Rob Houwing

‘Harro’ the big TV improver

2013-11-15 10:22
Sport24 chief writer Rob Houwing (File)
SuperSport appear to have unearthed an emerging gem in domestic cricket commentary - he’s probably ready to consistently do home-staged Proteas games justice, too - in the shape of Paul Harris.

“Harro” made his debut for the pay channel last summer, which was also the season when he retired from the first-class game after a yeoman 16-year career, mostly for the Titans and also featuring 37 Tests for South Africa, where his ability to “hold” a game was not always as appreciated as it should have been.

The Harare-born left-arm spinner was all too often mocked for not being a massive strike factor for the Proteas, but the run-curtailing pressure he built at his end was instrumental in many scalps for the much-vaunted SA seamers.

You could say he has the sort of lively, “boykie” personality that eclipses his wicket-taking statistics, however, and that is probably a strong reason why he was coaxed into television commentary.

I doubt he will ever develop into a golden voice of cricket broadcasting - there are a few tough acts to follow worldwide - but as a comments sidekick to a lead commentator in live play I feel he offers burgeoning potential now.

Earlier this year I suggested in this space that Harris was arguably trying too hard to sound “formal” behind the microphone - that’s best left to the lead commentator, isn’t it? - and should focus more on simply being himself (that is, more naturally, orthodox conversational).

That’s almost exactly how things have turned out more recently; I felt he was excellent on SS2 alongside a veteran like Robin Jackman during this week’s Momentum One Day Cup “semi-final” between the Dolphins and Titans at Kingsmead.

Pleasingly unbiased, considering his long-time attachment to the visitors, his technical and match-situation analysis also made good sense whilst his spontaneous humour came to the fore, too.

He would have raised a few chuckles when, towards the end of the Dolphins innings, he mentioned how “the guys with the six packs get placed on the fence and the ones with the bellies suddenly come into the inner ring ... I always came into the ring”.

The classically old-school retort from Jackers: “I was never even going to ask you, dear boy ...”

Rob’s Awesome Foursome

1. Scotland v South Africa, Test rugby
Edinburgh, Sunday 17:00, SS1, SHD & CSN 

My lone personal experience of Murrayfield thus far was attendance of the 2010 clash between these foes, when the Boks crashed 21-17 in abysmal conditions to wreck any Grand Slam prospect that year. The outdoor press box was so frigid that day that I didn’t even have the courage to open my laptop: I dashed back through the rain to the relative warmth of the nearby Murrayfield Hotel to scramble through my copy. If the BBC’s weather site is to be believed, Sunday afternoon will be cloudy but dry, with a positively “balmy” maximum of around 7 deg C. I think the Boks would bank that, and if the going is pretty firm underfoot I fancy them to comfortably enough win even with their slightly experimental-looking line-up ... say by 12-15 points?

2. Pakistan v South Africa, 2nd Twenty20 cricket international
Dubai, Friday 18:00, SS2, SHD2 & CSN

It is difficult to believe Pakistan will be as comically inept and disorganised as they were in Wednesday’s first of the two encounters at the same venue – the Proteas slaughtered them by nine wickets with 33 balls to spare, a massive gulf in this format – so with some luck we could get a more fitting contest before the teams board a plane for our shores. With the ICC World Twenty20 in Bangladesh not terribly far away, it would be handy if Faf du Plessis’s troops were at least stretched a fair bit in this one, in conditions that will closely resemble what they face in the global get-together in March. What price further sparkling stroke-play from that face of eternal innocence Quinton de Kock? I, for one, am not betting against it.    

3. Cobras v Titans, Momentum One Day Cup cricket final
Cape Town, Friday 15:00, SS5, SHD5 (SS2 & CSN from 21:30)

When I last looked, it seemed a miracle was required to allow a suitable window of rainless time to complete the showpiece. This city is usually one of the more reliable countrywide for cricket hosting from November onwards, but as wretched luck would have it there are some freak levels of precipitation in the pipeline both for Friday evening and Saturday’s earmarked reserve day! It would be a great shame if this particular competition fails to secure an outright winner; last year the Cobras and Lions shared the honours after two days of inclement Highveld weather. If we do squeeze a (possibly compressed) game in, the Cobras ought to be strongly tipped because their attack is much more geared around seam than the hitherto spin-laden Titans one ... 

4. South Africa v Spain, international soccer friendly
Johannesburg, Tuesday 21:00, SABC1, SS4 & SHD4

It still seems like yesterday, so it’s a scary thought that Spain, still comfortably the No 1-ranked side on the planet, last graced the FNB Stadium well over three years ago on July 11 2010 for the World Cup final against the Netherlands. Appealingly, the holders pay a nostalgic return visit on Tuesday (note the slightly later-than-usual 21:00 kickoff) for a friendly clash with Bafana Bafana, who stay largely in the international doldrums but do have a face-saving habit sometimes of being at their most resilient against the best sides. They were competitive in the two meetings with the Spaniards at the 2009 Confederations Cup on our soil, and a gut feel tells me they can run them close once more. I bravely tip the star-studded visitors to clinch it by a mere single goal.

*Follow our chief writer on Twitter: @RobHouwing

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