Everyone hopes that a white ball final will yield hundreds of runs and buckets of sixes, but Sunday’s MSL final deserves being relished by true South African cricket fans, writes SIMON LEWIS.
The way Reeza Hendricks and Rassie van der Dussen went about the Jozi Stars’ run chase in the final was exemplary. It didn’t excite the crowd, and possibly might even have contributed a lot to the final falling ‘flat’ as the crowd excitement dwindled in the face of ‘the inevitable’. However, this is where white ball matches are won and lost – playing the situation and getting the job done.
The Cape Town Blitz bowlers and fielders seemed to wilt visibly as their prospects dissipated with every single push into a gap and every run completed. That’s how you win a match. In South Africa, we have a tendency to want to puff out our chests and say, ‘hey, let’s show them how quickly we can knock these runs off’. Batters then take a few risks too many, act too casually or with complacency, a couple of quick wickets fall, and before you know it, the match is back in the balance.
This scenario might be more exciting for the fans, but as professional cricketers, there is a balance you need to strike between being an entertainer and being a winner.
Stars skipper Dane Vilas is a player who has remained under the radar for much of his career, but the 33-year-old’s appointment as Lancashire’s new captain is an indication of the esteem in which he is held within the cricketing community. His batters and bowlers really stepped up to the plate in the MSL. Vilas himself was pretty clean with the gloves during the season, and he also weighed in with the bat at key moments.
Although there were bigger stars in their side, without Vilas the Stars would not have made it into the final.
Vilas’ experience and cricketing knowledge would have contributed to his command of the Jozi Stars dressing room and his calm head would have been instructing his top order to ‘get them in singles’ in the final.
‘Forget the flourish – secure the win,’ would have been the instruction.
Hendricks and Van der Dussen’s approach to their task could best be described as ‘playing under the radar’, which is a lesson all batters could do well to heed in similar situations. It might also pay rich dividends for the Proteas, come the business end of the 2019 Cricket World Cup.
Winning sporting contests require players to man up to tough challenges and overcome great odds, but it also requires mental strength and emotional intelligence to know when to play hard, when to play savvy, when to take chances and when to ‘win ugly’.
The Stars have put down a marker for the Proteas to follow in their journey to the 2019 Cricket World Cup, and the Stars and the MSL as a whole have given the Proteas selectors a number of headaches as the pool of talented cricketers seems to have suddenly expanded.
Good times to be a Proteas fan!
The Stars’ match-winners
Team cohesion was highlighted by skipper Vilas as one of the keys to the Stars’ successful MSL campaign, although the way their batters and bowlers stepped up to the plate (especially in the absence of their international star Chris Gayle on T10 duty and then owing to a family bereavement) had a huge impact on their results.
The Stars had three batters in the Top 8 list of MSL run-scorers in 2018:
1st place – Rassie van der Dussen, 469 runs
3rd place – Reeza Hendricks, 412 runs
8th place – Ryan Rickelton, 251 runs
As for their bowlers, five Stars players occupied the Top 10 wicket-taker spots:
1st place – Duanne Olivier, 20 wickets
4th place – Kagiso Rabada, 13 wickets
5th place – Beuran Hendricks, 12 wickets
7th place – Nono Pongola, 10 wickets
10th place – Simon Harmer, 10 wickets
Photo: Gavin Barker/BackpagePix