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Frylinck cameo helps Tshwane Spartans stay alive in the tournament



Tshwane Spartans 122 for 6 (Cloete 30, Frylinck 22*, Shamsi 3-18) beat Paarl Rocks 121 all out (du Plessis 38, Sipamla 3-19) by four wickets

This match was billed as a showdown between Faf du Plessis and AB de Villiers, who were at Afrikaanse Hoër Seunskool together in this very city, playing alongside each other there before moving on to be team-mates at Northerns, Titans and, of course, South Africa. In the end, it was de Villiers’ Tshwane Spartans who triumphed in a see-sawing, low-scoring thriller, chasing down Paarl Rocks’ 121 in the final over.

Tshwane Spartans came into this match wanting not just a win, but a bonus point in order to keep their Mzansi Super League campaign on track. The end result doesn’t rule them out, but they are still in the fifth position on the points table and will need other results to go their way (as well as winning all of their remaining matches) in order to get to the playoffs.

Spartans have only won two matches so far in this competition, but they have also squandered some strong positions, and that was very nearly the case again today. Needing to score at a run a ball to win, Spartans will also have had the potential bonus point on offer for a victory in 16 overs or less in their minds as they started their chase.

All seemed to be going to plan when they had reached 64 for 1 midway through the 10th over, Andrea Agathangelou powering the chase with a flurry of boundaries to make up for Dean Elgar’s slow start at the top of the order. But when he was given out caught behind off the glove – somewhat contentiously – aiming a paddle scoop over short fine leg, Spartans started to slide.

On a pitch that had plenty of cracks to encourage the spinners, Tabraiz Shamsi rocked the Spartans with two quick wickets in his third over, including that of de Villiers, bowled through the gate by one that gripped and spun in to him. Shamsi concluded by pinning a reverse-sweeping Eoin Morgan lbw for 4 as Spartans slipped to 82 for 5.

While wickets were falling, the runs also dried up, and Spartans couldn’t find the boundary between the 11th and 16th overs. That put paid to any hopes they might have had of still securing a bonus point, but it also brought what should have been a straightforward chase to a nerve-jangling conclusion.

Tony de Zorzi flat-batted David Wiese over cover to break the shackles, and then brought up the 100 in the 17th over with a shovel over Paterson’s head. With two overs to go, Spartans needed 15, and their job could have quickly become even harder when de Zorzi missed an attempted paddle at a Bravo slower ball to be struck on the pad, but was very luckily not given out even though the ball would have cannoned into leg stump.

Bravo had his revenge three balls later, de Zorzi mistiming a heave at a slow bouncer to be easily caught in the deep, and Spartans went into the final over needing 11. Robbie Frylinck, who had nudged his way to 11 off 18, biffed the first ball over long on for six, and the second straight down the ground for four more to draw level, before turning the third to fine leg for the winning run.

While Frylinck was their hero with the bat, Lutho Sipamla was Spartans’ spearhead with the ball, operating as a one-over strike bowler and repeatedly returning to the attack to break through whenever Paarl threatened to lay a platform.

First, he had a flat-footed Aiden Markram caught behind to snap the opening stand in his first over. With Faf du Plessis scoring at a strike rate of 200 in the Powerplay, Sipamla returned to have him caught at cover by AB de Villiers for 38. After Dwayne Bravo hit three sixes off legspinners Jeevan Mendis and Shaun von Berg, Sipamla returned once more to remove him via a slice drive, and he completed his bowling work for the day by conceding just two runs in his final over, the 17th of the innings, to finish with figures of 3 for 19.

Though they leaked runs early when du Plessis and Bravo were on the counter-attack, Spartans’ spin attack struck back superbly to deal with the lower order. Von Berg had Vaughn van Jaarsveld caught at long on at the start of his spell, and then returned to repeat the treatment against Mangaliso Mosehle. In the same over, von Berg combined with Rory Kleinveldt to get rid of Fortuin via the outside edge, Kleinveldt holding a stunning reflex catch at slip as Rocks slipped to 100 for 8.

Paterson struck a couple of lusty blows, but Mendis returned to bowl the 18th over and brought the innings to a swift end. His googly caught the inside edge of Tshepo Moreki’s bat, wicketkeeper Gilhaln Cloete holding the catch between his legs, and Paterson mistimed a slog two balls later as Rocks were bowled out with more than two overs to spare. Had they scored just a few more, they might have won this game, but Rocks’ defeat mean they now have a slim lead of just one point over Spartans, and the play-off race is still wide open.

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‘As long as he is alive, Hope will play tomorrow’ – Brathwaite



When the best player on tour is injured, the captain and the team management tend to get nervous. Perhaps many captains would think, or even say in private, that they would do anything to ensure that he or she plays the next game. Carlos Brathwaite, West Indies’ T20I captain, said this about Shai Hope, whose back-to-back unbeaten centuries have been the visitors’ only batting beacon in Bangladesh in the past week.

Hope felt dizzy after receiving a blow to the head during Friday’s third ODI in Sylhet, but he trained with the squad on Sunday, ahead of the first T20I.

“Shai [Hope] is in beautiful batting form, fresh off two back-to-back unbeaten centuries,” Brathwaite said. “Even if Shai has to play with a stretcher, I will volunteer to carry the stretcher between the wickets. He is fine and in good spirits. He is out practicing, so hopefully he is close to 100 per cent. As long as he is alive, he will play tomorrow.”

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Brathwaite’s side will further be boosted by the return of Evin Lewis, who missed the India tour and the Bangladesh ODIs. “He is one of the better batsmen in the world. For the last 18 months or so, he has three T20I hundreds and also centuries in regional and franchise cricket all over the world.

“He is a definite plus for any team. It is a positive to have in our side. Hopefully he will deliver some big performances which will help us win the game and the series,” said Brathwaite.

But of course, injuries and unavailability have been a major bother for the West Indies. Kieron Pollard, Andre Russell and Jason Holder are injured, while Chris Gayle has been busy with league commitments.

“We have had some informal chats about it. We can’t do much as players if we continue to lose. We don’t have much power or say. The group of players needs to find a way to win, regardless of who is and who is not selected. When we start to win, we can pull on experiences on learning how to win games.

“Evidently you become more experienced and confident, and start creating your own brand of cricket. We haven’t been able to, because of a lot of chopping and changing for different reasons. The feeling in the dressing room is that whenever a team is picked for a tour, we put our heads together as a unit, and find a way to win games. Once we do that, West Indies cricket will find a way to the top, whichever format,” he said.

Brathwaite believes West Indies’ favourite format can get them the much-needed win in this tour, which would also be a bounce back from their wretched year in T20Is. They have won just two out of 12 games in 2018.

“The people back home deserve a Christmas gift,” he said. “We hope to close out the year with a win. We still think T20 is our premier format.

“We obviously haven’t had the results to be in the recent past proud of. But here’s a chance to turn things around and ending 2018 in a good way.”

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Williamson’s fluency allowed me to keep going – Latham



The tempo at which his team-mates – particularly Kane Williamson – built their own innings, helped Tom Latham get through some tough spells, and assisted in his getting to a seventh Test hundred.

Latham went to stumps on 121 off 256 balls – his strike rate a respectable 47 for the day – but had been much slower at the start of his knock. He had been 16 off 86 balls at one stage, and also went through another period – when he was on 50 – in which he did not score a run for 17 balls.

Williamson, meanwhile, made 91 off 93 balls. To the pair’s 162-run second wicket stand, Latham’s contribution was only 67.

“At the start of my innings, I wasn’t playing that quickly, but the way Jeet Raval played and the way Kane came and played – that took the game to the opposition and kept the scoreboard ticking over,” Latham said. “It was good for me. I could just keep going. The most important thing we talk about was making those partnerships big ones, and I managed to get a good one with Kane.

Williamson had signaled his aggressive intentions early, hitting three fours off the first three deliveries he faced. Two of those strokes were especially memorable back-foot punches either side of point, off the bowling of Lahiru Kumara. He would go on to hit 10 fours in his innings, and had little trouble finding gaps in the outfield in between the boundaries.

“Kane came out and hit the ball fantastically well – I guess he’s a world-class player and is hitting the ball unbelievably well in all conditions,” Latham said. “You look at some of the shots he plays – from ball one – those early boundaries set the tempo for his innings and he kept doing that. He’s a fantastic player and one to get a few more tips off. When guys are going like that it’s almost easier to give them the strike and let them do their thing.”

For Latham, this was his first trip to triple figures since January 2017, and breaks a relatively lean spell that goes back at least six innings. In the three Tests in the UAE, Latham mustered only one 50, and averaged 16.5 across the three Tests. Which is why, he said, it was important to start slowly and build from there.

“The slow start was about trying to get them to bowl to me as much as possible. Coming from the UAE where the conditions were a lot different, it was important for me to try and wait to score when the ball was a lot straighter, or when it was shorter or fuller.

“I didn’t have the results I wanted in the UAE, but I felt like I was hitting the ball alright. The biggest thing was the trust in my own game, and the trust that I can do it at this level. It’s been a while since I made a big score, but it was nice that I managed to do that straightaway.”

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Repeat finger blow spells trouble for Aaron Finch



Aaron Finch was taken for x-rays on a possible fractured right index finger on day three of the second Test in Perth. Finch was struck a painful blow in the 13th over of the innings by Mohammed Shami in more or less the same spot where he had twice been struck by Mitchell Starc in net sessions earlier in the summer.

The finger troubles for Finch had begun when Starc hit him on the bottom hand during training for the first ODI of the season, also in Perth against South Africa last month, and the same spot was hit by the same bowler in Australia’s main training session before the first Test in Adelaide, whereupon Finch muttered the words “same finger” before seeking treatment from the team doctor Richard Saw.

After struggling in both innings of the Adelaide Test, Finch scrapped his way to a half-century alongside Marcus Harris on day one of the Perth Test, and having reached 25 not out in the second innings was quickly wringing his right hand after the blow from Shami.

In obvious pain, Finch received extensive treatment on the field before it was decided that he must retire hurt to seek further information on the seriousness of the blow. The umpires then called for tea about a minute earlier than scheduled, and Finch did not resume in the evening session.

It’s not the first time Shami has inconvenienced an Australian batsman this series, having also struck Tim Paine on the right index finger in the second innings in Adelaide and duly creating a wave of concerns given the captain’s long history of troubles with the digit.

More to follow…

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