Champions League T20

SA's T20 sides sparkle

2010-09-11 22:04
Mark Boucher (Gallo)
Comment: Rob Houwing, Sport24 chief writer

Cape Town - The South African challenge in the Airtel Champions League Twenty20 is off to a slightly unexpected flyer.

The comfort with which the Warriors, last  season's domestic Pro20 champions, beat  off Sri Lanka's Wayamba in their Port Elizabeth opener on Saturday not only served notice that they will probably be strong title contenders in the multinational event, but also that the Eastern Cape franchise could well dominate the local limited-overs landscape once more in 2010/11.

Those familiar with this frantic format will know that a seven-wicket victory with 10 balls to spare is a handsome margin in both respects.

Just as pleasing for long-suffering Lions fans and other, more neutral South Africans was that the Wanderers-based outfit earned a minor upset triumph over IPL glamour team the Mumbai Indians on Friday night, even if the margin was rather tighter in that one.

Cricket South Africa bosses will be relatively pleased, too, that the still unseasonal time of year did not act as a major deterrent at the gate - there was a good buzz at both venues and early wins for the local sides ought to only boost interest levels further.

The Warriors certainly played like the proverbial machine in outgunning Wayamba at a sun-soaked St George's, promising seamer Rusty Theron making immediate inroads in the wickets column and then returning for an effective later spell too, to ensure that the Lankans' total after batting first would never get out of hand.

Theron looks in good shape to challenge someone like ageing Charl Langeveldt this summer for the mantle of best "death" bowler in the country, and won the man-of-the-match award for his analysis of 4-0-23-3.

"Just stick to trying to execute your plans and don't rush or force things too much," was his perfectly reasonable answer when asked much later at the presentation by commentator Ian Bishop what the secret to the art was.

Another bowler to catch the eye as Wayamba only got to a score in the region of 150 was Johan Botha, pleasing from a Proteas perspective as the cool and plucky off-spinner was recently named as new national captain in the T20 format.

He was typically effective in the way he mixed up the pace and angle of his deliveries: sometimes his history as a dedicated medium-pacer clearly still comes in handy, and he went for just five runs to the over in his maximum spell.

Australian legend Ian Chappell, albeit a wonderful analyst, tends not to be the sort to dish out praise to South Africans too readily, but from behind the TV microphone he observed: "Botha is the kind of cricketer who is always aware of exactly what's going on in the game."

His sprightly fielding off his own bowling also earned ticks of Chappell approval, while Botha's fine catch just inside the boundary rope, where he had crucially got his ducks in a row for foot-position awareness, was another feature of a solid day's work for him.

The Warriors' unflappable hunt for the runs was no less impressive than their stint in the field, with Colin Ingram reminding of his strong credentials near the top of the order and then Mark Boucher and Justin Kreusch, two rather more established strings to the home bow, powering the Warriors home without any need for substantial nail-chewing in the stands.

Boucher, the irrepressible SA wicketkeeper, looked as if he was playing in mid-season rather than at the very start, experiencing an early wobble against the spin-heavy Wayamba attack but then finding the middle of bat with a meaty boundary or two and just getting better and better for fluency en route to his unbeaten, 26-ball innings of 40.

Said Chappell, now in an unstoppable array of bouquets: "Boucher's a busy player who seems to see the ball well straight away."

That he is still doing so with his mid-thirties dangerously close tends to suggest that his stated intention to fend off retirement for some time yet carries good doses of plausibility.

There was a bit of old-and-new-blend to explain the Lions' success in Johannesburg a night earlier, their surge to a formidable total of 186 against Mumbai headed up by young left-hander Jonathan Vandiar and that old pro Neil McKenzie.

The former looked mightily assured on the front-foot drive at times - although it concerns me that like a few of his team-mates he looks as if he can't resist a midnight snack on the leftover apple pie - while McKenzie profited from being fed a buffet of deliveries in his favourite area, the one encouraging his short-arm punch through or over midwicket.

Albeit for an "enemy" franchise, it was a relief to see JP Duminy, desperate to atone for his miserable 2009/10, feature fairly decently in the failed Wanderers chase. Getting the ball crisply off the square for a while - in registering 30 - was a happier state of affairs than he has generally experienced for many, many months.

Read more on:    mark boucher  |  rusty theron
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