Currie Cup – Not all cut and dried
The outcome of the weekend’s clashes can still influence where the Currie Cup ends up this year. While some will play for home ground advantage in the play-offs, others will grasp at the slenderest of reeds in the hope of a positive outcome.
Leeus teen Griekwas
Die manne van Kimberley is al span wat heeltemaal uit die prentjie is, en gee daarom ook hul beste spelers, insluitend Willie le Roux, ‘n blaaskans vir die uitspeelwedstryde teen die Poemas. Die Leeus is slegs een punt agter die Cheetahs en sal beslis mik na ‘n volle vyf punte om te kyk of hulle na die derde plek kan opskuif, en sodoende vir die “makliker” halfeinstryd kan kwalifiseer. Op hul tuisveld, teen ‘n verswakte Griekwaspan, behoort dit haalbaar te wees.
Cheetahs teen Bulle
Die Bulle het nog ‘n vae wiskundige kans om volgende naweek weer te speel. Die feit dat hulle boonop nie tuis speel nie, en vier drieë moet aanteken teen ’n span met goeie verdediging, maak dit nog moeiliker. Dan is daar ook die terugkerende Bokke wat die Vrystaters voorlangs veral nog meer gedug maak. Die Cheetahs sal natuurlik ook wil verhoed dat die Leeus hulle inhaal. Al manier om dit te doen, is om vyf punte te behaal. Dit behoort genoeg motivering vir hulle te wees.
Sharks versus Western Province
This promises to be the match of the weekend, with both sides selecting their returning Springboks. At stake is a possible home final, and both sides need to win to ensure this. The Sharks are one point behind, and need at least a win, and four points, to move to the top of the log. Should WP win, they have a chance to host the final at home. The revenue of that game is a major incentive for both unions. Let us hope the administrators remember why people are there in the first place, and reward the players accordingly.
Proteas Back to the Grindstone
The Proteas make a welcome return to the test arena after a break of almost 10 months. The challenge against Pakistan, in the UAE, is arguably a test that they might find too difficult to pass.
No cricketer, apart from a Pakistan player, will call the UAE their favourite place to ply their trade. The Proteas face a daunting task – the heat and slow pitches ensure extreme playing conditions.
We face a few real threats on this tour:
- The Proteas, as a test team, have been out of action for more than 10 months.
- The pitches are traditionally dusty, slow and spinning, and renowned for low bounce. This has always been a challenge for teams not from the subcontinent. The Sheikh Zayed Stadium in Abu Dabi, the venue for the first test, has not played host to many tests and the stats might be a bit misleading – but here they follow anyway:
- Average 1st innings score is 584
- Average 2nd innings score is 434
- Average 3rd innings score is 203
- Average 4th innings score is 153
- The heat: the humidity is a huge factor and after a lengthy break from test cricket, which in itself contains challenges. The weather conditions will have a definite influence on the conditioning and concentration of players, and increase the threat of injury.
- Temperature: October is characterized by falling daily high temperatures, with daily highs decreasing from 38°C to 33°C over the course of the month, exceeding 40°C or dropping below 31°C only one day in ten.
- Humidity: (October – Abu Dhabi)The relative humidity typically ranges from 28% (dry) to 87% (very humid) over the course of a typical October, rarely dropping below 14% (very dry) and reaching as high as 100% (very humid).
- Perhaps not a threat per se, but a harsh challenge for new coach, Russell Domingo (pictured above), in his first test series in the driving seat.
Reasons we might just be OK:
- The Proteas are currently the number 1 ranked side in the world and the experience of Kallis, Amla, Smith, Steyn, De Villiers will be a definite benefit.
- The break from test cricket has its advantages too – players like Kallis and Steyn are rumoured to be in excellent condition and injury free. Being mentally refreshed and hungry to compete might just add that little extra!
- The Pakistan side recently lost a test to Zimbabwe and calls have been made for Pakistan stalwart skipper, Misbah-ul-Haq, to be removed from the side. Their confidence might have just taken a knock.
Personally, I would be happy with a series draw as the playing conditions are a huge challenge and I struggle to see us dominating. Looking at the stadium stats, winning the toss and batting first, will be a good start.
If ever there was a perfect platform for Protea spinner, Imran Tahir, to re-establish himself in the test side, this is it!
Reasons (good or bad) aside, come Monday, the boys are back, and about time too.