South Africa’s attack has seldom felt as much strain as they do on their current tour of India, despite the focus of their failures falling squarely on the batting. The top-order’s inability to bed in, the extra burden placed on the middle order and the lower-order rescue acts – that have only rubbed salt in the specialist batsmen’s wounds – have all been analysed in the aftermath of the defeats at Visakhapatnam and Pune. So some attention ahead of the final Test in Ranchi will turn to the bowlers, who acknowledge they have also found it difficult to find form.
“We’ve been put under immense pressure,” Kagiso Rabada said. “I don’t know if we can be put more pressure than that.”
India piled on totals in excess of 500 and 600 in the first innings of the two Tests, where South Africa were not only unable to control their scoring rate but also failed to bowl them out. In fact, South Africa last took 20 wickets in a Test match nine months and five Tests ago, when they beat Pakistan at home. Since then, South Africa have failed to bowl both Sri Lanka and India out twice each, albeit it in vastly different conditions.
At home against Sri Lanka, where South Africa generally rely on their quicks, they lacked the firepower to remove Sri Lanka’s tail. In India, where South Africa attempted to counter conditions with a more spin-heavy attack, their slower bowlers barely threatened and their fast men have also appeared ineffective, even when conditions have offered some assistance such as on the first morning in Pune.
Rabada, who is South Africa’s leading seamer, only has four wickets from two matches, half that of Mohammed Shami and two fewer than Umesh Yadav. He believes the difference between the two packs has been the home team’s ability to generate some reverse-swing, while South Africa have not found any. “They got the ball to reverse and they bowled well as a collective,” Rabada said. “Their whole attack put pressure on us in every single aspect. Their spinners bowled well and when the ball was reversing their seamers could exploit that. We didn’t really get the ball to reverse and that’s a major weapon of ours.”
That’s not the only reason for South Africa’s lack of success. Often, they have bowled too wide and as Shami showed, attacking the stumps brings reward. More often, they have not found the right length, relying on short balls when pitching it up has proved more successful for India. Overall, South Africa lack the pace and penetration sides of the past have had on the subcontinent with no-one able to emulate Dale Steyn. There is also the issue of inexperience. Rabada, though tasked with being the frontman, is only 24 and it should be Vernon Philander who leads the attack but he has struggled on unhelpful surfaces. Anrich Nortje is on his first tour and Lungi Ngidi, who is in the squad, has not been passed fit enough to play a Test yet.
All that has put South Africa in a difficult position, from which few can see a way out. Rabada is taking the long view and hopes that this is merely a result of one era ending as another has yet to begin. “It’s never nice to lose, especially in the manner we’re losing right now but we’re going through a transition period,” he said. “Our team is fresh and young, so the best thing we can do is look at where we can improve and remember our strengths and build on them.”
The trouble is that for most of Rabada’s career South Africa have been in the same position. He made his Test debut in India by this time four years ago and then South Africa’s best period came in the 2017-18 home summer when they beat Zimbabwe, Bangladesh, India, and Australia at home. But their form has since been patchy as they search for consistency. Rabada hopes something can start in Ranchi, where South Africa will look to put in a better all-round display. “From a physical point of view we need to execute our skills and from a mental point of view, we need to believe we can do it in certain situations,” he said. It’s a balance we’re working on.”
Ajinkya Rahane moves from Rajasthan Royals to Delhi Capitals
Ajinkya Rahane has been traded from Rajasthan Royals and will play for Delhi Capitals in IPL 2020. The move was confirmed by the IPL and both franchises on Thursday, the final day of the trading window. Rahane has become the second high-profile player to be acquired by the Capitals in the trading window after R Ashwin, and he’ll join a line-up that is already top-heavy, with the likes of Shikhar Dhawan, Prithvi Shaw and Shreyas Iyer in the top order, with Rishabh Pant to follow.
Rahane is the Royals’ most capped player and has played 106 matches for the franchise, with 100 matches coming in the IPL and six in the Champions League T20. He has represented them since 2011, with the exception of the 2016 and 2017 seasons when the team was suspended. He is also the Royals’ leading run-getter, having scored 3098 runs for them overall, at an average of 35.60 and a strike rate of 122.30. In the IPL, he has scored 2810 runs for the Royals at an average of 34.26 and a strike rate of 122.65.
He has captained the Royals in 24 matches, winning nine and losing 15. Rahane had faced some criticism for his strike-rate at the top of the order for the Royals in IPL 2018, when he tallied 370 runs at 28.46 but at a rate of only 118.21. He improved those numbers significantly in IPL 2019, with 393 runs at 32.75 and a strike rate of 137.89.
As part of the trade, the legspinning duo of Mayank Markande and Rahul Tewatia will move from the Capitals to the Royals. That also makes Markande the first player to be traded twice between seasons – having gone to the Capitals from Mumbai Indians earlier.
Markande played only three matches in IPL 2019, losing out on the legspinner’s spot to Rahul Chahar in the Mumbai side, taking one wicket and conceding runs at 9.83 per over. He had made his IPL debut with Mumbai in 2018, bursting onto the scene as an unknown and taking 15 wickets.
Tewatia played five matches in IPL 2019, but bowled only 6.2 overs overall, picking up two wickets. This move will mark a return for Tewatia to the franchise he started his IPL career with, having been part of the Royals in 2014 and 2015. He was also part of Kings XI Punjab in 2017, before the Capitals secured his services in 2018.
Their addition gives the Royals a surfeit of leggies, with Shreyas Gopal already in the team and expected to be the frontline spinner.
“Rahul and Mayank are both extremely talented cricketers with a bright future ahead of them. I am confident they will excel at Rajasthan Royals,” Delhi Capitals co-owner Parth Jindal said on the occasion. “I am also extremely honoured to welcome one of India’s most stellar and consistent batsmen, Ajinkya Rahane, to the DC family. When the franchise underwent a revamp last year, a decision was made to keep Indian players at its core. The result was there for everyone to see, with the likes of Shikhar Dhawan and Ishant Sharma performing brilliantly for us, and complimenting the youth that DC has in Rishabh Pant, Shreyas Iyer and Prithvi Shaw, among others.
“That thought process has continued for us this time around as well, as is evident in the signing of Ravichandran Ashwin, followed by that of Ajinkya Rahane. I am sure Rahane’s wealth of experience, and familiarity with the conditions will help Delhi Capitals go a long way in IPL 2020.”
The Royals had used one of their Right to Match cards to buy Rahane for INR 4 crore in the IPL 2018 auctions, following bidding between Kings XI Punjab and Mumbai Indians which Kings XI won. Tewatia had been bought by the Capitals for INR 3 crore, from a base price of INR 20 lakh. Mumbai had bought Markande for his base price of INR 20 lakh.
Jack Leach signs Somerset contract extension
Jack Leach, the England left-arm spinner, has signed a two-year contract extension with Somerset that will keep him at the club until the end of the 2022 season.
Leach, who was born and raised in Taunton, has been part of the club’s system since his childhood, and has been a first-team regular since the 2016 season, when his 65 wickets at 21.87 apiece nearly fired Somerset to a first Championship title.
He was perhaps unfortunate to miss out on a red-ball central contract with England – he has been given an incremental contract instead – and is currently in New Zealand, preparing to play in the first Test at Mount Maunganui on November 21.
“I’m very happy to sign this new contract,” Leach said. “I’m a Somerset fan at heart so I’m very proud to represent the county. I have a great relationship with the members and fans, and I can’t thank them enough for the support they give the team and me as an individual.
“I’d also like to thank Jason Kerr [head coach] and Andy Hurry [director of cricket] for the belief they have shown in me. I’m looking forward to the winter and can’t wait for next season.”
Hurry said: “Everyone at the club is delighted that Jack has committed his future to Somerset. He is an exceptional talent and a big influence in the dressing room. I can’t speak highly enough of him both as a player and as a man.
“He has a genuine passion for the game and in particular for Somerset. That shows itself every time he trains, in his diligent preparation and in his wholehearted performances every time he takes to the field. We feel that he has a major role to play for both Somerset and England over the forthcoming years.”
Leach’s extension is something of a blow to Dom Bess, the offspinner who played two Tests for England in May 2018 but found himself in the Somerset 2nd XI later that summer.
Bess – who twice went on loan to Yorkshire last summer – is contracted until the end of next season, and is unlikely to change clubs this winter despite Yorkshire coach Andrew Gale publicly registering his interest in making that move permanent. But having played only nine times for Somerset in all formats last year – seven in the Championship and twice in the One-Day Cup – another frustrating season may leave Bess with no choice but to look elsewhere given he retains ambitions of a long international career.
Recent Match Report – South Australia vs Tasmania, Sheffield Shield, 11th Match
South Australia 6 for 490 dec and 5 for 191 dec (Ferguson 82, Hunt 69) drew with Tasmania 6 for 345 dec and 8 for 308 (Doolan 116, Agar 3-49)
Alex Doolan became just the seventh Tasmania batsman to score twin centuries in a Sheffield Shield match to deny South Australia victory on the final day in Adelaide.
The Redbacks haven’t won in two seasons and came within two wickets of breaking their drought. However, Doolan’s 116, following on from 170 not out in the first innings, combined with stubborn resistance from Ben McDermott and George Bailey helped Tasmania force a draw although for a long time they were in with a good chance of victory.
Doolan joined an elite group of Tasmanians which includes Test greats Ricky Ponting and David Boon to produce twin hundreds in a match. He also achieved the rare feat of facing more than 600 deliveries in a Shield game, something only a handful of players including Steve Waugh and Bob Simpson have achieved.
Tasmania were set 337 in 90 overs on the final day after South Australia declared for the second time in the game. Callum Ferguson fell for 82 in the morning having added only 10 to his overnight total.
They appeared well on track to chase the target down having reached 3 for 240 with 25 overs remaining. Beau Webster, Matthew Wade, and McDermott all featured in significant partnerships with Doolan but when he finally fell to Wes Agar the chase stalled.
Nick Winter clean bowled McDermott and Tim Paine in consecutive overs then Agar returned to knock over Jackson Bird before Joe Mennie struck with the second new ball to leave Tasmania eight down.
George Bailey had to shepherd Lawrence Neil-Smith through the last 41 balls and the pair did so successfully to extend South Australia’s drought.
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