Williams not prepared to hold back at Over-50s World Cup

Former Boland and Proteas swing bowler Henry Williams may well be one of the fittest - and fastest - bowlers amongst any of the 12 teams set to contest the Over-50s World Cup starting in Cape Town on March 11, and he is not intending to ‘hold back’.

The Over-50s World Cup, sponsored by Evergreen Lifestyle, will be held in and around Cape Town from March 11, with the final at Newlands on March 24.

Unlike some of the veterans from around the world, Williams has barely stopped being involved at First-Class level, and has remained bowling-fit as coach of the Boland provincial team since retiring from playing in 2004.

“I’m still bowling at between 125 and 130 kilometres an hour, still swinging it and definitely still enjoying my bowling. I played a club game this weekend and there were some youngsters who raised an eyebrow that an old guy like me could still trouble them,” Williams said this week.

“Of course we should be playing for the enjoyment of the game, that’s why we all started. But we will be playing in a World Cup, representing our country, and none of us has lost the competitive edge, so I have no intention of holding back on the field. We play to win - we can make new friends afterwards.”

Williams played 89 First-Class games for Boland, claiming 276 wickets, and also seven ODIs for the Proteas, but he will not be alone in a pace attack including three further seamers with plenty of First-Class experience.

Anwell Newman (53) also played for Boland while all-rounder Brad Player (52) boasts 93 First-Class games and 148 List ‘A’ for Free State and Western Province. But it is ‘youngster’ Alan Dawson (50), who played two Tests and 19 ODIs, who is likely to share the new ball after impressive form in the build-up to the tournament.

Dawson recently joined the Proteas for a net session at which he bowled a couple of overs at Faf du Plessis: “He’s still got it, he really has,” enthused the former national captain. “The pace and swing are still there, aged 50. I couldn’t believe it. It was like I was facing him 15 years ago.”

Several teams are featuring top order batsmen closer to their 60s than 50s - a handful are even in their 60s - so is Williams concerned that he may be ‘a bit much’ for the elder statesmen?

“I have thought about that, to be honest, and nobody wants to see anyone hurt, but I reckon if they have come to a World Cup then they must believe they can handle themselves against other 50+ players.

“Our captain, Dave Callaghan, is very competitive and passionate about the badge we will be wearing so he wouldn’t want anything less than our best. He’s certainly not going to be asking us to bowl underarm if the opposition are looking uncomfortable,” Williams said.

South Africa will open their campaign against Wales at Cape Town Cricket Club on March 11, while defending champions Australia will tackle strongly fancied underdogs Zimbabwe at Claremont Cricket Club.

“Evergreen Lifestyle is delighted to serve as headline sponsor for the Over-50s Cricket World Cup. Not only are we a sports-loving brand, but we are excited to play a positive role in the establishment of veterans cricket in South Africa. Our cricket legends of yesteryear deserve our support”, said Evergreen Retirement Holdings Marketing Director, Arthur Case.

SA Over-50s squad: Dave Callaghan (captain), Louis Koen, Alan Dawson, Pieter Strydom, Kenny Jackson, Dave Holgate, Anwell Newman, Neil Fusedale, Rodney Malamba, Mlungisi ‘Lefty’ Ngece, Dave Duncan, Bruce Wilson, Warne Rippon, Brad Player, Nazeem White and Henry Williams.

Coach: Allan Donald

Manager: Roy Meeser

Physio: Marc Naidoo