Cricket South Africa have said that Dale Steyn was not “medically ready” to be selected for South Africa’s upcoming tour to India. Steyn announced his retirement from Test cricket last week, turning his focus entirely to limited overs cricket, but was one of the notable absentees when the T20I squad for the trip to India was announced on Tuesday.
Another player missing from the T20 squad was allrounder Chris Morris, whose national contract expired after the World Cup and who did not make himself available for selection for the tour. But it appears that Steyn thought himself available for selection, taking to Twitter to write: “I did … obviously lost my number in the reshuffling of coaching staff.”
Responding to a tweet from journalist Neil Manthorp, who dryly suggested that the selectors might be saving Steyn for “big” games, Steyn responded: “Apologies to Virat and a billion people for thinking they not.”
I did… Obviously lost my number in the reshuffling of coaching staff.
— Dale Steyn (@DaleSteyn62) August 13, 2019
Apologies to Virat and a billion people for thinking they not
— Dale Steyn (@DaleSteyn62) August 13, 2019
However, CSA acting Director of Cricket Corrie van Zyl has suggested that Steyn was not yet fit enough to be selected for the tour. “He is not yet medically ready and our information makes that very clear,” van Zyl told Sport24. Steyn aggravated an old injury in his right shoulder while playing for Royal Challengers Bangalore – Kohli’s team – in the IPL in May, and though he was named in South Africa’s squad for the World Cup subsequently, he failed to recover in time and was ultimately ruled out.
Unlike Morris, Steyn is still contracted by CSA, having retained his national contract for the 2019-20 season in limited overs cricket. After the trip to India, South Africa’s next limited overs engagements come at home against England in February 2020, with the limited overs leg of England’s tour including three ODIs and three T20Is.
Steyn is not the only player upon whose fitness CSA are sweating, with Vernon Philander and Theunis de Bruyn – both named in the Test squad – currently recovering from injuries, Philander to his hamstring and de Bruyn his back.
“Both are on track, but they will have to play one match before the tour to prove that they are fully fit,” van Zyl said.
Recent Match Report – Worcestershire vs Essex, Twenty20 Cup (England), Final
Essex 148 for 6 (Westley 36, Bopara 36*) beat Worcestershire 145 for 9 (Harmer 3-16) by four wickets
Eight hours earlier, Wayne Parnell had successfully defended Notts’ requirement of a single off the final ball to take Worcestershire into the final of the Vitality Blast. Now, at the end of English cricket’s longest day, with Edgbaston once again a sea of delirium, he had to do it again. This time Simon Harmer beat the off-side field and Essex had seen off the defending champions to win the tournament for the first time.
It was fitting that Harmer had the last word. In Essex’s semi-final stroll against Derbyshire and this narrowest of victories, he returned the combined figures of 7 for 35, the best ever recorded on T20 Finals Day. He was perfectly served by a surface that turned throughout the day and perhaps, just perhaps, gave Essex a little added zip with a hint of dew in the closing overs.
“It’s a lottery,” decry the critics of Twenty20. Don’t tell that to Worcestershire. In successive seasons, their nerveless, intelligent cricket under the brilliant stewardship of Moeen Ali (is there a better captain in the country?) had made them the most resilient side in the land. They had defended 147 against Notts; now it was 145. But this time they had to reckon with Ravi Bopara.
For much of the climax to this riveting final, fought out on a difficult turning surface, it had felt like Bopara versus Worcestershire, and for his most zealous admirers (and there are many) Bopara versus The World. County cricket’s most reluctant finisher, who has gently carped all summer long about batting at No 6, fashioned a super-cool 36 from 22 balls to hold together an Essex chase that, when they lost their fifth wicket at 82, needing 64 from 41, was so patently down to him.
This was Essex’s fifth Finals Day appearance and the first time they had won a semi-final. “It’s the one trophy I don’t have in my cabinet and we finally have it,” Bopara said. He has been trying since a T20 debut, batting at No 9, against Surrey at East Molesey in 2003. His international career ended in 2015 just as England adopted a new approach to limited-overs cricket and that his reputation was tarnished by association with their previous failings is unfortunate.
Bopara’s six over long off from Moeen’s penultimate ball was a key moment, leaving Essex 39 short with four overs left. He then clattered Pat Brown’s slower ball over midwicket as that rate fell to 23 from two.
When Brown bowled Paul Walter, Essex were still 17 short with eight balls left. Harmer drove Brown down the ground to cut the last-over requirement to 12 – but 11 for the tie, and victory by virtue of losing fewer wickets, was likely to be enough. Harmer drilled Parnell down the ground to reduce the trophy-winning requirement to one off the final ball. Parnell looked distraught and close to exhaustion. Moeen offered calming words. Harmer whistled the final shot to the cover boundary.
Essex’s Powerplay had yielded only 36 for the loss of Cameron Delport, who was strangely subdued in making a single off seven balls in an innings that came to grief when he clipped Parnell to backward square. Adam Wheater, a No 5 all season, came in at three, and no doubt to orders provided a decorous run-a-ball 15 until he was bowled attempting a reverse lap at Daryl Mitchell. Essex appeared composed enough at 63 for 2 at midway, with 83 needed from the second half of the innings, but Moeen had retained nine overs from himself, Parnell and Brown for the second half of the innings.
The strength of Worcestershire’s batting line-up, one that seems full of bit parts from as high as No 4, is that it finds a way. And, in making 145 for 8, it appeared to have found a way again. But Worcestershire could not subdue Harmer. He followed his 4 for 19 against Derbyshire in the semi-final with 3 for 16, a comparable return despite the sense that Worcestershire were playing him with rather more nous.
Moeen and Riki Wessels provided the substance with a second-wicket stand of 56 in 48 balls. Moeen’s presence was enough to persuade Harmer not to bowl in the Powerplay, as he had in the semi-final, Sam Cook’s pace was as unthreatening as that of Jamie Porter, who had been preferred to him in the semi.
Harmer intervened with wickets in successive balls at the start of his second over. Moeen’s first boundary had been an uppish slice against Lawrence through backward point, but he smoothed his way to 32 in 26 balls with another exercise in cricketing meditation.
But Harmer’s turn defeated his work to leg whereupon the bowler, one of the best slippers in the country, plunged forward to hold an excellent low catch. Ben Cox, who had guided Worcestershire to the trophy a year ago, was lbw next ball as he tried to sweep, but even the president of the Respect for Umpires Association would have deemed this a terrible decision, because Cox was well outside the line and got a big inside-edge on the ball too.
Parnell fell to Harmer’s penultimate ball, bowled by a faster arm-ball, and at 90 for 4 with the 14th over about to begin, Worcestershire promoted Mitchell above Whiteley. In Western terms, the peace-loving sheriff had been preferred to the local gunslinger, and Mitchell duly provided a cautious 19 from 15 balls to edge Worcestershire to a realistic total.
Wessels was a figure of realism, too, with 31 from 34 balls;. Once a square-of-the-wicket adventurer, he still has those qualities but increasingly in this Worcestershire side, a successful side at that, he finds himself pushing singles to hold the innings together. It might have been enough. Instead, he became a support act in a wonderfully entertaining day.
Recent Match Report – Derbyshire vs Essex, Twenty20 Cup (England), 2nd Semi-Final
Essex 160 for 5 (Delport 55, Reece 2-24) beat Derbyshire 126 (Harmer 4-19, Nijjar 3-26) by 34 runs
Simon Harmer hadn’t had a particularly rewarding Blast season. Unstoppable in the Championship, he had generally become a mere mortal over 20 overs. Then Derbyshire, in their first T20 Finals Day, had to contend with him on a turning Edgbaston pitch and the story changed as his destructive display pointed Essex towards a comprehensive victory and added another satisfying memory to an outstanding summer.
Harmer has been Essex’s Championship showstopper: his 78 wickets at 18.12 are the prime reason why they have a title showdown with Somerset at Taunton next week. As Essex’s captain in the Blast, however, he had mustered 10 wickets all season and disappeared for nine an over. He was just another player hoping that Edgbaston might look favourably upon him.
All that changed in a second semi-final in which Derbyshire succumbed meekly on a turning surface, falling 34 runs short of Essex’s challenging 160 for 5. They didn’t play spin particularly well, and a couple of their dismissals could fairly be described as naïve, but when it comes to facing Harmer they are not alone in that charge.
Harmer finished with 4 for 19, his tranquillity never threatened, and he had quite an ally, too, in Aron Nijjar, a 24-year-old left-arm spinner from Romford, who had the onerous task of replacing the modish Australian leggie Adam Zampa on Finals Day in only his second Twenty20 match, conceded 14 runs in his first four balls, but lived to tell a glorious tale as Essex won a T20 semi-final at the fifth attempt.
Harmer and Nijjar took three wickets apiece in the space of 58 balls, five of them hitting the stumps. When the sixth batsman to perish, Alex Hughes, was lured down the pitch by Nijjar and stumped, so fell Derbyshire’s top-scorer, on 23. There was another wicket for a spinner, too, when Dan Lawrence bowled Fynn Hudson-Prentice.
Harmer’s first ball jolted Derbyshire, their captain, Billy Godleman, the second batsmen to fall as he turned one sharply to hit the left-hander’s off stump. He repeated the dose in his third over against Leus du Plooy, another left-hander, another delivery that turned big. Next ball, Anuj Dal, determined to use his feet, ran at one and was bowled through the gate. His last wicket was Daryn Smit, who tried to reverse sweep him past two fielders at backward point, the most befuddled shot of all.
“I’m used to seeing the ball disappear so it’s nice to bowl on something that suits me,” Harmer said. Essex started their Blast campaign in the South Group so badly that they have essentially been playing knockout cricket for six matches, knowing that one more defeat would be fatal, and the knowledge has improved them.
Nijjar will attract less attention, but his contribution was, in a way, all the more remarkable because he had not bowled a single delivery in Essex 1st XI cricket all season. His last game of note was a 2nd XI match against Hampshire at Southampton in the first week of August. When Wayne Madsen sniffed vulnerability and struck him for 4-6-4 in his first four balls, things looked ominous; for him to then bowl Madsen round his legs, trying to sweep, was a crucial response.
Derbyshire were the last of the 18 counties to reach Finals Day and for all but the most committed follower of county cricket they could hardly have been more of an unknown quantity. Names did not as much trip off the tongue as go clean out of the mind. Obscurity, for a few hours at least, was in vogue. A side that reached the final stages by toppling Lancashire at Old Trafford were clearly capable of being better than the sum of their parts, and they will be deflated by their display.
Essex took command with an opening stand of 78 in 8.1 overs, Cameron Delport the dominant factor. His 55 from 31 balls gave him 408 runs for the tournament and the highest strike rate, at 172.15, of any of the 13 batsmen who had passed that 400-run mark. He might have fallen early, a leg-side swing against Logan van Beek falling safely when he was only 6, but his strokeplay became increasingly daunting until he deposited Hughes to long-off.
Once Delport had been silenced, Derbyshire shook themselves down and gradually got back into the match on a grippy surface that suited their medium-paced mix. Lawrence, who has grown into the T20 format this season by adopting a more aggressive approach, made little impact as he carved Hughes’ knuckle ball to third man; Ryan ten Doeschate, lbw to Luis Reece’s offcutter, also missed out.
Tom Westley, Delport’s opening partner, played the other innings of substance, 39 from 34 balls, although he, too, had fortune on his side, on 13, when van Beek failed to throw him out from mid-on. Westley’s departure to Reece at deep backward square leg preceded a problematic finish for Essex as they failed to find the boundary for 37 deliveries, from Ravi Bopara’s third-man dab off Reece to Adam Wheater’s square drive four balls from the end when Ravi Rampaul narrowly missed his yorker.
Bopara has crabbed all season about batting as a finisher at No. 6, and who found himself up at five for Finals Day. His scoring rate in the closing overs has been spectacular, justifying his place in the order, but it was a more restrained Bopara (28 from 23 balls when a ramp shot went awry) who guided then to 160 for 5. It was easily enough.
Billy Godleman bemoans failure to adapt to ‘excessive turn’ of semi-final pitch
Billy Godleman suggested the Edgbaston pitch had offered “excessive turn” and bemoaned his side’s failure to adapt to conditions after losing their T20 Blast semi-final against Essex.
Derbyshire lost eight wickets to spin – four to Simon Harmer, three to Aron Nijjar and one to Dan Lawrence – and struggled badly in the middle overs after flying out the blocks, and Godleman suggested that “the better team won” on the day.
“There was excessive turn,” he said, “which obviously provides challenges for hitting boundaries, but our job as professionals is to adapt to whatever conditions we’re given, and try to find a way to be effective.
“Unfortunately for us, Essex were a lot better at that today than we were.”
Godleman said that he was “slightly concerned” at the interval after Essex had posted 160 for 5 – the highest total across the two semi-finals – and that his side had conceded an above-par total.
“I thought the way that Alex [Hughes], Matthew [Critchley], and Luis [Reece] bowled,” he said, “taking pace off in the middle, I could see that it would be difficult against their spinners in the second half of the game. I thought anything over 140 would be difficult.”
But Godleman reflected that his side had come a long way in the past three seasons, which have all been under the stewardship of specialist T20 coaches – first John Wright, and then this season Dominic Cork.
“We’re very proud, very happy with the accomplishment of making it to Finals Day. It’s obviously bittersweet – you get here, you’re part of the day, it’s such a great atmosphere, and you just think ‘win two games and we’ll lift the trophy’.
“I think once these 24-48 hours pass by, the real context of what we’ve done as a club, playing with only one overseas player, giving opportunities to a lot of our talented homegrown cricketers, and being able to beat a lot of the big counties home and away, make it to Finals Day – we’re really proud.”
Godleman suggested that his side had taken plenty from their quarter-final loss to Hampshire in 2017, and said that in the future he hoped they would reflect on this defeat as something to learn from in the future.
“Two years ago, we made a quarter-final and got beaten quite badly by Hampshire,” he said. “This year, we made a quarter-final, we won it convincingly, and some of the guys who played in the defeat to Hampshire a few years ago really gained from that experience.
“Hopefully next year, or in the next 24 months, we can make another Finals Day and draw upon this experience.”
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