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‘Beware the wounded buffalo,’ Boucher warns incoming tourists England

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Mark Boucher began his tenure as South Africa’s national coach with his usual bullishness as he issued a warning to their next opposition, England, ahead of the first of four Tests starting in under a fortnight.

“They’ve been saying quite a few things in the media but I’ve got one thing to say to them: Beware a wounded buffalo, especially in Africa,” Boucher said.

Having spent much of the last seven years since his international retirement involved in nature conservation projects, Boucher knows a thing or two about buffaloes. He also knows about overcoming adversity. Boucher had to put his life back together after losing sight in his left eye in a horrific injury that ended his career three Tests short of 150, before moving on to a successful career as a coach.

In four seasons with the Titans, Boucher won five trophies and could add a sixth to his name when the Tshwane Spartans play in the Mzansi Super League final on Monday. He has also overseen the elevation of Aiden Markram, Lungi Ngidi, Tabraiz Shamsi and Heinrich Klaasen to international cricket.

Now, another difficult task lies ahead. Boucher has been put in charge of rebuilding a South Africa side that has suffered reputational damage and several defeats and now sits at the bottom of the World Test Championship points table. He believes he can do it, because he has seen it done before.

“I’ve been involved in sides over the years where we have had some tough times. One of the toughest times was the Hansie Cronje saga and straight away after that, we beat Australia,” Boucher said, referring to a 2-1 ODI series win in April 2000 after Cronje admitted to his involvement in match-fixing.

Boucher scored a match-winning 55 not out in the decider to underline his ability to perform under pressure, as well as his immense self-confidence. He wants the South Africa team of 2019 to do the same.

“I think we’ve got a good chance of turning it around,” he said. “Sport is an amazing thing. It can be turned around in a couple of days but I understand there is a lot of work to be done before that.

“Our confidence is a bit down. We need to get our confidence back. There’s a wealth of knowledge in this country that can get utilised so we need to get consultants in to try and get the confidence up, get as much information going in the right direction and give the players the space to try and perform at their best.

“We’ve got the talent in this country. It needs to be nurtured a bit and given the opportunities for information to come through. In the right environment and with the right sort of communication channels, I think we can get the best out of our players.”

His assistant, Enoch Nkwe, echoed those ideas, especially after seeing first-hand the struggles of the national side in India. Nkwe was put in charge for the tour, in which South Africa drew the T20 rubber but lost the Tests 3-0.

“We felt the T20 went well and created a good foundation,” Nkwe said. “The Test series, we knew it was going to be a challenging one. There are lot of lessons to take away. We identified that we need a bit more leadership in the team. It was going to be part of a plan to tap into some great minds around the country to see how we can build the confidence of the team and the players.”

Boucher is hopeful the restoration of stability at CSA, where Graeme Smith has been appointed acting director of cricket and Jacques Faul is interim CEO, will lay the foundation for the national side’s recovery.

“When you lack leadership from up top, it does tend to seep into the lower sections of the whole train and guys start getting away with murder at the bottom,” Boucher said. “If we get the right leadership at the top, it is going to filter down and I am very confident we have got the right leadership at the top at the moment.”

He also believes a stronger structure will help deepen a talent pool that currently appears shallow, as aspiring cricketers turn to other professions or countries.

“The talent pool has probably got a little less over the years, which is a concerning factor but if we get the right leadership in place, I think we can sort that out very quickly,” Boucher said. “If you have a look around at the moment, on social media, the game has been hurt. Myself and Enoch have been put in place to get the Protea team doing well. If we look after that space, I think we will get the crowds and fans behind us again and things will start to change.”



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Recent Match Report – Essex vs Surrey South Group 2020

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Essex 262 and 13 for 0 lead Surrey 187 (Jacks 70, Harmer 6-67, Porter 4-53) by 88 runs

Simon Harmer bagged his 18th first-class five-wicket haul for Essex as the hosts helped themselves to a healthy first-innings lead over Surrey in the Bob Willis Trophy. Offspinner Harmer has now taken 229 wickets since joining Essex at the beginning of the 2017 season as he returned figures of 6 for 67.

Harmer was the County Championship’s leading wicket-taker with 83 scalps last year and looks likely to replicate that record in the Bob Willis Trophy – with no rival taking more than his 12 poles so far in the competition.

The South African shared the wickets with trusty partner Jamie Porter, who claimed 4 for 53, as Surrey were bowled out for 187, in response to Essex’s 262 – a deficit of 75, which rose to 88 in a wicketless four-over twilight burst.

After Essex had lost their last three first-innings wickets inside seven overs, Porter blasted a hole at the top of the Surrey batting order with two wickets in two balls. The seamer forced Ryan Patel to hand Harmer a regulation catch at second slip with his sixth delivery, before Scott Borthwick tucked off his hip to Feroze Khushi at midwicket.

Will Jacks saw off the hat-trick as he dug out a yorker as he began to work his way towards a well-made 70. At the other end, Mark Stoneman struggled to get out of neutral gear as he scored five singles in 65 balls before edging Harmer to Alastair Cook, before Jamie Smith had the top of his off peg knocked back by Porter.

Jacks was dropped on 26, 31 and 46 – twice by Varun Chopra at short leg and once by Aaron Beard at deep fine leg – but moved to his seventh first-class fifty in 81 balls. The 21-year-old made batting look uncomplicated, on a sun-kissed pitch best suited to patience, with 12 boundaries struck all around the Cloudfm County Ground, Chelmsford.

He had been joined by Laurie Evans – who was playing his first innings in a decade for Surrey – for a valuable 80-run stand for the fifth wicket. Evans, on loan from Sussex due to Surrey’s 14-man absentee list, had played four first-class matches during his first stint at the county between 2005 and 2010 before joining Warwickshire.

He was the aggressor, particularly against Harmer, whom he struck for three perfectly nailed sweeps and a six over long-on.

Both fell either side of tea to spark a second collapse of the innings – Surrey losing three wickets for three runs as Harmer took control. Jacks pushed Harmer to midwicket before Porter bowled Evans.

Since Harmer arrived at Chelmsford on a Kolpak deal, he and Porter have shared 428 first-class wickets and two County Championship titles together.

Chopra made amends for his early spills when he clung onto a stunner under the lid to dismiss Gus Atkinson, and then held onto a loopier catch off Rikki Clarke’s bat-pad. Harmer’s five-for was confirmed when Adam Finch clipped around the corner to Tom Westley.

Essex were frustrated for 10 overs by the last-wicket pair of James Taylor and Amar Virdi, before the former picked out Nick Browne at cow corner. Browne immediately turned around to stick his pads on for four overs with Cook – the pair getting through Clarke and Virdi’s overs unscathed.

Earlier, Essex had only added nine runs to their overnight score of 253. Clarke was the chief tail destroyer as he returned figures of 3 for 26 – only going for one boundary in his 21 overs.

Handed the new ball at the start of the day, Clarke taught a young Surrey bowling attack how to rip through a tail. The fresh leather caused extra bounce off a length, which caught Beard out as he edged behind in the third over of the day, before a fuller delivery pinned Sam Cook lbw.

Clarke’s lesson was heeded by debutant Atkinson who wrapped up the innings when Harmer top-edged a pull shot to Patel at cover.



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Recent Match Report – Sussex vs Kent South Group 2020

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Kent 338 for 1 (Cox 167*, Leaning 110*) lead Sussex 332 (Brown 98) by 6 runs

Teenager Jordan Cox and winter recruit Jack Leaning notched their first centuries for the county as Kent took control of their Bob Willis Trophy south group game. Sussex endured an 85-over day in the Canterbury dirt as Kent’s second-wicket pair piled on a record unbroken stand worth 231, beating the club’s previous best against Sussex of 229 set by Kentish legends Arthur Fagg and Leslie Ames at Hastings in 1948.

By stumps and the midpoint of the match Cox had reached a career-best 167 not out while Leaning finished unbeaten on 110 as Kent closed on 338 for 1 for a narrow six-run lead.

Cox, a 19-year-old right-hander who only opened in this match in the absence of Kent’s England duo Joe Denly and Zak Crawley, cruised through the so-called nervous 90s within six deliveries to post his maiden century from 150 balls with 16 fours and a brace of sixes. A Kent Academy product playing only his second first-class innings on the ground, Cox moved to three figures with a huge six over long-on against the bowling of Jack Carson.

The England Under-19 batsman started the Kent response to the Sussex all out total of 332 by featuring in a first-wicket stand worth 107 with Daniel Bell-Drummond. Bell-Drummond fell soon after lunch for 43 when Mitch Claydon, the former Kent seamer, got one to hold its line against the Canterbury slope and graze the shoulder of the bat. Harry Finch completed the dismissal with a sharp low catch at second slip.

Normal service was resumed once Claydon and George Garton rested, however, as Cox combined with Leaning, the ex-Yorkshire batsman and one of four Kent players making their home debuts, to deepen Sussex’s woes.

Leaning reached his half-century from 88 balls and with eight fours while at the other end, Cox continued to show excellent judgement of length. Fleet of foot, he skipped down the pitch to drive anything flighted, or rocked back deep into his crease to cut or reverse sweep once the Sussex attack attempted to adjust their lengths.

With his score on 134, Cox took a painful blow in the chest after ducking into a Stuart Meaker bumper but batted on after treatment from Kent physiotherapist Dan George. It proved Cox’s sole misjudgement of the day.

Kent reached 200 for their first batting bonus point when, in the 50th over, a Delray Rawlins long-hop allowed Leaning room to cut to the ropes at backward point. The 300 followed in the 74th over when Cox clipped leg side against Garton to reach his own 150 from 221 deliveries.

Leaning, who joined from Yorkshire during the close season, notched his first ton in Kent colours and his fifth in first-class cricket from 162 balls after cutting his 16th four of the day through backward point off a rare loose delivery from Garton.

At the start of day two Kent used up 27 deliveries to winkle out the 10th Sussex batsman. Visiting skipper Ben Brown was the man to go after 283 minutes at the crease and when only two shy of his 19th first-class century. Cutting at one too close to the body from Harry Podmore, Brown chopped the ball onto off stump. Podmore finished with 4 for 85 and rookie offspinner Marcus O’Riordan took career-best figures of 3 for 50.



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Recent Match Report – Gloucestershire vs Warwickshire Central Group 2020

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Warwickshire 230 for 8 (Lamb 65) lead Gloucestershire 210 (Hannon-Dalby 6-33) by 20 runs

Matt Lamb top-scored with 65 as Warwickshire were made to battle hard for a first-innings lead on the second day of the Bob Willis Trophy match with Gloucestershire at the Bristol County Ground.

Going in with his side 55 for 3 in reply to 210, Lamb faced 193 balls and hit 12 fours to help the visitors to 230 for 8 at the close of a day of attritional cricket on a slow pitch that made anything but slow scoring difficult.

The start of play had seen Oliver Hannon-Dalby complete career-best figures of 6 for 33 from 23.3 overs by taking the two remaining Gloucestershire wickets after they resumed their first innings on 191 for 8.

Tom Smith ensured the home side of a batting point with 24 not out, but Josh Shaw and Matt Taylor fell to the tall seamer, again bowling accurately from the Ashley Down Road End. It was Hannon-Dalby’s first six-wicket haul in a first class innings.

Warwickshire’s reply began poorly when Rob Yates appeared to edge a low catch to wicketkeeper Gareth Roderick in the opening over from Ryan Higgins, but in fact was adjudged leg-before for a duck.

It was 15 for 2 when Sam Hain, on 8, fell lbw playing across a straight ball from Taylor and, with the skies overcast in contrast to the first day, Gloucestershire’s seamers scented a big opportunity.

They struck again in the final over before lunch when Ian Bell edged George Scott to George Hankins at second slip and fell for 13 to make the score 55 for 3 at the interval.

It was Scott’s first wicket for Gloucestershire on his debut following a move from Middlesex last autumn and a major blow to the visitors’ hopes.

Warwickshire skipper Will Rhodes looked solid in progressing to 41 in the afternoon session as the sun began to shine, but he was undone when opposite number Chris Dent introduced Ben Charlesworth to the attack.

The 19-year-old, who bats left-handed, but bowls right-arm seam, yorked Rhodes with his fourth ball to end an innings that had spanned 107 deliveries and featured six fours.

Patience was required with bat and ball. Lamb employed sensible shot selection to be unbeaten on 43 at tea, which was taken at 133 for 4, with Michael Burgess on 14. Gloucestershire needed an early breakthrough in the final session. Instead, a flurry of boundaries from the fourth-wicket pair advanced the Warwickshire total as they looked to adopt a more positive approach.

They had added 69 in 20 overs when Burgess, who was just starting to blossom, was bowled off an inside edge by Scott (two for 34), who impressed from the Pavilion End.

A further 28 runs had been added when Lamb edged Higgins (2 for 47) to first slip where Dent took a good low catch. By then Warwickshire were only 20 runs behind.

Tim Bresnan was looking to follow up a century on debut for the visitors and the experienced former Yorkshire all-rounder looked more comfortable than most on the testing pitch.

There was just enough swing to encourage the Gloucestershire bowlers as their opponents secured a batting point and closed in on their total.

Bresnan was unbeaten on 34 at stumps, having faced 75 balls and hit 4 fours. But Taylor (3 for 48) struck twice in the penultimate over of the day, clean bowling Alex Thomson, playing no shot, for 15 and Henry Brookes for a duck as Gloucestershire ended on a high.



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