KZN Inland face tough Easterns at PMB Oval

2015-01-15 00:00

MISSING a host of key players, the KZN Inland cricket team have a testing four days ahead of them at the Maritzburg Oval against respected opponents Easterns from Gauteng.

The teams meet in the Sunfoil 3-Day Cup from today to Saturday, with the Provincial One-Day Challenge clash on Sunday.

Having players excelling at the Cricket South Africa (CSA) Provincial Challenge tier of the game can be a double-edged sword for coaches at this level. In this respect Inland coach Grant Morgan is a prime example of how success can, in a sense, work against your chances of winning, and retaining, trophies.

Frontline bowlers Matt Pillans and Graham Hume have been called up to the Dolphins squad for their match against the Knights in Kimberley, while opening batsman Abram Ndhlovu is playing for Uganda in the International Cricket Council (ICC) tournament in Namibia. To compound issues further, the injury-enforced absence of top-order batsman SJ Erwee (ankle) is also a setback that Inland will have to contend with.

Fortunately, Morgan has had the foresight to anticipate such eventualities and has built a competent squad during his short tenure. Fast bowler Cyril Mthimkhulu returns, while big-hitting batter Matt Hulett and all-rounder Ruan Pretorius also get a run in the three-day side, having played in last Sunday’s exciting 50-over thriller against Eastern Province at St George’s Park.

But it has not been a simple task. The CSA Associate province’s budget is dwarfed by that of all their opponents. Despite winning the Provincial Challenge 50-over and T20 competitions last season, KZN Inland are still battling to attain Affiliate status with CSA and thereby increase the funds at their disposal.

Given the situation, Morgan has worked hard at making his team an attractive proposition for the ­province’s schoolboy stars. Maritzburg College’s SA age-group standouts Lwandiswa Zuma and Sohail Mahmoud are two of the newcomers being fully integrated into the Inland senior training group.

“Yes, the new guys will be with us during the four days, watching what we do and picking things up,” Morgan told The Witness yesterday.

Apart from the usual heat of battle between Inland and Easterns, extra spice will be assured when wrist-spinner Tabraiz Shamsi comes up against his former team-mates.

The Titans-contracted spin wizard was never short of a word during his outstanding recent seasons in the ­Inland colours and the byplay on the pitch is sure to be memorable.

“Shamsi was an out-and-out matchwinner for us and it’s another feather in Inland’s cap that the ­province played such a key role in ­developing his career to franchise level,” Morgan added.

Play starts at 9 am and entrance is free.

KZN Inland: Nic Hendrie, Tshepang Dithole, Suhail Razack, Shane Burger (capt), Kyle Nipper, Matt Hulett, Mbasa Gqadushe, Ruan Pretorius, Abdul Razak, Athi Maposa, Cyril Mthimkhulu.

Club cricket – MCA Premier T20 (Sunday): MCC vs Young Natalians (9 am Varsity Oval); Cosmos vs Zingari (9 am Wanderers Oval); Standard vs Lancashire (1 pm Wanderers Oval).

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