Provincial pudding proof to be eaten in last round

Sarel Erwee strengthened his case to replace Aiden Markram, who didn’t play.

Telford Vice | Cape Town

NINE of the 17 members of South Africa’s squad picked for two Tests in Christchurch next month did not feature in the latest round of domestic first-class matches. Four of them, including captain Dean Elgar and spearhead Kagiso Rabada, haven’t been on the field since the end of the Test series against India almost three weeks ago.

Concerns about international players’ work-life-bubble balance impact on their availability for matches in the level below. But measures taken to keep all those balls in the air also create opportunities for squad members who spend series in substitutes’ bibs.

Players like Sarel Erwee, who spent all three Tests against India on the bench — but for the odd spot of fielding — and wasn’t in the ODI squad. So he might have had to remind himself which end of his bat to hold when he opened for the Dolphins against the Warriors at Kingsmead on Friday — the first time he had taken guard in a match since December 9; a break of exactly 50 days. Happily, Erwee picked up where he left off. Having scored 75 and 97 against India A in Bloemfontein in December, he made 93 in his only innings against the Warriors. That will add to the argument for him to replace Aiden Markram in the Test XI.

Markram struggled through the India series, scoring 76 runs in six innings. How might he have fared for the Titans against the Knights last week? We’ll never know. He didn’t play, no doubt because he was among six players who were in action in the Test as well as the ODI rubbers against the Indians. And so he needed rest. He made just 56 runs in three trips to the white-ball crease, retaining his place largely because his part-time off-spin was considered a viable bowling option. Markram took 2/85 in 17 overs. That’s a decent economy rate of 5.00, but stopping an out-of-form frontline batter from fixing his game in order to deploy him as a bowler doesn’t add up.

Especially as Markram has few opportunities to sort himself out away from the glare of the international spotlight. He hasn’t appeared for his domestic team since March last year, when he made 100 and 64 against the Lions’ all-international attack — Rabada, Beuran Hendricks, Lutho Sipamla and Bjorn Fortuin — at the Wanderers. In total in that match, Markram batted for almost eight-and-a-half hours and faced 326 deliveries.

Surely he could have used the opportunity to re-find his feet in that fashion before having to consider the prospect of facing Tim Southee, Trent Boult, Kyle Jamieson and Neil Wagner at Hagley Oval, New Zealand’s greenest, most seaming pitch?

Along with Erwee, Simon Harmer, Wiaan Mulder, Duanne Olivier, Ryan Rickelton, Sipamla, Glenton Stuurman and Kyle Verreynne — all of them in the New Zealand-bound Test squad — played for their provinces last week. Harmer took 4/70 and 4/33 for the Titans. Mulder scored 24 and nought and took 1/35 and 0/38 for the Lions against Western Province at Newlands. Sipamla claimed 1/47 and 0/28 in the same match, which was also the stage for Rickelton’s innings of 90 and 102 not out. The Warriors’ Stuurman took 5/97, and Verreynne made 86 for WP. 

So, a mixed bag. But those players will go to New Zealand with a fair idea of what shape they’re in. More so than Markram, and even more so than Elgar, Keshav Maharaj, Keegan Petersen and Rabada — who have had their feet up since the Tests against India.

No cricket happens in a vacuum, and the feeder system for the international game is particularly susceptible to instability created by players coming and going. That’s understood and expected. But it’s also a pity in this case, because the return of the senior domestic circuit to a provincial system this summer — having been based on a franchise model for the previous 17 seasons — has produced a keen contest that deserves respect. With only the last round of first-class matches left, just 6.3 points separate the Lions, Warriors and Titans at the top of the first division standings. As a win is worth 16 points and a draw six, with batting and bowling bonus points also on offer, all of those three sides have realistic hopes of clinching the title.

The Warriors would seem to have the best chance of adding significantly to their points tally. They play the Knights, who have won only one and lost two of their six games, on Bloemfontein’s docile pitch. The other two contenders, the Titans and the Lions, go head-to-head in a crunch clash at Centurion. Both matches start on Friday.

The Titans ensured they stayed in the running by thrashing the Knights by an innings and 153 in Bloem last week. Sibonelo Makhanya’s 111 and half-centuries by Grant Mokoena, Jordan Hermann, Heinrich Klaasen, Corbin Bosch and Dayyaan Galiem powered the Titans to a declaration at 515/9, and that despite fast bowler Alfred Mothoa’s 5/62. Harmer’s eight-wicket haul helped dismiss the Knights for 197 and 165, in which Patrick Kruger’s 97-ball 53 was the best effort.

In the only other top flight match that wasn’t drawn, Boland beat North West by an innings and 20 runs in Paarl to register their first win of the campaign in their sixth match, three of them drawn. Stiaan van Zyl’s 127, Janneman Malan’s 99 and half-centuries by openers Pieter Malan and Cebo Tshiki guided the home side to 485/7 declared. Wesley Marshall’s 97 and half-centuries by Lesego Senokwane, Senuran Muthusamy and Duan Jansen couldn’t stop North West from being dismissed for 170 and 295. Slow left-armer Siyabonga Mahima opened the bowling and took 6/54 and 3/92.

At Newlands, WP reached 315 thanks to half-centuries by Tony de Zorzi, David Bedingham, Verreynne and Yaseen Vallie. The Lions were dismissed 28 runs behind, with Dominic Hendricks and Rickelton passing 50. Slow left-armer Kyle Simmonds claimed 6/109. Opener Jonathan Bird’s undefeated 152 and more half-centuries by De Zorzi and Bedingham took the home side to a declaration at 337/3. Chasing 366 to win, the Lions had slipped to 36/2 when Rickelton took guard. He saw another five wickets go down, including Simmonds removing Kagiso Rapulana and Mulder with consecutive deliveries. But Rickelton’s unbeaten hundred — his third century in five innings this season, which took his average for the summer to 118.25 — ensured the Lions saved the match. Simmonds completed a match haul of 10/202. 

Rudi Second’s 120 earned the Warriors a first innings of 386 in Durban. Eathan Bosch took 5/75. The Dolphins replied with 451 on the back of Erwee’s effort, Marques Ackerman’s 96 and Slade van Staden’s 53, and despite Stuurman’s five-for. The Warriors made it to 137/4 before the game was called.

In the second division, Northern Cape hammered Border by an innings and 271 runs in East London, Easterns were 10-wicket winners over Mpumalanga in White River, and South Western Districts beat Limpopo by eight wickets in Polokwane.       

Ernest Kemm and Aubrey Swanepoel scored 106 and 111 not out for Northern Cape. Seamer Divan Posthumus claimed 5/59 for Easterns, whose Grant Thomson scored 145 in the same innings in which fast bowler Bamanye Xenxe took 5/111 for Mpumalanga. Slow left-armer Malcolm Nofal took 5/60 for Limpopo in SWD’s first innings. Medium pacer Marcello Piedt banked figures of 5/21 in Limpopo’s second innings. Matches involving Limpopo and Mpumalanga are not first-class. 

First published by Cricbuzz.

Success! You're on the list.
Whoops! There was an error and we couldn't process your subscription. Please reload the page and try again.

Provincial pudding proof to be eaten in last round