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Recent Match Report – Paarl Rocks vs Tshwane Spartans, Mzansi Super League, 10th Match

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Tshwane Spartans 188 for 2 (Elgar 88*) beat Paarl Rocks 185 for 6 (Vince 86*, Morkel 2-24) by eight wickets

Tshwane Spartans got their first win of this Mzansi Super League (MSL) with only the second successful chase of the tournament so far. After the Nelson Mandela Bay Stars eased to victory chasing 109 against the Jozi Stars on Saturday, the Spartans made bigger tasks look easy and hunted down a target of 186, with five balls to spare. Their win has taken up to third place on the points table and pushed Paarl Rocks into fourth.

It’s blowing in the wind

While the east coast of the country has been hit by heavy rain, the west has seen strong winds with gusts of up to 50kph over this weekend and it had an effect on the fielders. Six catches were dropped in total, four by the visiting team and two which gave top-scorer James Vince a lifeline.

Henry Davids was on 14 when he was put down at deep square leg, and he went on to score 30. Vince did much more damage. He was first put down on 5 when he miscued a shot off Lungi Ngidi to AB de Villiers at long-off. De Villiers had the ball in his hands but was back-pedaling and heading over the rope so he tossed the ball up, but not high enough that he could get back on the field and complete the catch.

Three overs later, Vince offered a much simpler chance to by Donovan Ferreira at deep midwicket off Roelof van der Merwe but the ball slipped through the hands. Morne Morkel then dropped a return catch off Dwaine Pretorius when the batsman was on 7. He only added two more to his total.

The hosts did not escape the wind either. Isuru Udana had two chances put down – Theunis de Bruyn on 31, who was dropped by Bjorn Fortuin at long-on and de Villiers, on 8, put down by Pretorius at backward square leg. While de Bruyn went on to make 42, de Villiers only scored 19.

Faf v Morne

Watching former team-mates take each other on is part of the fun of T20 franchise cricket and though today was billed as being about Faf du Plessis v de Villiers, it was actually du Plessis v Morne Morkel. The former Titans and South African team-mates were on opposite sides in Paarl and Morkel claimed major bragging rights. He had du Plessis caught at midwicket for a third-ball duck to put the Rocks in early trouble at 45 for 2.

Highest opening partnership of the competition

Who said Dean Elgar and Theunis de Bruyn are red-ball cricketers only? Not us! The Test duo put on the highest opening partnership of the competition so far – 104 runs in 12.2 overs which featured a dynamic array of strokes. De Bruyn cut and pulled well while Elgar was enterprising and aggressive, hitting down the ground and timing and placing the ball well, especially in the air. Elgar was the match’s top-scorer with 88 off 60 balls, including seven fours and two sixes.

Captain Klaasen

The most-scrutinised leadership skills in this competition are Temba Bavuma’s and Quinton de Kock’s as the succession race for the South African national team hots up, but Heinrich Klaasen showed why he also has something to offer as he led from the front to take his side to victory. Klaasen’s cameo of 31 runs off 13 balls featured a reverse-sweep, a straight drive over Tabraiz Shamsi and back-to-back sixes at the end of the 19th over to ensure the Spartans only needed two runs to win off the last six balls.



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Jason Holder on Ben Stokes battle: ‘Maybe I don’t get as much credit as I deserve’

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Captains, allrounders, rivals. As England and West Indies prepare to go head-to-head in cricket’s comeback following its Covid-enforced hiatus, so too do Jason Holder and Ben Stokes.

While Holder has been top of the ICC rankings for Test allrounders for the past 18 months, he acknowleges that it is the No. 2-ranked Stokes who dominates conversation on the world’s premier allrounders. And he is not entirely sure why.

“I don’t really like to get into these personal accolades or ICC rankings,” Holder said ahead of Wednesday’s first Test between the sides at the Ageas Bowl. “Ben has always been talked up and quite rightfully so, he’s a really good cricketer, but the ICC rankings say that I’m the No. 1 ranked allrounder and maybe don’t get as much credit as probably I deserve, who knows?

“I don’t get caught up with it to be honest. Journalists are there to write their stories, I am merely here to play cricket. It’s always a good battle on the field when you face competitors like Stokesy, face competitors around the world.”

ALSO READ: ‘Do it your way’ – Root’s message to Stokes

While both players have impressive records in their careers to date, it was Holder who starred last time these sides faced off. While Stokes performed well in defeat, averaging 37.20 with the bat and 22.80 with the ball, Holder made a defining contribution, thanks to his maiden Test double hundred in the first Test at Bridgetown. That innings set up a 381-run win in the match and a 2-1 victory in the series, meaning it was Holder who got his hands on the Wisden Trophy.

And while it is a significantly different looking England side to the one defeated in the Caribbean last year that Stokes will captain this week in the absence of Joe Root, who is on paternity leave, Holder was not about to offer any advice to his opposite number about leadership.

“I’ll give my advice to Stokesy after the series,” Holder said. “England are in capable hands: he’s an excellent cricketer, a great competitor and I’m sure the guys in his dressing room look up to him. He’ll have experienced campaigners in his dressing room to help him along, I’m sure, so I wish him all the best in this one game as captain.”

Perhaps in further evidence that he sees the key battle as being against Stokes the allrounder rather than Stokes the captain, Holder highlighted the importance of performing on the field himself. Nursing an ankle injury, Holder faced fewer than 30 deliveries for just seven runs across three innings in West Indies’ two intra-squad warm-up matches. He also bowled only five overs in that time.

ALSO READ: Holder’s lean run continues in warm-up

But Holder was confident of being ready for the first Test where, having passed 100 Test wickets against India in Jamaica last year, he needs 102 runs to reach 2000 in Test cricket. It is a feat that only Sir Garfield Sobers and Carl Hooper have previously achieved for West Indies, and Holder has often sought Sobers’ advice throughout his career.

“Before captaincy I’m a player and my performances must stand out: I must perform my role for the team,” Holder said. “With bat in hand I’ve got to make runs, with ball in hand I’ve got to take wickets and in the field I’ve got to help the guys hold on to chances.

“Leadership will come into effect after that and when I do perform well with the bat it sends added confidence throughout the dressing room.

“I’ve had tonnes of conversations with Sir Garry. I always look up to Sir Garry – he’s one of the most positive individuals I’ve ever spoken to. He just sees things from a different light and I guess that’s why he was so great. He’s never shy of giving information or advice and he’s one of those guys that would put his arm around you and nurture the next generation.”

It was not just Holder who was short of runs during the warm-up matches, with a likely top five of Kraigg Brathwaite, John Campbell, Shamarh Brooks, Shai Hope and Roston Chase managing just 29 runs between them in their rain-affected second intra-squad game. Brathwaite, Hope and Brooks did reach fifties in the first tour game, as did Shane Dowrich, who missed the second with a side strain.

On the prospect of either himself or Dowrich moving up the order, Holder said he would leave it until match morning to finalise his team, but he did not rule out moving to No. 6 at some stage.

“It’s on the radar for me,” Holder said. “I’ve had success and been consistent where I’ve been batting but no doubt at some stage I will definitely come up the order, it’s just a matter of when.

“The beauty about the lower half contributing so heavily in the last couple of years is that we’ve got stability and depth… you go back to the series against England, Roston Chase got a century in that series as well as myself and Shane. There were still very significant contributions from the top order so generally I think we’ve got to bring it together as a squad.

“I know a lot has been said about the lower half contributing the bulk of the runs in the recent past but if you look at the calibre of players we’ve got. Kraigg Brathwaite has had success here in England, Shai Hope has had success here in England, Shamarh Brooks has had success in youth team cricket in England and that’s just to name a few. I’m more than confident that these guys will do well here in this series.

“It doesn’t only have to come from the top order. We’re putting a lot of emphasis on the top order. Yes, they probably haven’t lived up to the expectation but it’s still a team sport and we’ve just got to put runs on the board. However we get them, personally I don’t care, it’s just a matter for us to put the runs on the board and give our bowlers something to work with.”



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ECB embrace ‘uncomfortable truths’ in bid to improve cricket’s diversity

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The ECB has announced a new range of measures designed to open cricket up to more diverse communities, after Tom Harrison, the chief executive, admitted that the Black Lives Matter movement had revealed some “uncomfortable truths” about the sport’s relevance to black, Asian and minority ethnic (BAME) players.

Speaking on the eve of the first Test against West Indies at the Ageas Bowl, where the England team will make a gesture of solidarity towards BLM, Harrison acknowledged recent criticism of the ECB’s efforts at inclusion, including from Michael Carberry, the former England opener, who argued that black people are “not important to the structure of English cricket” and the former Derbyshire opener Chesney Hughes, who was left out of contract in 2017 despite averaging more than 50 the previous season.

In 2019, there were just two state-educated British-born black players playing professionally for any of the 18 first-class counties, one of whom featured in a solitary match. Last month, Vikram Solanki, the former England batsman, was appointed as Surrey’s head coach, making him the first British Asian to be recruited for such a role.

“Alongside most of society, we have had to confront some uncomfortable truths in the wake of the Black Lives Matter movement,” said Harrison. “We have listened and will continue to listen carefully to the experiences of black people in cricket and society, and we thank those who worked tirelessly and spoke bravely to open up conversations about the change our sport needs to create.

“We have made strong strides in many areas to become a more inclusive and diverse sport, but we realise there is a great deal more to do.”

The measures announced by the ECB include increased representation in leadership roles, a game-wide anti-discrimination charter and a bursary scheme for young black coaches, with a focus on “leadership, education and opportunity”. There will also be a further drive to reintroduce cricket in primary schools, with a focus on ethnically diverse areas.

In addition, Harrison said that there would be further pressure on the first-class counties and county boards to adopt the Rooney Rule, which requires at least one BAME applicant to be interviewed for any job opening, and he challenged the sport to reach representation targets that reflect each county’s local population by 2022.

ALSO READ: What has English cricket been like for black players?

“When it comes to governance reform, there is a certain process that you must go through,” Harrison said, “but that doesn’t mean that we can’t inject some real adrenaline into that process to enable us to get to a better place quicker.”

Although the ECB board currently meets the Sport England code of 30% gender diversity, Harrison acknowledged that the sport continued to fall short on ethnic representation, in spite of the adoption of programmes such as the South Asian Action Plan in 2018, and added that the ECB’s recent AGM – held virtually due to the Covid outbreak – had further highlighted the organisation’s “predominantly white elderly male demographic”.

“That doesn’t reflect the playing base of our game in this country – nor where we really want to be in the future if we’re going to continue to grow and continue to be relevant,” said Harrison. “When everything’s going well in your sport, it’s very easy to think all is well beneath the surface. We’ve got a warning here from the black community now, saying: ‘Guys, you’re not relevant to us right now.'”

Harrison acknowledged there were alarming parallels between the experience of the Windrush generation of black British cricketers, whose children were not given the opportunities to embrace cricket in this country, and the younger generation of Asian immigrants, who find themselves similarly excluded from English cricket’s mainstream.

“I think the reality is that we’ve never cracked this challenge as a game in this country,” said Harrison. “In the ’50s, ’60s and ’70s, Britain was handed a generation of black cricketing fans, people who had a connection with the game through a family connection in the Caribbean. Those communities subsequently found life extremely difficult when coming to Britain and cricket was one of the ways in which they were able to connect and feel part of their community.

“What we have to understand now is that it’s not just black communities, but a huge swathe of urban communities and diverse communities that don’t feel cricket is making a real connection with them at the moment. That’s work that we absolutely need to do. “The danger is that in a generation’s time, if we don’t get this right, we will suffer the same fate with respect to the South Asian community. In both of these situations, we’re finding that there is a pattern here that we absolutely have to address – to change that scenario, to change that sense of disenfranchisement, to get under the skin of it and move forward together.”

“In 15 or 20 years’ time, if we’ve got that same problem with the South Asian communities, then you’ve just lost 35% of your participation just like that. It takes authentic effort, proper understanding of the issues and then a long and committed drive to reverse it. It will take a long time but it absolutely has to happen.”



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Amid excitement over cricket’s return, there are debts to be repaid

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The end of lockdown – maybe the pause in lockdown will prove a more accurate phrase – has precipitated many long-awaited reunions. Friends, lovers, families have all been reunited. It’s hard to say where the resumption of cricket rates compared to such events.

But it’s significant in many ways. Not least, it will go some way towards avoiding a financial meltdown in cricket in England and Wales. As things stand, it seems England have a better than even chance of fulfilling all their international fixtures for the 2020 summer. From the situation in which they found themselves when the season was meant to start in April, this is a fine achievement. The fact that the highlights will be shown on the BBC also represents an opportunity. There’s never been too much wrong with our game; if we can get more people to see it, there’s no reason they should not fall in love with it.

ALSO READ: The world awaits as cricket ushers in its new normal

The ECB – and Steve Elworthy, their events director, in particular – deserve a huge amount of credit for making this series a reality. Realising early that the cost of doing nothing would be far greater than the cost of drastic action, planes, grounds and hotels have been requisitioned. New protocols have been introduced to cover everything from training to eating to walking around stadiums. The scope of the project is vast and would have seemed unimaginable as little as four months ago. A huge amount has been asked of many. Everyone has bought in.

Most of the methods adopted by Elworthy and co in recent weeks will provide a blueprint for governing bodies around the rest of the world. That, in turn, allows the sport to navigate its way through a crisis that could be with us for some time yet. Playing behind closed doors is nobody’s idea of perfect but, in the circumstances, most would have settled for this solution.

Elworthy already had an outstanding record in this area. He was tournament director of the World Cup last year and in 2013 organised a Champions Trophy that may well have saved the 50-over format. In pulling off this project, he deserves to be viewed, alongside the likes of Tony Greig, Andy Flower and Kevin Pietersen, among the most valuable southern African imports to the English game.

England owe a great deal to West Indies, too. Leaving a region that has been spared the worst of Covid-19 and traveling to one in its grip has taken a certain amount of courage and determination. Yes, CWI needed the tour to satisfy their sponsors – Sandals, the hotel chain, aims much of its marketing at the UK audience – but the players could easily have opted out. English cricket owes every one of them.

It’s not fair to conclude England would definitely not have toured had roles been reversed. There would have been doubts, of course. But England returned to India after the terrorist attacks in 2008 and went to Bangladesh, in 2016, at a time other teams were unwilling. Even before recent events, there seemed every chance they would return to Pakistan in line with their obligations in the Future Tours Program. Their understanding of their global responsibilities is better than is sometimes credited.

But this series, in particular, seems timely. It comes amid a renewed focus on racial equality and will feature a team of cricketers of Afro-Caribbean heritage answering England’s plea for help. It’s a reminder, perhaps, of how much England has gained from the Caribbean over the years. It needs to be acknowledged and respected.

Pakistan have been equally helpful to England. Their squad is here already and seeing out their period of isolation in a Travelodge in Derby. Not every international team would do that. Again, an opponent who has had a chequered relationship with the ECB, has answered their call for help.

It would be nice to think this sense of cooperation will foster a new spirit among the cricketing community. That it will remind all involved of our interdependence and shared interests. That it will lead to a new revenue model for international cricket which sees the biggest earners, like higher-rate tax payers, contribute a little more. That those who run the ‘big three’ will understand that, eventually, without strong opponents, the appeal of the international game will wither and their own business models will be compromised. It would be nice.

But the early evidence is not encouraging. The T20 World Cup, an event that would generate income for multiple cricket boards, is on the verge of being postponed for an event – the IPL – that will generate income for one. And while Australia look set to host a lucrative bilateral series against India, they seem less keen to host Zimbabwe. Within eight months next year, England will play 10 Tests against India and then travel to Australia for an Ashes series. The obsession for the rich to play the rich is leaving the rest struggling for survival.

The shame of all this is that recent weeks have shown what can be achieved when the game works together. If England are truly grateful for the support of Pakistan and West Indies at a time they needed them most, they will ensure their words of gratitude are translated to more tangible rewards. Cricket can be stronger for this experience but we require more than warm words and gestures. We need change.

Maybe such issues can wait for a day or two. There will be a sense of joy at seeing the resumption of cricket over the next few days. A sense of relief, too, that we are finding a way back towards the normal life we will never take for granted again. Well, not for a while, anyway. But amid the excitement, let’s not forget the debt owed to West Indies, Pakistan and Ireland too. And debts need repaying.



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