Johannesburg – Having shown attacking intent, fuelled by the exuberance of youth, the SA Under-19s were made to look like what they are in their last two matches – schoolboys.
There may have been hesitancy in some quarters at Cricket SA about including the kids in the T20 Provincial Knock Out competition, but the benefits of the exercise will be felt at the ICC Under-19 World Cup next year. It can be easy for young players to think the world of themselves simply by virtue of getting a national cap. That won’t be the case for the SA under 19 team, who this week have been shown the gap between what they do at junior level and what is required to be successful as a professional.
Their confidence may have taken a hit from suffering three defeats, the last two being big ones, but it is up to coach Shukri Conrad to work on that aspect, and assist the players in taking heed of the lessons that should learnt from the last few days.
Again there were flashes of talent on Sunday against the Dolphins, with opener Ethan Cunningham finally showing his shot-making ability in a 18-ball innings of 28, that saw him take 20 runs off Thando Ntini’s first over.
With Conrad choosing to give those who hadn’t had a chance in the first two matches an opportunity, Dewald Brevis, the undoubted star of the batting line-up was benched. It certainly left a big hole in the under-19s batting order. Valentine Kitime was promoted up the order to no.3 and he had a horrible moment in the fourth over against Daryn Dupavillon, when he was struck on the helmet by a 140km/h bouncer. After receiving medical treatment, Kitime decided to continue batting, but clearly still shaken up, he was dismissed with the next delivery, trying to sweep the Dolphins’ fastest bowler, and was caught behind by wicket-keeper Grant Roelofson.
Again the under-19s played with the attacking intent which all the players have mentioned is the philosophy they want to follow. They scored 50 runs in the power play, but the inability to balance that aggression with some patience again proved costly as they lost three wickets inside the first six overs.
They were four wickets down by the end of the seventh over, which left little wiggle room for captain George van Heerden, who top scored with 35, to try and get them to a more competitive total.
The Dolphins left arm spinner, Odirile Modimokoane, impressed with his drift and control to pick up 2/12, while Ntini returned after being bashed around by Cunningham, to pick up two wickets in the last over he bowled.
Roelofson dominated the opening partnership he had with Keegan Petersen, scoring 77 off 42 balls, striking nine fours and four sixes as the Dolphins coasted home with 42 balls to spare, and earned a bonus point in doing so.
For the SA under 19s, besides the balance required in their approach with the bat, they will need to work on their fielding which was ragged and the bowling needs some extra punch from the seamers.
There has been talk that some of the players may be called up by their provinces for the play-offs of the tournament - and if it is possible, then CSA should allow it. Certainly in the case of the Titans, who face South Western Districts next week, Brevis will provide a much needed attacking option in the top three.