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Low-stakes domestic cricket leaves South Africa short on death-bowling nous – Charl Langeveldt

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The absence of proper pressure in South Africa’s domestic competitions is leaving bowlers ill-equipped to handle similar situations on the international stage, according to bowling coach Charl Langeveldt.

Speaking three days after Mark Boucher assessed his bowlers’ skill levels as not being good enough following South Africa’s failure to defend totals in two out of the three T20 matches in the recently completed England series, Langeveldt said more practice at franchise level is essential for his young pack.

ALSO READ: Hamstrung Bavuma out of first T20I

“It was disappointing, especially with the scores we had. I thought we could have defended that but in saying that, not a lot of guys get into that position in domestic cricket,” Langeveldt said. “It’s a concern for me. It’s not good enough. In World Cups, you are going to get a lot of games like that. And if I look around the country, domestic cricket, the close games aren’t like it used to be.”

The evidence from the Mzansi Super League (MSL), South Africa’s flagship T20 competition, supports Langeveldt’s claim. In 54 completed matches across two editions of the tournament, only three matches have reached their stage where the fielding team needed to defend fewer than 15 runs to win off the last over. On two occasions, they were successful, once in 2018 when Andrew Birch of the Tshwane Spartans ensured they beat the Paarl Rocks and then in 2019, when Sri Lanka’s Isuru Udana gave Paarl Rocks victory over the Cape Town Blitz. While Udana has been in action against India recently, Birch has never played for South Africa despite a strong domestic record.

Instead, it is a new crop of quicks that Langeveldt has been tasked with moulding into death bowlers and the one he sees as best-placed to do the job is no longer in the squad. “A guy like [Sisanda] Magala, from seeing him in the nets, he is the most confident,” Langeveldt said. But uncapped Magala was dropped from the squad having spent the England series working to pass a fitness test that would see him debut. He has returned to his franchise, the Warriors, and was named in their team to play a domestic one-day cup match on Tuesday, which was rained off.

Magala is due to continue working with South Africa’s fitness trainer to meet the team’s requirements and remains a candidate for the T20 World Cup but for now, Langeveldt is looking at Lungi Ngidi and Andile Phehlukwayo to do the job and the latter, specifically. “has gone a bit backwards.” Phehluwayo’s changes of pace used to be key to South Africa’s ability to contain but he has struggled with his consistency.

One of the only ways to improve on that is repetition and Langeveldt is trying to emphasis that. “It’s training. The same way you train bowling length every day, with yorkers you have to train it,” he said. “It’s when to release the ball.”

But even then, bowling in the nets is entirely different to pulling it off in a match, when eyes and expectation are on you and that is something Langeveldt can’t teach. “The big thing is to land it under pressure. You can execute it in the nets but it’s when you are in the game, you need to be able to,” he said. “It’s sometimes difficult to coach that to a guy because he needs to figure it out for himself, once he is out in the middle. You can give him the tools, it’s what he does with them.”

While Langeveldt’s focus is on “mentally preparing” his bowlers, he also hopes the inclusion of experienced players like Dale Steyn and Kagiso Rabada will bring belief into group. Rabada was rested for the white-ball games against England, after being suspended from the final Test, and spent his time at NBA All-Star game in Chicago. He arrived in Johannesburg on Wednesday, “refreshed and ready to get straight back to work,” which is exactly what Langeveldt hoped would happen.

“Renewed focus is a good thing. As 24-year-old playing for your country all the time, you’re always under pressure,” Langeveldt said. “He was our leading bowler for a couple of years and probably still is so hopefully he brings that energy back.”

One thing that is certain is that Rabada will bring intent, especially against Australia. His most recent history with them involved a shoulder-brush with Steve Smith which almost saw him banned for a match in the 2018 Tests series but he successfully appealed the charge. He has since earned a further demerit point for an aggressive send-off which included screaming at Joe Root and entering his space during the Port Elizabeth Test and has promised to contain his passions for the good of the team in future.

But Langeveldt hopes not too much. “KG will always bring that competitiveness. He is competitive by nature. He wants to take wickets and we will definitely use our bumpers,” Langeveldt warned. “But he also needs to control the aggression. Be controlled with your lines, lengths and your bouncer.”





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Recent Match Report – England vs Pakistan 1992 World Cup Final 2020

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Pakistan 249 for 6 (Imran 72, Miandad 58, Pringle 3-22) beat England 227 (Fairbrother 62, Akram 3-49, Mushtaq 3-41) by 22 runs

In the end, it had to be Imran. Pakistan’s captain, leader, talisman and icon is into his 40th year and will surely never be seen again on a cricket field after this, the triumph to end all triumphs. But when, with the game out of reach for England and only pride left to fight for, Richard Illingworth launched a tired wipe to Rameez Raja on the edge of the ring, it was Imran Khan, the bowler, whose upraised arms confirmed the end of a career-long quest, and the seizure of Pakistan’s maiden World Cup triumph.

The scorecard will say that Pakistan outlasted England to win by 22 runs – and Imran’s role was fittingly front-and-centre, in particular a captain’s innings of 72 that set the agenda for everything that followed. And yet, the numbers tell only a fraction of the story of a fraught, tense encounter in which a sprinkling of magic proved the difference between the teams.

The match panned out much as the two teams’ runs to the final had done – England, the early pace-setters, pushing Pakistan to the absolute brink in the opening exchanges, only for a few moments of good fortune to turn the tide and drain the energies of the men in light blue. And then, slowly at first, but then in a crescendo with bat and later with ball, Pakistan shed their inhibitions and turned to their inner tigers to finish with a roar that no opponent could have withstood.

The critical moment came as the players paused for drinks after 34 overs of England’s run-chase. Faced with a stiff target of 250, England had been rocking at 69 for 4 but found, in Neil Fairbrother‘s eye for a deflected single and Allan Lamb‘s old-school pugnacity, a fifth-wicket pairing with the requisite fight to take the game deep. Their stand had exactly doubled England’s total to 138 and reeled the requirement back to a manageable seven an over, when Imran decided it was time to turn back to his strike bowler, Wasim Akram, with licence to let rip.

It was a moment by which legends are born. After another new-ball burst in which Wasim’s consummate skill had been undermined by the degree of movement on offer, his return with an older, tamer ball wrecked the contest. With reverse-swing from the outset, England were on their guard, but even knowing what was liable to come his way, Lamb had no response to a delivery from the Gods, an inswinging, out-seaming gut-twister that snaked one way then the other, opening the batsman up like a can of worms before kissing past a groping edge to flick the outer half of his off stump.

ALSO READ: Akram gets into the swing of things

And if that was good in isolation, then the follow-up to Chris Lewis conferred the double-whammy instant iconic status – a flip of the shiny side of the ball to unleash a howling inswinger, one that started so wide of off stump, Lewis might have believed it would be called as such, before hurtling back through his defences as if caught in a gravitational pull, to smash the top of the stumps, and confirm that England’s hopes were gone.

Fairbrother withstood as best he could, top-scoring for England with a gutsy 62, but Pakistan had too many snake-charming overs left in their repertoire for their opponents to get back on track. If there was an error in England’s approach, it was their failure to take the attack sooner to the left-arm spin of Aamer Sohail, who burgled his way through 10 overs for 49 in the crucial mid-innings rebuild, and allowed Pakistan to paper over the fact that, with all due respect to Imran’s glorious past, they came into the game with just three frontline bowlers.

But what a trio they proved to be. Until Akram’s intercession, it seemed that Mushtaq Ahmed‘s outrageous googly to Graeme Hick might prove to be the crowning moment of the night, but his 3 for 41 was no less critical for being upstaged. In fact, in luring the ever-dangerous Graham Gooch to his doom on the slog-sweep for 29, he arguably did as much as anyone to point Pakistan towards glory.

The boy-turned-man who took that catch, sprinting, stretching, sprawling at deep midwicket for an inspired take – was the zippy seamer Aaqib Javed, whose precociously commanding performance at the top and tail of the innings returned figures of 2 for 27 to ensure that the injured Waqar Younis was barely given a passing mention. Throw in another display of unfettered strokeplay from Inzamam-ul-Haq in the latter stages of Pakistan’s innings, and it’s clear this triumph – Imran’s overlord status notwithstanding – was a testament to Pakistan’s eternal faith in youth.

But how they were made to battle by a team that came into the final as favourites after a supremely disciplined campaign, but who crucially lacked the same youthful spark to augment the ageing giants in their line-up. With the ball, Derek Pringle produced one of the great losing performances in World Cup history, and Gooch and Lamb both had their moments with the bat. But Ian Botham’s last hurrah was less of a joy. His old-pro outswingers had hoovered up 15 wickets in England’s run to the final, but just one belated scalp on the night. And with the bat, he suffered the ignominy of a sixth-ball duck, adjudged caught behind off an Akram lifter, even as umpire Aldridge was beginning his walk to square leg.

Mind you, Pakistan’s own innings hadn’t started much better. On a lively deck with juicy early movement for the seamers, their gameplan had been clear from the outset. Bed in at all cost, at the expense even of forward momentum, and trust their middle-order artillery to reprise the late onslaught that unseated New Zealand in Saturday’s thrilling semi-final.

It was a tactic fraught with risk, especially once the canny old pro Pringle had proven his fitness after missing the South Africa match with a rib injury. Manipulating the new ball like a yo-yo on its string, Pringle served up a supreme spell of wickedly intelligent medium pace, bowling eight overs off the reel for 13 runs, with only his own size-12s breaking the spell, as he overstepped for a total of five no-balls, coupled with three wides.

Pringle accounted for both openers in that first spell, Aamer Sohail for 4, who flashed with flat feet at one that nipped off the deck outside off, before Rameez Raja was pinned lbw for 8 by the inducker, a brace of deliveries that showcased his mastery of seam position, honed in so many Championship-winning seasons at Chelmsford.

But at 24 for 2 in the ninth over, and with Pakistan’s veteran pairing of Imran and Miandad already united at the crease, both teams knew that the game could be won and lost with the next breakthrough.

Initially Miandad seemed to know it more acutely than his captain. Whereas Imran was content to plant an imperious front foot down the wicket, blocking the straight ones and leaving those outside off, his partner got off to an unusually skittish start by the standards of his formidable tournament. He might have been caught in the gully on 1 as Lewis bent his back in an excellent new-ball spell, before scuffing a drive inches short of midwicket two balls later.

And then, in the space of two deliveries, came a pair of let-offs will surely haunt Pringle to the end of his days. With teasing shape back into the right-hander’s front pad, Miandad was rapped plumb in front of the stumps, then plumber still – from an even fuller length, so taking out any doubt about the height. On both occasions umpire Bucknor shook his head, and Pringle could only flap his hands in disgust, ruing a moment lost, but confident it could yet come again.

For even with those let-offs, Pakistan were seemingly going nowhere on 34 for 2 at the 17-over drinks break. But as Imran might as well have muttered during a mid-over conflab, “Ghabrana nahin hai (don’t panic)”. Sure enough, the introduction of Ian Botham broke the shackles a touch, as Miandad skipped to the pitch of a drive through mid-on for four in an opening over that yielded nine.

But it was Imran himself who had the next key let-off when, on 9 from 41 balls, Phil DeFreitas banged in a short ball that rushed onto a pre-meditated pull. Gooch at square leg, all 38 years of him, sprinted full pelt as the ball plummeted over his shoulder, but despite a valiant dive, he was unable to wrap his fingers round the chance.

Whether that was the game there and then, who knows. But slowly but surely, the MCG’s vast outfield began to look chock-full of scoring opportunities, as England’s tiring team – already feeling the strain after a long winter campaign – began to be pulled apart at the seams. From 70 for 2 at the halfway mark of the innings, the game was still in their grasp. At 96 for 2 after 30, they were getting anxious for a wicket. And at 125 for 2 after 35, with Dermot Reeve flogged from the attack with a 12-run over that brought up the hundred partnership, they were getting desperate.

Miandad, in his fifth World Cup, duly became the first Pakistani to score 1000 runs at the tournament, and by the time he was finally extracted in the 40th over for 58 – unfurling the reverse-sweep against Illingworth where conventional mowing through the line had been serving him just fine – the arrival of the helmetless Inzamam-ul-Haq, Pakistan’s break-out star of the semi-final, wasn’t exactly a blessing. At 163 for 3 with ten overs in which to make merry, the stage was perfectly set for Pakistan’s much-vaunted finishers.

Imran knew it too. On 72, having done his bit and more, he aimed an ambitious wipe at his fellow legendary allrounder Botham, and picked out Illingworth on the edge of long-on boundary. He departed to a rich ovation, safe in the knowledge that he had risen to the occasion in what will surely now be his final, final farewell. And handed the reins to his other young gun, Akram.

Between them, Inzamam and Akram drained England’s troops of their resolve, adding 75 in 53 balls between them, with Inzamam’s initial flurry of four fours in his first ten balls giving way to a supporting role as Wasim took up the cudgels in the final five overs. He cracked four fours in his 18-ball 33, including a brace of venomous swipes to wreck Lewis’s figures in his final over, and though Pringle returned to outfox Inzamam for a richly deserved third wicket, a target of 250 – four more than England had failed to chase in Calcutta five years earlier – was daunting.

And by the time Pakistan had sprinkled their magic on the contest, it was overwhelming.



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Chandrakant Pandit moves from Vidarbha to MP as head coach

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Chandrakant Pandit, the former India player and one of the most successful coaches in Indian domestic cricket, has decided to move from Vidarbha to Madhya Pradesh for the 2020-21 season. Pandit had coached Vidarbha to back-to-back triumphs in the Ranji Trophy and Irani Trophy in 2017-18 and 2018-19, having earlier achieved Ranji Trophy success with Mumbai too.

Pandit, who has also been in charge of Maharashtra and Kerala in the past, said he would always have fond memories of his time with Vidarbha and the support he received from the Vidarbha Cricket Association (VCA), but it was time for him to embrace a new challenge.

“I have coached Vidarbha for three years. Normally I always do my coaching stints for two years or three years. The idea is to always move forward. It’s good to take a new challenge,” Pandit told ESPNcricinfo. “There is no doubt I was very happy with Vidarbha – the way the team has played, the way I got support from the association. From Prashant Vaidya (VCA vice-president and chairman of the cricket development committee) and Anand Jaiswal (VCA president). So it is not anything else, but just to move forward and take a new challenge. I was very happy with Vidarbha. I respect the support I received, and that will always be part of my life.

“I had played for MP for six years in the past. So when they contacted, I accepted. Because I was not going to continue with Vidarbha. It was purely my call, nothing untoward (had happened).”

This year, MP were coached by Abbas Ali – the grandson of Mushtaq Ali – with Devendra Bundela being the batting coach and Harvinder Singh Sodhi, who has been the coach of the team previously, doubling up as bowling coach and manager.

An official with the Madhya Pradesh Cricket Association said that it was too early to take a call on whether any of last season’s coaches would continue to be with the team, but confirmed that Pandit had been given a letter of intent to be the MP coach from next season. Due to the coronavirus pandemic and subsequent lockdown in India, Pandit has not been able to sign the contract formally yet.

ALSO READ: Chandrakant Pandit: Less of a general, more of a 12th man

“We’ll have to wait till things improve definitely,” Pandit acknowledged. “Ultimately it’s for the good of everyone (staying indoors for now). We have to take care of that. I’ll definitely be contacting players and drawing up plans. It’s like people who are working from home, I’ll have to do that for now till things get better. I’ll have to start planning for the MP team. Though I may not be able to get in touch with the players personally, but definitely, communication with the association, the secretary is there. I can put forward my plans so they can be ready with that. I’ve been talking to them and they have already told me that let things get better and then we’ll start. At the same time I’ll be trying to figure out what are the things I can do.”

Pandit’s departure from Vidarbha comes on the heels of Wasim Jaffer also announcing his retirement, leaving a bit of a void in terms of experience in the Vidarbha think-tank. Pandit, however, was confident that the processes put in place would hold the team in good stead.

“See whatever we have done in the last three years, we have developed a good, young team,” he said. “There was very healthy competition created. So I hope they maintain that and continue it. I’m sure the young boys coming through – the Under-23 side has won the CK Nayudu Trophy – they will be able to take it forward with whoever takes charge.

Vidarbha had come into this Ranji Trophy season as double defending champions, but although they began well, they faltered midway through, and ended up finishing seventh on the combined Groups A and B table, where only the top five teams make it to the quarter-finals. A loss against Delhi in the middle of the season hurt them particularly. Vidarbha declared on 330 for 3, with the lead being 347, to set Delhi a steep chase. It was a declaration made with the intent of going for full points rather than playing safe and getting only first-innings lead points, but Delhi had an inspired fourth-innings chase led by Nitish Rana’s 105* off 68 balls and they hunted down the target.



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South Africa faces shorter domestic season as CSA looks to cut costs | Cricket

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CSA acting chief executive Jacques Faul © Getty Images


South African domestic cricket will face a slightly shorter 2020-21 season with a reduction of fixtures for the franchise competition as Cricket South Africa seeks to cut costs following a tough 12 months. The organisation is forecasting losses of millions of Rands after sponsor withdrawal, an inability to sell two editions’ worth of broadcast rights for the Mzansi Super League (MSL) and loss-making incoming tours in the 2018-19 summer and the pinch is being felt in the local game, which depends on CSA finances to operate.

The two-tier system, of six franchise teams and 15 provincial affiliates, will remain in place with fewer matches and discussions on a possible restructure ahead of the 2021-22 season are ongoing while flagship T20 competition, the MSL is likely to continue, but may also see a curtailed fixture list.

CSA, while still under suspended CEO Thabang Moroe, had initially planned to eliminate the franchise set-up for the 2020-21 season and create a domestic system of 12 teams. The South African Cricketers’ Association (SACA) challenged that motion in court, claiming they were not consulted about the changes and that around 70 players would lose their jobs.

The matter dragged on for several months during which time Moroe was temporarily succeeded by Dr Jacques Faul, who was able to re-engage SACA. On agreement that the domestic structure would be retained for the coming summer, SCA withdrew legal action against CSA and the two parties remain in discussions about the best way to structure domestic cricket.

For the 2020-21 season, the status quo largely remains. The six franchise will play a four-day first-class and fifty-over competition while the provincial teams will play three-day cricket, which will also be classified as first-class for all teams apart from Mpumalanga and Limpopo, and a fifty-over one-day competition.

However, instead of each franchise playing 10 first-class and 10 fifty-over matches per season (home and away games against each of the other five teams) as was the case in previous seasons, they will be divided into two groups of three and will play seven matches each. This will include home and away matches against each of the teams in their own group, for a total of four matches, and only one match against the three teams in the other group.

Both competitions will be decided by a playoff match between the top two teams in each group to decide the title. Previously, the first-class competition trophy was awarded to the team at the top of the points’ table after all 10 rounds of competition, or eight in the case of this season, with the final two rounds suspended because of the coronavirus pandemic. The reduction of fixtures will enable CSA to save money on transport and accommodation costs, which is particularly important in the case of the first-class competition that has been without a sponsor for two seasons.

The provincial teams remain divided into two groups of eight and seven teams and will play a single round of fixtures. They will also feature in a new 40-over knockout competition which will include the 15 provinces and the South African under-19 side. While there is no T20 competition at the provincial level, CSA will introduce a Super Club T20 competition which will be contested by the top six university teams and three teams from the community cup.

South Africa’s domestic season is expected to start in September and squad and fixture lists are currently being planned. Although all cricket in the country was put on hold for 60 days last week as a response to Covid-19, CSA is hopeful that play will be possible when the summer starts, in about six months’ time. There have already been some significant player signings with Cobras’ quick Thando Ntini moving upcountry to the Titans and white-ball international Lutho Sipamla leaving the Warriors for the Lions. Final squads are expected to be released by the end of the month.

Firdose Moonda is ESPNcricinfo’s South Africa correspondent


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