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‘Beware the wounded buffalo,’ Boucher warns incoming tourists England

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Mark Boucher began his tenure as South Africa’s national coach with his usual bullishness as he issued a warning to their next opposition, England, ahead of the first of four Tests starting in under a fortnight.

“They’ve been saying quite a few things in the media but I’ve got one thing to say to them: Beware a wounded buffalo, especially in Africa,” Boucher said.

Having spent much of the last seven years since his international retirement involved in nature conservation projects, Boucher knows a thing or two about buffaloes. He also knows about overcoming adversity. Boucher had to put his life back together after losing sight in his left eye in a horrific injury that ended his career three Tests short of 150, before moving on to a successful career as a coach.

In four seasons with the Titans, Boucher won five trophies and could add a sixth to his name when the Tshwane Spartans play in the Mzansi Super League final on Monday. He has also overseen the elevation of Aiden Markram, Lungi Ngidi, Tabraiz Shamsi and Heinrich Klaasen to international cricket.

Now, another difficult task lies ahead. Boucher has been put in charge of rebuilding a South Africa side that has suffered reputational damage and several defeats and now sits at the bottom of the World Test Championship points table. He believes he can do it, because he has seen it done before.

“I’ve been involved in sides over the years where we have had some tough times. One of the toughest times was the Hansie Cronje saga and straight away after that, we beat Australia,” Boucher said, referring to a 2-1 ODI series win in April 2000 after Cronje admitted to his involvement in match-fixing.

Boucher scored a match-winning 55 not out in the decider to underline his ability to perform under pressure, as well as his immense self-confidence. He wants the South Africa team of 2019 to do the same.

“I think we’ve got a good chance of turning it around,” he said. “Sport is an amazing thing. It can be turned around in a couple of days but I understand there is a lot of work to be done before that.

“Our confidence is a bit down. We need to get our confidence back. There’s a wealth of knowledge in this country that can get utilised so we need to get consultants in to try and get the confidence up, get as much information going in the right direction and give the players the space to try and perform at their best.

“We’ve got the talent in this country. It needs to be nurtured a bit and given the opportunities for information to come through. In the right environment and with the right sort of communication channels, I think we can get the best out of our players.”

His assistant, Enoch Nkwe, echoed those ideas, especially after seeing first-hand the struggles of the national side in India. Nkwe was put in charge for the tour, in which South Africa drew the T20 rubber but lost the Tests 3-0.

“We felt the T20 went well and created a good foundation,” Nkwe said. “The Test series, we knew it was going to be a challenging one. There are lot of lessons to take away. We identified that we need a bit more leadership in the team. It was going to be part of a plan to tap into some great minds around the country to see how we can build the confidence of the team and the players.”

Boucher is hopeful the restoration of stability at CSA, where Graeme Smith has been appointed acting director of cricket and Jacques Faul is interim CEO, will lay the foundation for the national side’s recovery.

“When you lack leadership from up top, it does tend to seep into the lower sections of the whole train and guys start getting away with murder at the bottom,” Boucher said. “If we get the right leadership at the top, it is going to filter down and I am very confident we have got the right leadership at the top at the moment.”

He also believes a stronger structure will help deepen a talent pool that currently appears shallow, as aspiring cricketers turn to other professions or countries.

“The talent pool has probably got a little less over the years, which is a concerning factor but if we get the right leadership in place, I think we can sort that out very quickly,” Boucher said. “If you have a look around at the moment, on social media, the game has been hurt. Myself and Enoch have been put in place to get the Protea team doing well. If we look after that space, I think we will get the crowds and fans behind us again and things will start to change.”



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Virat Kohli stresses on intensity and clarity in New Zealand

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India will focus on starting their T20I series against New Zealand, which will kick off the month-long, all-format tour of the country, with “intensity”, Virat Kohli said on the eve of their departure to Auckland.

In the short ODI series at home against Australia, India batted first with mixed results in the first two matches, before sealing the third one in a chase. One way or other, Kohli said, India wanted to go into the New Zealand series with clarity and purpose.

“We want to bat well when we bat first and in case we’re defending a low total, we should be able to do that as well,” Kohli said. “[…] Clarity of mind is really crucial because we’re playing in conditions that are not ours, so we have to take even more intensity into that series to put the home team under pressure, set that sort of template from game one and build from there.

“We can’t afford to ease into the series after two games, because then it keeps getting tougher and tougher, so we’ll look to make a mark in the first game that we play, play expressive cricket and be sure of what we want to do.”

ALSO READ: ‘The last six or eight months have been a revelation’ – Kohli

India lost their first ODI against Australia by ten wickets before coming back to win the series 2-1. Kohli said that during the huddle ahead of the final ODI against Australia in Bengaluru on Sunday, the team discussed going to New Zealand on a happy note, and beating a team like Australia was vital ahead of a tough tour.

“It’s important. We spoke of that at the huddle, that this is the last game we’re playing in the series and if we win, you go on a tour on a happy note,” Kohli said. “If you lose, it can go under the radar, you can brush it aside as ‘oh it’s just one loss’, but when you win and win under pressure – the last two games were tough wins – it boosts your confidence which we’re carrying forward, so looking forward to the New Zealand tour.”

India last toured New Zealand almost exactly a year ago and began with a 4-1 win in the ODI series, but New Zealand won the T20I series that followed. That tour came in the lead up to last year’s ODI World Cup, and the number of matches in each format are reverse this year, with the T20 World Cup scheduled for later in the year.

“[On the last tour] we were very positive in how we played, very sure of what we wanted to do,” Kohli said. “The thing about playing away is if you’re able to put the home team under pressure, you can enjoy your cricket. You have to win at home, there’s that sort of feeling. So if you bring out your A game, you can really put them under pressure.

“That’s what we did last year, squeezed them in the middle overs, picked up wickets, and the spinners were outstanding. Looking forward to take that same intensity into the series. We’ve played really well in 2020, want to continue that.”



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Recent Match Report – Zimbabwe vs Sri Lanka 1st Test 2020

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Sri Lanka 42 for 1 (Oshada 21, Karunaratne 12*, Tiripano 1-5) trail Zimbabwe 358 (Ervine 85, Kasuza 63, Masvaure 55, Embuldeniya 5-114) by 316 runs

Lasith Embuldeniya completed a second five-wicket haul in Test cricket, and Sri Lanka’s attack finally made headway, but Zimbabwe still ended day two in a position of strength in Harare, thanks in part to a late Sri Lankan wicket.

Nine batsmen fell on Monday in total, in comparison to the two on the stolid first day. The pitch was beginning to show hints of deterioration and life. Where there had been virtually no spin on Sunday, there was at least modest grip today for Embuldeniya to exploit. After Zimbabwe had been bowled out for 358 early in the second session, Donald Tiripano then delivered the ball of the match so far, getting a length ball to jag dramatically back at opener Oshada Fernando, to breach his defences and send middle stump cartwheeling. It seems likely that ball had struck a widening crack.

Still 316 runs ahead, and with Sri Lanka one down now, Zimbabwe can still dream of a healthy first-innings lead overnight. Tiripano was chief among those pushing their cause forward on day two, first hitting 44 not out from No. 8, and joining debutant Victor Nyauchi to put up a 30-run last-wicket stand to further defy a Sri Lanka side that had been made to field for 139 overs (it would be 148 by the time the innings was done). His dismissal of Fernando, which he produced in his first over of the match, then buoyed Zimbabwe just before stumps, and will have worried the Sri Lanka batsmen looking on. Sikandar Raza also made a confident 41 through the course of the afternoon, and was the only Zimbabwe batsman to strike at better than 50.

It was Embuldeniya, though, who did most to bring what was a sleepy Test to life on Monday. In the morning session, he artfully lured Sean Williams to push at a floated, wide delivery, and took his outside edge, which was snaffled by the wicketkeeper. He then took three wickets in the afternoon session to complete his haul (he had also dismissed Prince Masvaure on day one), first having Regis Chakabva caught by a tumbling Angelo Mathews at mid-on, then spinning one past the advancing Raza, before turning a ball between the bat and pad of Kyle Jarvis to clatter off stump. Perhaps unsurprisingly, given he is the lead spinner, Embuldeniya bowled 42 overs in the innings, which comprised more than 28% of the overs delivered by Sri Lanka. His five wickets cost 114 runs.

Full report to follow…



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Liam Livingstone, Josh Inglis smash fifties in Perth Scorchers' victory

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Chasing a modest 154, the belligerent openers flayed the Thunder attack in an opening stand of 136



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