The St Charles College first XI were the only KZN side to win all three matches at the hugely successful 2019 edition of the St Alban’s College Independent Schools Festival in Pretoria last weekend.
These are heady times for Saints cricket. Indeed it is arguably the most momentous time in the history of this highly regarded education institution’s sporting arm – most certainly in the cricket sports code – since its inception all those years ago in 1875.
The Coca-Cola Schools T20 National Franchise Finals are from March 15 to 17 at Tuks in Pretoria and for the first time a St Charles College first XI will be at The Big Show, and in Jono’s opinion have a very real chance of making the Gold Medal Match and a tilt at the SA T20 trophy.
The more-recent Journey to ISCF (it actually began 3 years ago when the nucleus of this side entered he first XI arena) had its inception last Wednesday during the Coca-Cola Schools T20 Dolphins Franchise Final when the evening at the PMB Oval heralded a comprehensive 38-run win over KZN Coastal champs Westville.
The KZN Inland winners were simply electrifying in the title showdown, be it batting, bowling or fielding.
Saints’ differentiators are a match-winning spin trio, Ka-Boom blast-offs at the top of the batting order, brilliant running between the wickets and a – in my many years – never-before seen ability to effect direct run outs from any position and every possible angle.
Talismanic captain Wessly Madhevere won yet another man-of-the-match accolade.
A bus trip to Pretoria that began before dawn Thursday was long and tedious but the Saints led by 2019 ICC U19 World Cup Joint Player of the Tournament Wessly Madhevere quickly settled down and proceeded to take their record number of wins in succession to a new high of 16 victories from 16 starts.
KZN10.com asked Saints head coach Murray Cole-Edwardes, who is also the Head of Middle School, to tell us more:
“Thanks Jono, always good to talk cricket with you. Yes, after last Wednesday night’s heroic efforts against Westville in the final of the Coca-Cola Dolphins Franchise T20 tournament, the Saints XI were quick to dismiss any rumours of tiredness and complacency.
“The boys quickly applied their minds to the festival where they were set up for three testing encounters against challenging opposition. With rain delays on the Thursday, the 2-day game against St Andrew’s Bloemfontein was reduced to a single-innings game on the Friday.”
Jono says: Given that Friday allowed for a minimum 120 overs (20 overs or more in the last hour) there was still a lot of cricket to play in the match.
Back to Murray: “As mentioned, Thursday’s cricket never got off the ground, so Friday morning Saints won the toss and chose to bat, expecting to bat out their allotted overs.
“The Saints had to work incredibly hard on a difficult wicket at Cornwall Hill College and managed to accumulate 161 in 59 overs.
“Under exceptionally trying circumstances, this was probably our most accomplished batting performance of the season, Clive Madande and Wes Madhevere, scoring 38 and 36 respectively.
“In reply, St Andrew’s School Bloemfontein never came close to reaching the target of 162. Our tall opening bowler Kian Channon was in irresistible form up front and finished with figures of 5 for 17, earning his first bowling accolade for the 1st XI.
“At one stage St Andrew’s Bloem were 6 wickets for 5 runs… Channon was simply unplayable, hitting his areas on every delivery.
“Day 3 saw the scheduled 50-over match reduced to a Saturday afternoon T20 – the incredible wind and rain the night before was something else.”
Jono: Numerous veterans of the unpredictability of Highveld weather said this particular example was extreme – even by their standards, apropos the testimony to passion, organisational skill and faculty to think on their feet that was ISCF heads Craig Hoyer and Krinesan Moodley in pivoting at quick-speed to dilute the effect of three unplayable fields by condensing the day’s scheduled 50-over fare into the T20 format on the available grounds, thus ensuring that every side got a game in.
Murray: “So everything was set up nicely for a crunch game against hosts St Alban’s, in front of distinguish guests.”
Indeed, many parents and boys stayed on after the morning T20s to watch what was expected to be a cracker – the 2018 Titans champs vs the 2019 Dolphins go-to boys.
“St Charles College were asked to bowl first and were superb with the ball; our outstanding leg-spinner Jason Login doing the damage with figures of 3 for 19 in 4.
“However, for the first time this year our fielding was sub-standard and allowed St Alban’s to reach a modest but defendable target.
“Be that as it may, the Saints boys would have been content to chase 117 off 20 overs if you had offered it to them before the game.”
Jono: St Albans kingpin, stylish left-hander Jordan Proudfoot, was looking in imperious form and his demise in the 40s signalled an ultimately fatal fault in the host side’s momentum.
Jono again: Masterblaster Clive Madande has been in remarkable, match-winning form for Saints this year, be it with the bat, ball, in the field and even behind the stumps, which occurred for a period during the St Andrew’s Bloem game. Sans protective leg-guards, groin protector or helmet, Clive proceeded to produce a top-class wicketkeeping display.
Let’s get back to Murray.
“Clive began the innings in scintillating fashion and continued his magnificent form, scoring 54 in Saints reaching 80/0 in 10 overs.”
Jono again: That left 38 off 60 with 10 wickets in hand. A doddle, surely? But St Albans thought otherwise.
Inspired by a probing spell of Jordan Proudfoot off-spin, Saints PMB became rushed in looking to finish the off the match and their fans went through many an anxious moment that is not reflected in the 5-wicket outcome.
That said, the Clive Madande gem was the kick-blast that set the Saints win up, and a quick-fire 23 by skipper Wes Madhevere sealed the 5-wicket St Charles College victory in an encounter much appreciated by the large, festive crowd.
The final game of the festival was the T20 against St David’s on their home turf. On a blistering hot morning, Saints won the toss and chose to bat. Again, Madande was in top form, scoring 43, and was ably supported by Humphrey van der Merwe, who made 23.
Once again St Charles raced to 80/1 after 10 overs. With 9 wickets in hand and oodles of batting to come, the remaining 60 balls were perfectly set up for Saints to launch for a total around the 180-200 mark.
Unfortunately the Saints never capitalised on this start and only managed to score 136.
However, the Saints bowlers, now renowned for their spin attack, squeezed the St David’s batsman and, in truth, the contest was over as soon as that dynamic Saints spin trio of Madande, Login and Madhevere were introduced.
Murray: “Jason Login was again the pick of the bowlers, with 3 wickets. He continues his good form with bat and ball and highlights his position as one of the leading cricketers in the province.”
Jono says Amen to that. The Login Factor is becoming a thorn in the side of every opposition.
St Charles College head coach Murray Cole-Edwardes leads from the front. Communication is clear, discipline paramount and the observance of cricket etiquette non-negotiable.
Mention must also be made of the massive contribution that the widely regarded Saints first XI assistant coach Lucky Dladla has made to this team.
Ever-observant, nothing gets past Lucky’s knowledgeable cricket brain. The Murray-Lucky link is a winning combination.
“It has been a privilege to coach these boys this year. 16 consecutive wins against top opposition is testament to all the hard work the team have put into training sessions.
“They have remained humble and after each victory, worked harder. For us, it has all become about the team.”
“Our highest accolade at this wonderful St Alban’s-hosted-and-organised festival came on the Saturday afternoon, against St Albans.
The hospitality team said the St Charles College boys were their favourites because of their humility and manners. There can be no higher praise.
“On behalf of the 1st XI we would like to thank the St Charles College community for their support. We endeavour every match to make the Saints Family proud. We would also like to thank St Alban’s College for being such welcoming and able hosts.”
SAINTS AT ISCF IN PRETORIA
Wessly Madhevere (capt)
Humphrey van der Merwe
Head coach: Murray Cole-Edwardes
Assistant coach: Lucky Dladla
“It is going to be an important few weeks as the team prepare for the Coca-Cola T20 Challenge National Franchise Finals at Tuks in Pretoria, the matches taking place on Friday 15th, Saturday 16th and Sunday 17th March.”
Jono says: Thank you Murray for your insight into the Saints first XI success story. KZN10.com wishes you continued success this coming Saturday, 2 Match at Kearsney College, where you join the hosts, Northwood and a Development XI in a T20 Quadrangular.
KZN10.com will be there. Fortune favours the braveheart.