A dramatic one-wicket win against Eastern Cape rivals Madibaz has given the University of Fort Hare men’s cricket team just the belief they needed going into this year’s USSA tournament.
The warm-up match, played at the Mandela University grounds in Gqeberha last Friday, saw the Alice students put in a powerful performance with the willow to chase down a target of 212.
Fort Hare skipper and batting lynchpin Wanga Mgculo was especially pleased since the side had given away their wickets cheaply in their two Border Premier League matches, both of which they lost.
UFH’s build-up to the season has been severely disrupted, with heavy rains in Alice for weeks on end making time out in the middle impossible. The players had no choice but to train indoors.
In one of the few opportunities to have a hit outside, they lost to the touring Pakistan development side.
Recently, however, the clouds had parted and they were getting a lot more practice out in the middle, Mgculo said.
These sessions were having an impact as the result against Madibaz, the current Eastern Province Premier League champions, showed.
“I think we played according to a plan,” the captain said.
“We’ve been telling the players, ‘Trust yourself, trust the process, trust one another. Apply what we have learnt in the preseason’.”
In their league games, Fort Hare’s bowlers did their job but the batsmen have let them down by being too reckless at the crease.
Mgculo said most had been out caught trying to go for quick runs, which was unnecessary.
What was excellent in the Madibaz match was that the openers and middle order had dug in and spent much more time at the wicket. The longer they were out there, the easier it became to score.
The competition gets underway in Cape Town on Monday, but there will be some “home” comforts in that Fort Hare are pooled with fellow East Cape universities Rhodes and Madibaz B in the A-section.
Cape Peninsula University of Technology is the fourth side in their group.
Mgculo reiterated that execution of their processes would give them every chance of winning all three games and progressing to the knockout stages.
The skipper is one of the most experienced players in the team and will be using his extensive knowledge of university cricket to good effect at the national event.
His own form with the bat, he said, was also “much better than last year”.
He is also happy to move up and down the order if the circumstances on the day warrant it.
“I will play my part as the experienced guy,” he said.
Mgculo said he was all for the batsmen playing aggressively, but there needed to be balance in their approach. Game awareness and playing to the conditions are key.