21 September 2016 – The Saints 1st cricket team departed Bloemfontein on Tuesday, ahead of a flight from Johannesburg to Harare on Wednesday, where they will be participating in The Rams St John’s College T20 tournament.
Coach Gregg Hobson acknowledged before his squad’s departure yesterday that they face a tough challenge. In three previous visits to Zimbabwe, Saints has not progressed beyond the semi-finals of the event.
The Saints 1st cricket team: relaxed and happy before their tour of Zimbabwe
“We will be the only school there without matrics, which makes it a little bit tougher, but I am confident that we’ve got the guys that if we play well we can do really well,” he added.
The eight-team line-up features Zimbabwe’s leading cricket schools – St John’s College, St George’s College, Peterhouse, Prince Edward, Churchill and Falcon College – with Saint Andrew’s and Clifton College from Durban completing the field.
Record-setting batting performances
Saint Andrew’s have made an exciting start to the season, twice putting up record scores in 50 overs a side matches: making 424 for 6 against Union High in their first outing of the season, and 453 for 4 against Saint Dunstan’s in their most recent match.
Opening batsman Garnett Tarr has led the way, scoring a very impressive four centuries already, with 117 against Union, 132 against CBC Boksburg, 100* against the Old Boys and 127* against Saint Dunstan’s. While he has been the cornerstone of Saints’ batting efforts, there have been solid efforts from the rest of the top order batsmen.
Following the big total and 409-run win over Saint Dunstan’s, coach Hobson declared himself satisfied with his batting line-up: “Everyone in our top seven has now had a good hit-out. I think everyone in the top seven is feeling reasonably comfortable about their form. That bodes well for Zim. The scores are usually high, so we are going to need to bat well.
He also said Saints had a good mix of batsmen for the shortest form of the game: “We have four really good boundary hitters in our top seven, which in Twenty20 is really crucial. It is not something we have always had, so it is nice to have.”
The biggest challenge, the coach reckoned, would be felt by his bowlers. “The conditions in Zim are similar to those in Johannesburg. The pitches are pretty flat. The ball comes onto the bat nicely. The outfields are smallish, so our bowling has got to be spot-on. That’s one concern [I have], that our bowling hasn’t been as good as our batting this season, so we’ve got to bowl well there. If you don’t bowl well, you travel.”
Saints has a number of spinners in their bowling attack and they would likely find it more challenging than the seamers, Hobson said, because the ball does not turn much in Harare.
“We might have to bowl our spinners in shorter spells, maybe rotating after one over. It is tough for the spinners, especially with the small boundaries,” he explained.
Already, only a month into the season, the Saint Andrew’s team has become a very tight-knit unit.
“It doesn’t happen by accident. We work really hard at it,” Hobson said. “We work hard at our team culture, the boys call it our ‘team vibe’. It is good and we pride ourselves on that.
“We have prepared well. We have played a lot. I am happy with where we are.”