Free State has named a strong and well-balanced cricket team for the 2019 Khaya Majola U19 Week, which will be contested in Pietermaritzburg from 16 to 21 December.
The Free State has long been one of the traditional powerhouses at the prestigious tournament, which is cricket’s very own version of rugby’s Craven Week.
The expectations on the team from Central South Arica are always really high and this year it is no different.
The former VKB Knights bowling all-rounder, Dillon du Preez, will be in charge of the team and it is also a major step in the right direction for him in his young career as a coach.
This year the squad make-up is dominated by Grey College and St Andrews’ School, with each of these institutions boasting five and four players respectively.
Marco de Kock (wicketkeeper-batman), Juan-Dee Oliver (batsman), Lerato Nqoyi (off-spinner), Michael Kershaw (seamer) and Jean-Piere Coetzee (medium pace) all hail from Grey, while the spin-twins, Ruan Cronjé and Pheko Moletsane, as well as Reeza Alexander (batsman) and Corné Viljoen (batting all-rounder) are the contingent from Saints.
De Kock and Alexander are expected to set a good platform with the willow upfront, and this should allow the in-form and destructive Oliver to take apart any bowling attack.
Cronjé and Moletsane are spinners, however, they can be considered as genuine all-rounders, and Cronjé, in particular, has some serious big match temperament and knows how to close out and win a game. The pair both bring a lot of experience and are all fighting for a place in the SA U19 team for next year’s ICC U19 Cricket World Cup, which will be played in South Africa. Viljoen was their skipper at school this year and he too will bring a lot to the party.
Du Preez told Bloemfontein Courant that he is happy with the squad and having five spinners in the group will suit them well on the wickets in the KwaZulu-Natal Midlands.
“I really think that we have a great group of guys in the squad this year. There are senior players in the group like Pheko and Ruan who are in the SA U19 group. Then you have guys like De Kock and Viljoen who both captained their schools 1st XIs this year.
“We have five spinners in the squad, which will suit us very well on the pitches in the Maritzburg area, although unfortunately, we cannot field all of them in every game.
“The fast bowler, Brian Thaele, also had a great U17 week last year and was named in the Cubs team.
“We had good preparation in the build-up to the tournament and played six games as well in this period. The lads are really focused and did well in the limited time to get everything right.”
Free State squad – Marco de Kock (Grey), Reeza Alexander (Saints), Juan-Dee Oliver (Grey), Ruan Cronjé (Saints), Pheko Moletsane (Saints), Lerato Nqoyi (Grey), Corné Viljoen (Saints), Aphiwe Nqwani (HTS Louis Botha), Gordon Taje (Bodibeng Secondary), Brian Thaele (Voortrekker), Lehlohonolo Sethunya (Lereko), Michael Kershaw (Grey), Jean-Pierre Coetzee (Grey). – MORGAN PIEK