Duanne Olivier using English tactics to achieve success in South Africa
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Johannesburg - Duanne Olivier left South African shores in 2019, with a reputation for bouncing out opposition batters.
Two years on, he’s a changed man. He is bowling noticeably fuller, the result of having to change tactically in order to be more successful in England, where he plays for Yorkshire. But he’s returned to South Africa, now playing for the Imperial Lions, and he’s kept that ‘English bowling strategy’ in place for this season’s Four-Day series, and it’s worked wonders.
“Playing in England has helped me immensely. I remember in my first season there, I was bowling ‘South African lengths,’ and although I got wickets, as a bowler, you’re always trying to improve, trying to see what you can do better for the next season. My focus became on trying to bowl fuller and trying to make the batter play more,” the 29 year old explained.
Olivier is the Four-Day competition’s leading wicket-taker, with 28 at an average of 11.10. The only bowler with a better average this season, is his Lions teammate, Malusi Siboto, whose 17 wickets have come at 7.54.
The Lions’ attack has been virtually impossible to face for opposition batters. The Warriors, Dragons, Knights and Rocks, have all succumbed, with none of those batting line-ups able to score a total of 200 against Olivier, Siboto and Co.
“We’ve bowled well in partnerships and by sticking to a fuller length we’ve made the batsmen play and tested their techniques,” Olivier said about the Lions and the plans they’ve employed this season.
“Don’t get me wrong, I do enjoy bowling bouncers, but it hasn’t been necessary to go to that plan straight away, we haven’t bowled that many overs,” he said. “It might be our next game in Cape Town, where we revert to that because the wickets might be a bit flatter, we might toil a bit more and those things might come into play.
“For now at the Wanderers, if you’re too short, I don’t think it is that effective, where if you’re fuller and test the bastmen’s technique all the time, I think you’ll pick up more rewards that way.”
For the opening couple of rounds in the competition, the Lions played a quartet of quicks, led by Olivier, that gave opposition batters little room to breathe. “It’s been brilliant,” Olivier remarked. “For a captain, it's been easy to just rotate, bowlers are coming in and know what they need to do.”
Besides Siboto and Olivier, Lutho Sipamla has claimed 12 wickets at 13.50 in the two matches he played before getting called into the SA A side, while Sisanda Magala picked up 15 wickets at an average of 14.33 before his selection for the Proteas’ One-Day squad.
Olivier explained that the four, when they’ve played together, all worked as a combination, balancing a healthy amount of internal competition, alongside the demands of the team.
“There can be competition between the bowlers, but you need to put your personal accolades aside and do what is best for the team,” he said.
“If you put the team in a great position, the personal goals that you set for yourself will come. My focus is on the team and whatever happens, happens. The game is so individualistic but at the same time it’s a team sport,” Olivier said.
“There is a fine balance in how you go about it. If I put the team in a good position, if the whole bowling unit does that, we’ll be on top. You can take all the wickets, but if you lose every game it doesn't matter. It means more to me if the team is winning.”
Which the Lions most certainly are at the moment. Two of their four wins have come when they’ve scored less than 200 in the first innings, including a victory in the last round against the Knights when skipper Siboto declared his side’s first innings on 193/3. He was comfortable and justified in doing so as Olivier and Wiaan Mulder with three wickets and he with four, rolled the Knights out for 103 leaving the Lions to knock off 35 runs to win.
“There have been certain situations, like in the last game at the weekend, that we didn’t get right, but we’ve pulled it back nicely. Over the four games, our bowling has been exceptional.”
As for his return to the South African domestic circuit, Olivier said it could not have gone better. “When I came here I only knew a couple of guys, the beauty of it is you get to know new people, new teammates, the environment at the Lions has been brilliant, driven by our coach Wandile (Gwavu). I worked with him in the first season of the Mzansi Super League.”
“I felt very welcome although I was new and you always want to prove yourself to a new team. The guys have been so good on and off the field. When you win, everything is great, it’s when you start losing, that’s when you need to stick together and not point fingers at each other. As soon as you start doing that things won't go well. I couldn’t ask for anything better at the Lions.”
The Division 1 teams will be on a three week break, before competition resumes on December 19.
BOWLERS OF THE ROUND
Olivier and Siboto shared 15 Knights wickets between them in a match that was frequently interrupted by the weather at the Wanderers. Bowling fuller and making judicious use of the bouncer, the Knights were knocked over for 124 and 103 in a total of 87.2 overs. Conditions obviously favoured them, but Olivier and Siboto still had to have the discipline to utilise those conditions to their advantage, which they did.
BATTERS OF THE ROUND
Josh Richards is beginning to find some consistency at the top of the order for the Lions. He made an unbeaten 100 to help the Lions take control of that match at the Wanderers. He is slowly starting to find his feet at senior level.
Matthew Breetzke’s second hundred of the season, provided the backbone for a dominant display by the Warriors against an inexperienced Western Province side in Gqeberha. Breetzke’s always been a pretty player to watch, but appears to be adding some steel to his batting, which will stand him in good stead as looks for higher honours