MICHAEL Sclanders has scored exactly 2 300 runs for the Hilton College first XI and taken 54 wickets.
Michael Sclanders’ time in the school first XI ended 4 days ago.
When it comes to watching Michael Sclanders bat for Hilton firsts, I have certainly struck it lucky this year.
Come to think of it, much of that “luck” is due to Mikey’s remarkable consistency rather than the goodwill of Lady Fortune.
On Sunday, 30 September, after Mikey was out for 30 the day before, I saw this composed number 3 batsman make a masterful 150 on Day 2 of the Maritzburg College-hosted 59th Oppenheimer Michael Cricket Week.
Convinced he could do it again, I then watched the Winterton farmers’ son well set for another 150 the next day, only to be adjudged run out on 52 in a situation that would have been well served by a slow-motion third umpire review.
The day after that, on October 2, I saw Michael compile a superb 84 against KES.
And then a wonderful 104 against Clifton College 4 days later. All of these innings were played out on the Jack Hart-Davis Oval at Hilton College.
That’s 420 runs in 5 innings on Mikey’s home turf – inside 8 days – at 84 per innings.
That’s tapping into a rich vein of form.
And I saw further examples of the same at the Independent Schools’ Cricket Festival hosted by St Alban’s College in Pretoria 9 months ago.
It’s difficult to differentiate between the excellence and then the still-more excellence I have been so captivated by this year, but 4 days ago might have been the best yet. And fittingly, in Mikey’s last school innings
The picturesque Roy Gathorne Oval setting at Michaelhouse was complemented by a beautiful summer’s day. Michaelhouse put Hilton in and SA U19 Cricket World Cup fast bowler Fraser Jones had knocked over the opening batsmen alarmingly quickly.
“Flustered” doesn’t seem to be a word when it comes to Michael Sclanders.
Barring a superb fifth-wicket partnership between Sclanders and Michael Booth, Hilton wickets were lost at various intervals but Michael Sclanders was always there, piloting the ship and his batting partners… deft placements here and carefully chosen moments there, triggering off boundary balls when most needed.
His unbeaten 135 was not without its awkward moments – nothing worthwhile ever is – but my word it was a knock that anchored Hilton’s three-from-three over the Men of House this year.
It appears there is something about the Michaelhouse bowling – or the appeal of the challenge in meeting Hilton’s longest standing and most-anticipated opponents, that quickens the competitive instinct in Michael Sclanders.
On all three occasions the teams met this year, Sclanders played prominent roles with the bat – and, as with 4 days ago at Michaelhouse, has snared 2 or 3 wickets with his off-spin.
With such prolific opening batsmen in James Ritchie and the Hilton College captain’s fellow KZN Inland U19 opener Robbie McGaw ahead of Mikey in the top order, there have been times where the platform has been laid for the number 3.
However, this was not necessarily the case on the numerous occasions where Michael Sclanders has scored so heavily.
Indeed, it is his unruffled, oh-so-calm disposition that is one of Michael’s strongest attributes. Whatever the situation, he gives the impression that he is on top of it – a hugely reassuring feeling for captain, coach and team.
And he has the ability to read the flow of an innings, is able to advise his batting partner as to what is needed in the “now” so that the team’s innings can get through to the “then” in the closing overs.
Watching Mikey pace his own innings is a fascination all on its own: the Hilton College nearly-finished grade 12 manipulates the bowling according to the needs of his team; working the ball into gaps seemingly at will, farming the strike when a new batsman comes to the crease at a late stage in the innings; knowing the opportune time to start launching his array of big shots.
And like all fine batsmen, Mikey seems to have all the time in the world: there is never a rush – I can’t recall a single hurried, evasive action – it’s like the delivery’s direction and trajectory have already been worked out beforehand.
As I wrote in a Witness article earlier this year:
The grade 12 Hiltonian, like many who immediately catch the eye, has that vital fraction-of-a-second extra time to consider which of an array of cricket shots would be best employed for any given delivery.
Calm, unflustered – be it fast, off-spin, leg-spin, seam or swing – this stylish right-hander is equally at home.
And possibly the key to Sclanders’ success is that he is not concerned about “dot balls”; the opposition bowling attack strangling the run rate for a time.
He knows when it’s time to launch; he knows he’s got the repertoire, the shot selection, to turn defence into exponential attack in the space of two or three overs.
Mike Sclanders: a batsman cricket lovers would be happy to watch all day, every day, knowing that boredom borne of familiarity would not enter the equation.
No-one achieves success in isolation.
Michael has benefited from the world-class facilities at Hilton College. Similarly during his initial time at St Charles College, not to mention coaches such as the Proteas batting coach Dale Benkenstein – who is his primary Hilton College first XI coach.
Michael Sclanders has also helped himself with his own steadfast dedication and application.
Early mornings in the gym, hours spent honing his batting skills; his mom has had two shoulder operations following countless throw-downs in the cricket net on the family’s Winterton farm.
Fortunately dad has not been subject to the knife – yet – following the ill-effects of his 1 000s of throw-downs, but the family medical aid is readying itself for some more heat.
Best wishes at Coke Week, Michael.
December 16 to 20 on Cape Town.
See you there.