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I watched with an uneasy mix of appreciation and dread. St Stithians first XI captain Ricardo Vasconcelos played a studied innings under considerable pressure to lay a match-winning foundation for his team. I sensed that this opening batsman was the real deal.

“I’ve always loved opening the batting, I feel like I thrive on that pressure, for me there’s no better feeling than being able to put my team into a position that can allow us to be in the driver’s seat to win the game,” was Ricardo’s response to my leading question.

Clearly I am not the only one who sees Ricardo in the same light – and perhaps even more significant, it’s not all been golden-boy moments: It started in the relatively modest surrounds of the Gauteng U15B team – and blossomed without blemish thereafter.

Gauteng U17A for two years, SA U17 and most recently Gauteng U19 for the upcoming Coke Week. St Stithians had no doubts. Ricardo played Saints first team for four years.

A Saints lad to the core, the Vasconcelos brand has steadily taken off since its launch in Grade 0. “I think it was about Grade 3 when I started to develop a real love for the game. For me it’s the time spent with friends that separates cricket from other sports; you can’t stand next to someone for hours a day – day in and day out - and not become good mates.”

His most memorable innings? The answer reveals an appreciation for more than the simple computations of aggregate runs and averages.

“Probably the 76 not out for Gauteng U17 against Western Province, chasing a low score yet losing regular wickets. We ended up winning by two wickets, three balls to spare. Hitting the winning runs, that was pretty cool.”

Ricardo’s highest score (at the time of writing) was 150 not out against Trinity. “The first time I reached 150 was a pretty memorable occasion.”

The skipper recalls one match with particular fondness. “We beat Waterkloof in the Coke T20 final. It meant we were measured as the best team in the country at that time.”

As to Saints’ 2015, it’s apparent that this captain is not easily pleased. “It wasn’t a bad year, we got to the final of the Johnny Waite tournament, but it wasn’t as good as last year.”

Vasconcelos is quick to mention fellow Saints in the Gauteng team. A tidy crop they are: Brandon Glover (bowler), Wiaan Mulder (all-rounder) and Wandile Makwetu (batsmen).

School cricket weeks are great, we all know that, so I wasn’t surprised at the Vasoncelos response to this ask: Oppenheimer Michaelmas Cricket Week, hosted annually by Maritzburg College in the first week of October … Good stuff?Yes, it is so enjoyable. Michaelmas is the highlight of our calendar, because of all the history surrounding it and the fact that so many prominent past cricketers and current professionals have played in that same week.”

That wonderful compliment makes it easier for me, a College Old Boy, to come to terms with the tender memory of Ricardo’s masterfully compiled 90 on our hallowed Goldstones turf that set up Saints’ well-earned victory. (For reference, dear reader, please revert to paragraph one).

So what are the opener’s goals at Coke Week? “I want to be in the top three leading run-scorers to give myself the best opportunity to make the SA U19 side.” Vision uncluttered, straight to the point.

The Vasoncelos ambition is clear, unencumbered by those twin evils – unwarranted arrogance and ill-placed modesty: “I want to go professional and hopefully play for the Proteas one day.”

The man who counts St Andrews Bloemfontein as the SA school team he most enjoys playing against, also has much admiration for the cricket played by that Cape Town institution,Rondebosch, and first stop for Vasconcelos next year is Stellenbosch University.

And once again the vision is flawless in its clarity. “I hope to play for Boland next year.” Working his way into the Western Province Academy follows. The Cobras next.

Honest within himself, Vasconcelos ticks another box on the player-with-character list. “I have not had the best season, but I still managed to score 1 432 runs at an average of 52 with seven fifties and three hundreds.” That unbeaten 150 among them.

His opinion of the Gauteng line-up for Coke Week? “We have an extremely strong side this year, 10 players in our squad were invited to the SA U19 camp.”

Admirable technique is the trademark, enabling substantial time in the middle, but Vasoncelos knows when it’s time to launch: “I think that I am probably a more technically correct batsmen who tries to be attacking when I get the chance. I enjoy 50-over matches because it gives me enough time to build an innings and get a substantial score.”

So who has been the biggest influence on the burgeoning cricket career, and life, of Ricardo Vasconcelos?The answer gives another clue to this young man’s solid foundation, his bright future: “Probably my dad, he has always encouraged me to pursue cricket and has always supported me throughout my career.”

As to the nitty gritty of honing the art and craft, challenging and nurturing Ricardo’s raw talent, two coaches stand out. “Bongani Ndaba and Jimmy Cook have helped me immensely with my game and have been with me for many years,” says the modest, well-spoken Saints man.

The Ricardo Vasconcelos temperament when the pitch is doing plenty and the bowlers are right on top? The answer to this question is the one I like the most.

“I enjoy it when the bowlers think they’re on top. It brings out the best in me, makes me more determined to do well.”

Ricardo Vasconcelos is one to watch. And I am definitely not the first, nor the last, to notice that.

After yet another highly successful Coca-Cola Khaya Majola Week the cream has risen to the top and the selectors have made some tough calls to produce a SA Schools and SA Colts squad for 2015.

The annual Coca-Cola® Khaya Majola Cricket Week blasts off in Port Elizabeth this week, beginning five days of the best schoolboy cricket South Africa has to offer. From 16 December 2015, two hundred of the top U19 schoolboy cricketers from around the country will be in action, with teams representing Cricket South Africa’s 16 provincial unions playing in three formats of the game: timed cricket, 50 overs and T20.

The Coca-Cola® Khaya Majola Cricket Week is where our country’s future cricketing heroes are made.  The week is considered a crucial stepping stone for schoolboy cricketers aiming to progress to professional cricket and to ultimately represent South Africa at an international level. Over the years the tournament has seen over 60players participating who have progressed to play for the Proteas since 1994, including all three of our current national captains: Hashim Amla, AB de Villiers and Faf du Plessis.

To highlight the talent that will no doubt be uncovered at this year’s Coca-Cola® Khaya Majola Cricket Week, a Coca-Cola® judging panel will be selecting and recognising the Coca-Cola® Hero of the Day. This daily award will honour the standout player on each match day of the week.  The Coca-Cola® Hero of the Day is not necessarily your typical man of the match.  It is the player who produced an extraordinary hero moment - the wicketkeeper who made an amazing dive catch, a tail-ender who smashed a reverse sweep for six or even the player showing sportsmanship and embodying the spirit of the gentleman’s game.’

At the end of the Coca-Cola® Khaya Majola Cricket Week a Coca-Cola® U19 South African Schools and a Coca-Cola® U19 South African Schools Colts team will be selected and will play against Eastern Province representative teams on 21 December.  Additionally, Cricket South Africa will pick the Coca-Cola® U19 Proteas team that will play in the upcoming ICC U19 World Cup in Bangladesh from the 22January to the 14 February 2016 – a testament to the importance of the Coca-Cola® Khaya Majola Cricket Week to all its participants.

Fetsi Mbele Coca-Cola® Africa’s Senior Communications Manager: Brand Experience, commented, “Coca-Cola® South Africa is extremely proud to support the development of South Africa’s next cricketing heroes through the Coca-Cola® Khaya Majola Cricket Week. This will be the 36th year of our sponsorship during which we have had the privilege of witnessing firsthand the success of the Coca-Cola® Khaya Majola Cricket Week and the incredible foundation it has created for cricket in South Africa.  The Coca-Cola® Khaya Majola Cricket Week also signifies the importance of living an active healthy lifestyle through participation in sport.  .” 

The Coca-Cola® Khaya Majola Cricket Week takes place in and around Port Elizabeth from 16-20 December 2015 with the tournament central hub located at Grey High School.

St Stithians first XI cricket coach Fergus Gray watches every single ball of his charges’ matches with intense focus. You will often find Fergus sitting alone at matches, better able to observe proceedings - the ebb and flow of an even contest - unhindered by idle chatter.

Rain put pay to many of the matches scheduled for last week although several key matches did get underway. However we have a relatively unchanged Powerade Performance Rankings table for this week.

Pretoria Boys High continue to impress as they make their way steadily into this week’s First XI Powerade Performance Top 50 Rankings for the first time this season.

Sunday, 08 November 2015 17:46

Cricket: Fixtures & Results: 7/11/2015

This week’s Cricket Fixtures and Results from around South Africa:

Waterkloof remain at the helm of the U15 Powerade Performance Rankings in 2015 but there is little to choose between the top teams on the table.

With more cricket being played we are now looking at a more familiar sight to the Powerade Performance Rankings with many of the traditionally stronger teams heading north up the table.

All of the past week’s school cricket results here:

Monday, 02 November 2015 12:21

Cricket: PRG U14's in Record Partnership!

Last week two of Paul Roos Gym’s U14 cricketers produced a master class of tenacity and produced a record second wicket partnership for their team.

A couple of defeats by Glenwood knocks them off their pedestal at the top of the Powerade Performance Rankings for this week which sees plenty of movement in both directions as more matches are played and results are sent through.

Monday, 26 October 2015 19:11

Cricket: Results for This Week: 24/10/2015

Cricket results from around the country for the past week:

Friday, 23 October 2015 13:21

Cricket: School Cricket's Quota Conundrum

The quota question seems to be a permanent fixture in South African school sport and there seems little likelihood that it is going to disappear anytime soon.

Affies put together a great performance against local rivals Pretoria Boys High to gain some valuable impetus on the Powerade Performance First XI Rankings for this week.

Monday, 19 October 2015 14:16

Cricket: Results for This Week: 19/10/2015

A powerful showing by Affies over Pretoria Boys High allowed them to gain a much needed boast to the moral against a team who have been very strong so far this season.

The 2015/16 season is now well underway as most schools have had a few hit outs already with more to come as the season progresses. In this early stage of Powerade Performance Rankings we are still looking at St. Stithians as one of the teams that will prove a formidable opponent during the season.

The 2015/16 season is now well underway with most of the teams in action and although we are still in the early stages this week’s Powerade Performance Rankings for the First XI’s makes for some interesting reading.

KZN hasn’t been a happy hunting ground for the mighty Waterkloof outfit that came unstuck against Glenwood and Maritzburg College this past week although the likes of Pretoria Boys High and St.Stithians have played some brilliant cricket.

Monday, 28 September 2015 16:34

Cricket: The 56th Edition of Oppenheimar Week

THE 56th edition of Oppenheimer Week takes place from Saturday, October 3 to Tuesday, October 6 and promises much camaraderie among the players and coaches as well as a high level of play.

This week’s cricket fixtures and results from around the country.

A host of T20 Matches at the Helpmekaar T20 Festival resulted in several more teams getting a chance at their first hit out in the 2015/16 season.

St Stithians have started the season powerfully with an unbeaten run of five matches across all formats of the game and look in terrific form at this stage.

One of the biggest challenges for any team and in any sport is to maintain consistency year after year. That challenge is even greater when you are forced to let go of your most experienced players in the team at the end of every season.

Monday, 16 March 2015 21:40

U15 Cricket: End of Season U15 Rankings

An unbeaten season by Waterkloof sets them on top of the Powerade Performance U15 rankings as time is called on the season for 2015.