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Back You are here: Home Sports Cricket Other Cricket: Pacemen Aplenty in KZN Midlands
Thursday, 14 December 2017 08:21

Cricket: Pacemen Aplenty in KZN Midlands

Written by  Jonathan Cook
Michael Booth Michael Booth Neville Bailey

Cricket history is littered with the tales of fast bowlers winning Test matches and more. You can score 1000 runs in a match but if you can't take 10 or 20 wickets - depending on the format of the game and other variables like declarations - you're not going to win many.

The famed fast bowling individuals, pairs and quartets of the past have accordingly been given pride of place in the shrewd observer's ranking of match-winners.

To name a few:

England's Harold Larwood put the fear of every God you could name into the Aussies in the 1930s in the famous or infamous (depending on whether you were a Pom or an Aussie) Bodyline Series.

Aussies Jeff Thomson, the Bondi Beach surfer-turned exponent of the legendary foot-crusher yorker - and one Dennis Keith Lillee - he the silky-smooth action coupled with the aggression of a crazed Kangaroo - destroyed the Poms in the home Ashes Test series in the 1970s... And a few more fancy batsmen from across the globe.

The famed West Indies bowling quartets are the stuff of legend - Michael Holding, Malcolm Marshall, Joel Garner, Courtney Walsh and and ...

In fact, the Windies quicks terrorised a generation of the world's best batsmen - take a look at YouTube for proof.

According to a knowledgeable pundit, Malcolm Marshall who went on to captain Natal (now Dolphins) in a side that current Hilton College first XI coach and director of cricket Dale Benkenstein played, was in possibly the West Indies' greatest fast bowler - a combination of speed and unplayable line-and-length delivery.

Curtly Ambrose had arguably the most devastating yorker ever. Joel "Big Bird" Garner was one of the most difficult bowlers to score runs off, as was Ambrose. Imagine the two of them strangling the opposition run rate when bowling in tandem - and taking strike bowler wickets at the same time.

And then my all-time favourite... "Whispering Death" Michael Holding: The quickest of 'em all, able to dismiss batsman with sheer speed, and incredible accuracy.

The reason for this long preamble is so that we can set the scene for the exciting happenings currently being witnessed in the KZN Inland cricket province.

Pietermaritzburg - and the KZN midlands areas of Hilton and Balgowan - have thrown up a group of grade 10 and 11 boys who have the potential to spearhead KZN Inland to the top of the provincial tree at Coca-Cola Khaya Majola Weeks in 2018 and 2019. Indeed, two of these exciting talents are playing in the upcoming Coke Week at St Stithians College in Johannesburg from December 16th to the 20th.

Current grade 11 Michaelhouse first XI, KZN Inland U19 and SA U19 paceman Fraser Jones earned his green and gold colours against the West Indies U19 side in the series in KZN earlier this season while grade 10 Maritzburg College first XI, KZN Inland U19 and SA U19 squad member Mondli Khumalo will also be letting the ball fly at Coke Week. 

Michael Booth the grade 10 Hilton College first XI fast bowler has been a revelation to many since his introduction to the premier HC team in the fourth term.

Another eye-catcher - who at this stage is probably the rawest, least developed of the quality coming through in KZN Inland is the grade 10 St Charles College first XI six-footer and plenty more inches lad Kian Channon... A Curtly Ambrose/"Big Bird" prospect if ever I saw one. Time - and much hard work ahead - will tell.

On top of that is grade 11 Michaelhouse left-arm seam-and-swing opening bowler Declan Newton as well as grade 10 Cameron Spangenberg of St Charles College.

Having watched a lot of KZN first XI cricket this year, particularly in and around my home base in the KZN capital, I have been struck by by what I have seen in the opening bowler/fast bowler facet of the extraordinarily multi-faceted gentleman's game.

Just to check if I am not lost in the clouds I asked a couple of coaches what they thought of some of the upcoming quicks emanating from these parts and this is what they said:

St Charles College first XI coach Murray Cole-Edwardes: "Talking of my boys, Kian Channon is a tall strong bowler and with more coaching is going to be a key player for SCC in the future. His partnership with Cameron Spangenberg will be one to watch and SCC will be relying on them to set the tone. Kian is an out and out fast-medium bowler. Cameron swings the ball beautifully. He has moulded his action on (England great) James Anderson and in two years will transform into a quick bowler. The future of swing and fast bowling at SCC is in good hands.

"Michael Booth is phenomenal and a future Protea. Booth has changed the way teams approach Hilton. He's a wicket taker and if managed well will go far. Quick, fiery, moves the ball away from the right hander. KZN is producing a wonderful array of fast bowlers."

Northwood director of cricket and first XI coach Divan Van Wyk, the recent former Dolphins opening batsmen: "Michael Booth - what a prospect. If he stays teachable and coachable he is going to go places!"

Michaelhouse first XI Coach Dean Forword on Fraser Jones:
"Grown up in Johannesburg but started in grade 8 at MHS, a gifted sportsmen who's excelled on the rugby field as a loose forward for the 1st XV but more so on the cricket field as an explosive fast bowler and an accomplished middle-order batsmen. Fraser is quick and accurate. But his major strength is his consistency of pace over all his spells throughout the day. He is a strong young lad who likes to run in and hit the deck hard and his last spell is as intense as his first. Since representing the SA U19 side vs the West Indies, his cricket awareness has grown exponentially and his skill set has widened. Fraser wants to learn and is a good listener."

Maritzburg College first XI coach and Master in Charge of Cricket Dave Pryke, who as a former Dolphins paceman knows a thing or two about the art of fast bowling, said this to me about the Maritzburg College grade 10 boy Mondli Khumalo, a lad from Umlazi Township in south-east Durban who was awarded the Jacques Kallis Bursary to the Red, Black and White:
"Mondli Khumalo is a clever cricketer who has a natural understanding of the game. He is a fantastic athlete with great hand-eye co-ordination and ball skills. He is the complete cricketer in that, although bowling is his predominant skill, he is a very capable batsman and a fantastic, agile fielder with great hands. His strength as a bowler is keeping it simple in hitting the deck with extremely high percentages and having a very good slower ball."

Prykie on Michael Booth: "Great pace and a fantastic asset to set the energy for a fielding side. Still needs to work on how to take more wickets i.e. perfecting Yorkers and slower balls."

Prykie on Fraser Jones: "A delightful young man who is an extremely good all-round cricketer. Good pace and aggression, but needs to focus on wicket-taking ability."

The above assessments have been made by cricket brains that have seen many fine young fast- and opening-bowling prospects over time. They know the business. And I now know that I am not looking on this blossoming of pace bowling talent in the KZN midlands from cloud-cookie land but from the  KZN schoolboy sightscreens on Planet Earth.

Watch this space fellas.