First XIs have lessons to learn

2014-10-09 00:00

The 55th Oppenheimer Week — hosted as always by Maritzburg College — showed the Gauteng schools had the edge over their KwaZulu-Natal counterparts.

The first XI matches occurred from Saturday to Tuesday in and around Pietermaritzburg, and the Gauteng schools won more than 70% of their matches against the local schools.

At the simultaneous SA Schools T20 Challenge in Pretoria between the winners of the regional franchises, the KwaZulu-Natal regional winners Westville came last, while Gauteng schools St Stithians (winners) and Waterkloof made the final.

It appears KwaZulu-Natal is falling behind somewhat.

Three of the KwaZulu-Natal schools lost all three of their Oppenheimer Week matches against the Gauteng schools, while only one local school had the overall edge over the upcountry visitors.

However, most of the local schools fared better than Border’s lone representative at Oppenheimer Week, Hudson Park from East London. To be fair, Hudson Park was the only school at the festival that has boys and girls in their school, the rest are boys only, which makes Hudson Park’s pool of talent arguably thinner, while they have only now installed turf wickets at their school, in contrast to their opponents. To recap, Hudson Park played four matches — three 50-over affairs and one 40-over match from Saturday to Tuesday — and lost all four, going down by two wickets to St Charles College; by nine wickets to a stronger-than-usual KZN Development XI; by 147 runs to Maritzburg College and by 96 runs to Glenwood.

Hudson Park coach Dave Alers had some interesting points to make about the KwaZulu-

Natal and Gauteng schools.

He said some of the better Oppenheimer Week teams have upped their game considerably over the last two years, making for a much-improved standard. “An example is Maritzburg College’s new indoor cricket centre with full-length bowling lanes,” said Alers.

“Come rain or shine the College batters and bowlers are ensured of quality sessions Monday to Friday.”

This super-new indoor cricket centre has the potential to draw more primary school boys with cricket promise to Maritzburg College and it will be interesting to see if that is reflected in future results.

Alers also highlighted further improvements generally.

“Every match [at Oppenheimer Week] is tough now, the big [Gauteng and KwaZulu-

Natal] schools are offering cricket bursaries and whereas in the recent past you might come up against two good bowlers in an attack, you now have disciplined bowling from the entire battery so there was no let-up for our batsmen,” said Alers.

The coach said Border cricket does not provide enough competitive games and has fallen behind. “The Gauteng and KZN schools have tough matches week in and week out and that is their competitive advantage over Border schools.”

This Oppenheimer Week has provided food for thought for local first XI coaches and undoubtedly steps will be taken to remedy the errors that saw the Gauteng sides dominate.

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