A stellar season for Inland, but can they do it again?

2014-10-22 00:00

IN the 2013/14 season the KZN Inland cricket team had what most sides would consider a dream season, winning two of their three competitions, the SA Province T20 Challenge and the SA Provincial 50-Over Challenge, with a sixth-place finish in the Three-Day Challenge.

It could and should have been a second place in the three-day competition and not sixth, as what many considered an inexplicable decision off Kyle Nipper’s bowling at the Maritzburg Oval cost Inland full match points while in another match, bad light cost Inland another near-certain win.

With Inland coming off years of disappointment, coach Grant Morgan arrived as the first match was about to take place in the 2012/13 season. Although the Port Elizabeth-born former Eastern Province and Titans wicketkeeper/batsman had an impressive coaching pedigree and was a masterstroke acquisition by long-serving Inland president Yunus Bhamjee and CEO Tracy Elliott, he was on a hiding to nothing.

“We had lost so many top players at this level, for example Glen Addicott, Rudi Hillermann, Calvin Savage, Athi Maposa and Devon Conway, plus a batter who excelled for Holland at this year’s World Cup T20 tournament, Stefan Myburgh, and others. Bearing that in mind my goals in that first season were simple,” Morgan told The Witness from his office at the PMB Oval yesterday.

“To get one more log point than in the previous season in each format was what we set ourselves and although we finished near the bottom of the logs again, we felt we had won something, having achieved our personal goal.”

Morgan’s innovative approach in just about every coaching sphere was tested to the full that season, and come the 2013/14 season the off-season homework had attracted quality players in Lions and Highveld Strikers captain and all-rounder Shane Burger, promising young Tuks fast bowler Matt Pillans and the hugely underrated Strikers seamer Graham Hume, who had all worked with “Morgs” before. Two Dolphins, Imraan Khan, who made three dazzling Inland hundreds, and fast bowler Craig Alexander, who gave everything, had by their own request opted to play for Inland if not on franchise duty. The coach’s reputation must have played a role.

The rest is history, Inland who weren’t given a prayer by any knowing pundit, had added their maiden first-class trophies to the Oval mantelpiece just outside the CEO’s office.

Burger was key, as his history with Morgan at the Strikers ensured captain and coach were on the same page from the outset.

“Shane was massive,” said Morgan. “His leadership, ability to turn the team into a family who played for each other’s success rather than their own, made the difference when it really mattered.

“Hugely underrated local cricketers in Kyle Nipper, SJ Erwee, Nic Hendrie, Mattie Hulett, Yusuf Abdulla, Cyril Mthimkhulu and Mbasa Gqadushe, plus our guys who have made Inland their home, Abram Ndhlovu, Ruhan Pretorius and Tabraiz Shamsi, also played major roles in our success, while the support behind the scenes of Inland CEO Tracy Elliott and our ‘Pressie’ [president] Yunus Bhamjee, and the entire Inland staff, has made all the difference.”

Inland won their first match of the 2014/15 season, everything is on track, but do they believe they can do it again? Only time will tell.

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