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Making a habit of making hundreds

I’ve said in this column before that one of my goals this season was to score big hundreds in the four-day domestic competition and give the national selectors something to think about, before they pigeon-hole me as a one-day player.

I said it last week before my first four-day game in over a year and it’s really satisfying to be sitting here now, reflecting on an innings of 153 against the Knights in Bloemfontein. It would be even better if it had resulted in a victory for the Titans, but we were unlucky with the light, chasing a fourth innings score of well over 300.

Martin van Jaarsveld produced an unbelievable knock – an unbeaten 167 – and we were going really nicely at 303 for six, chasing 336. But the umpires decided that the light was bad and the players had to come off. It was a shame, because we had worked really hard to get ourselves into a winning position.

I’ve definitely benefited from my one-day form and after a good season in the 1-Day Cup, I’ve managed to take that into the four-day game, which is exactly what I wanted. It’s not as easy as it sounds, as the two forms of the game are completely different. I’ve always said that making these hundreds must become a habit and I’m chuffed that I’ve managed to do that in the last year, in the one-day game, and now the four-day game.

The game against the Knights was incredibly satisfying on many levels. I thought that we had bowled well in the second innings, as we looked to set ourselves up for a gettable run chase. But the Knights were playing it safe, not taking many risks. Then, right at the end of day three, Obus Pienaar flashed at a wide one when he was on 83, and I managed to take probably the best catch of my career, diving to my right at slip.

That seemed to get us back in the game, and when we bowled them out on day four, we needed 336 to win. As I’ve said, we went close and batted really well (I was happy with my 40, but got out chasing the game), but the luck just wasn’t with us. We were just 33 runs short with more than enough overs to get the runs in.

Just looking back at my knock in the first innings, it was even more satisfying, as I came in with us at 144/4 and not exactly well set for a big score. On top of that, the ball was still doing something and I really needed to knuckle down.

Fortunately, Farhaan Berhardien and myself managed to take the score past 400 and we eventually got a first innings lead. I actually started off quite slowly; staying really tight with my technique and only playing balls I really had to. But after a while I got going and I went through stages when I’d score quickly then not so quickly, then quickly again. I think what pleased me was that I paced my innings very well.

Physically, that innings and the match as a whole were very demanding for me, even though I consider myself a fit guy. There is just no substitute for time out in the middle or time fielding for 90 or 100 overs. That’s just something I have to adjust to. Also, you have to concentrate for so much longer than you do in a one-day game. I found myself, during one of the breaks, when I was on about a hundred, asking the physio for some headache tablets, as I‘d been concentrating so hard!

Now we’ve got a few days off – a bit of a Christmas break – and then we’re back at training on the 26th, before our next four-day game against the Lions in Benoni, which starts on the 27th.

If you celebrate Christmas, I wish you a very merry festive season!

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