantage Parnell is a left arm seamer. But just because you are left handed does not mean you should be selected. Image taken from 

Parnell and Ryan McLaren are the allrounders selected to replace Kallis.
I understand that our batting is deep with Philander and Peterson so perhaps an allrounder will ensure all bowlers have breaks while a strong batting order is maintained.
Nevertheless the choice to replace Kallis with an allrounder is illogical to me.
With Duminy helping the bowlers, we can afford to have seven good batsmen.

They should bring in de Kock or Elgar at seven instead, but if the Proteas insist on playing an allrounder, they should play McLaren instead of Parnell. 
McLaren is better in both departments.
Parnell should be replaced with de Kock or Stiaan van Zyl; or McLaren if an allrounder is the preferred option.

There are also three T20s after the three tests.

Tuesday, 07 January 2014

Kallis - What he means to me

I had prepared a long blog post about Jacques Kallis, who recently retired from test cricket.

It was about how I believe we judge people by their deeds and character, and how I think you can judge Jacques Kallis by his. 

However, he kept things simple, even his farewell.

Jacques Kallis
Jacques Kallis (38) scored a century in his final test innings, taking him to third in the highest all-time run scorers list in tests. Image taken from
So I will briefly tell you what Jacques Kallis means to me, Nicholas Zaal.

Jacques Kallis showed that a nation like mine is capable of dominating in a certain field, forgive the pun. Like Sachin Tendulkar and Brian Lara, Kallis gave his nation hope that they can be as good, if not better, than the countries which were traditionally seen as the best in cricket (England & Australia) - although Lara's nation already dominated world cricket once before him. 

Of course these people were not alone in this, they were assisted by their side-kick contemporary teammates. Tendulkar was assisted by Dravid, Sehwag, Kumble etc. and Lara was assisted by Chanderpaul (one of my favourite batsmen), Gayle and Sarwan. Kallis had Pollock, Ntini, Smith, Gibbs, de Villiers, Amla, Steyn and more.

While Barry Richards, Graeme Pollock, Peter Pollock, Eddie Barlow and Mike Procter did the same for South Africa in the previous century, Kallis took it much further. 

What I am trying to say is that Jacques Kallis has shown me we have tremendous potential in this country. I think that his success in cricket has raised the bar in South African cricket. Our modern batsmen are not content with test averages in the forties or even ODI averages in the thirties (think Amla, de Villiers and Smith). 

Kallis is living proof that we as a nation are as good as any other, and I believe his effort and success is linked to our own country's in cricket. South Africa is the number one test nation, having kept the test mace since we first won it on 1 April 2013, and we look set to retain it for a while.

PS: For those of you who are interested, I have been away from my computer for a while because I have developed Carpal Tunnel Syndrome in my right hand. I was prohibited from using the computer or playing guitar. It will get better, but I will probably have to have an operation. I am unable to avoid using the computer now with my new job.