UCT cricketing stars for WP amateur league

16 February 2009

UCT Cricket
Oops: UCT opener Travis Townsend has his heart in his mouth as his cut shot flies to a Durbanville fielder in their one-day clash on 7 February. Townsend survived, but was out shortly afterwards, his score still in single figures, as UCT - successfully - chased down Durbanville's 184. Despite his early exit, Townsend remains UCT's top scorer this season, amassing more than 500 runs over the league season and averaging 48. Against Durbanville, though, it was Martin Walters (59) and Lloyd Moore (66 not out) who saw UCT home.

Four promising stars from UCT Cricket Club's first team have been selected for the Western Province amateur side, news that should boost the young side ahead of their big Western Province Premier League game against the University of the Western Cape on 22 February and 1 March.

The game will be played over two consecutive Sundays at the UCT oval, and should decide who wins the league.

The players are leg spinner Chris Arkell, who has a haul of 17 wickets this season, regular no 4 batsman Martin Walters, Peter Laing, captain of the Western Province amateur side, and Chris Cook, who represented Western Province in the 20/20 league.

Coached by former national cricket team coach Eric Simons, the amateur side is just one step below franchise team, the Cape Cobras.

Cook has also been named in the Cape Cobras squad.

As things stand, the UCT club is second in the Western Province Premier League and will want to finish the season on a high. The first team lost their coach, alumnus Gary Kirsten, when he took on the job of coaching India.

During the off-season, administrator Kobus Olivier approached another veteran to fill the gap, former South African first-class cricketer Hylton Ackerman.

Ackerman had spent eight years coaching at the Plascon Academy, which fast-tracks South Africa's best young players into first-class and international cricket.

"Hylton is unbelievable," Olivier said. "He's the best coach I've worked with."

Besides Arkell, Walters, Laing and Cook, there are other players 'bubbling under': opening batsman Travis Townsend (chair of the UCT Cricket Club) and Dean "Biff" (he's a dead ringer for national captain Graeme Smith) Forward.

Townsend, who averages 50, has notched up 386 runs this season and a highest score of 114.

Collectively the team has knocked five centuries this season, and have won three of their five games. But it hasn't been an easy ride.

In 2002 the UCTCC won the SA Club Championships, won the WP league, and hosted and won the SA universities league.

Since then the club has lost a generation of players.

"The UCTCC doesn't have the advantage of really blooding players," Olivier said. "They leave when they graduate or perhaps play one extra season. UCT used to field five teams in the premier league, but now only three.

"The average age of our side is 21/22, playing against older, more experienced cricketers in the league."

The club hovered around relegation for the first part of the 2006/2007 season before rallying to finish in third spot in the premier league.

At the nets during a recent practice was Charl Langeveldt, placed with the UCTCC by Western Province Cricket Union. Graeme Smith, still a registered member of the UCTCC, played two games for the side last season.

"He's [Charl] just fantastic to have around. The younger guys look up to older professionals," Olivier said.

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