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Edward Liddle's Biographies of Irish Cricketers
Johan Botha
  • Born 2 May 1982 Johannesburg South Africa
  • Educated
  • Occupation Professional Cricketer
  • Debut 3 May 2005 v Yorkshire at Civil Service North CC, Stormont, Belfast.
  • Cap Number 648
  • Style Right hand batsman, right arm off break bowler
  • Teams Transvaal, Eastern Province, Border, Malahide,, Eastern Cape, Warriors, Northamptonshire, Rajasthan Royals.

Johan Botha is a combative cricketer best described as a bowling all rounder. A no nonsense striker of the ball in the lower middle order with - at the time of writing - one 100 and twenty two 50s to his name at first class level - he is primarily known as a bowler of flattish off spin. Originally a medium pacer, who operated at somewhere around 80 mph, he was advised to change to off spin by the then Protea coach Mickey Arthur. Since then Johan has met with considerable success with his slower method but not without contoversy being caused by his action which has has been reported to the ICC on more than one occasion. However though film did show that, on at least one such occasion his arm bent more than than the magical 15 degrees, he has been cleared to bowl and does not now seem to be the subject of umpiring attention. He delivers the ball with a low trajectory at a length which makes him difficult to get after. Hence his popularity as T20 and other limited overs bowler.

He first achieved prominence as a schoolboy when first with the South African Schools' XI and then South Africa in the U19 World Cup of 1999-2000. Both teams included Graham Smith, Jacques Rudoph - who captained the Schools' side - and a certain IJL Trot, who was, presumably, then focused on gaining a green rather than blue Test cap! Johan's achievements were not spectacular but he did make his first contact with Ireland, whom he helped roundly defeat by 10 wickets. Opening the bowling against a partnership of Dom Joyce and Niall O'Brien - Peter Shields kept wicket for Ireland however - he had figures of 1-13 in seven overs, dismissing Joyce for 11. Ireland were bowled out for 75 and lost by 10 wickets.

The following season - 2000-01, saw Johan as a member of his country's U19 tour of New Zealand. He had an outstanding match in the Second Test, played at the Bert Sutcliffe Oval, Lincoln, the ground named in honour of the great New Zealand left hander whose final innings in first class cricket had been a marvelous hundred at Ormeau in 1965. In the visitors first innings Johan, coming in at the fall of the fourth wicket, made 101, more cautiously than usual, then took 4-18 in the Kiwi first innings.

His first class debut came the same season and five years later he made his debut for South Africa in all three forms of the game. However by this time he had already tried his luck overseas and gained his solitary Irish cap. Having appeared with limited success in both the Central Lancashire and Lancashire Leagues - his best bowling figures being 5-45 in the former competition for Heywood v Milnrow in 2003 and having played once for Lancashire 2nd XI against Yorkshire, he was signed as Malahide's professional for the 2005 season. In 12 matches he scored 563 runs at 51.36 with two 100s and three50s. He also took 20 wickets at 18.20 and held 8 catches. His South African commitments meant hat he had to leave Ireland in mid August or hos performances would, no doubt, have been even more impressive.

He put dwon his marker in his first match with 4-29 against CYM at Terenure, following this a week later with a typically aggressive 72 against North County, a fellow South African helping in his dismissal as he was caught by Reinhardt Strydom off Connor Armstrong's medium pace. His two centuries both 123 came in the 50 over competition. CYM suffered again at his hands on the first occasion as he set up a 54 run victory, sealing it by dismissing yet another South African, Border batsman Warwick Hinkel for exactly 100. His other ton came in his penultimate match, this time it was Phoenix who were the recipients of his onslaught. His innings led the way to a massive 276-7, victory being achieved by 155 runs. His best bowling figures 4-22 were against Rush, opportune in a closely fought encounter which ended in Malahide making the short journey home with a win by 6 runs to their credit. Had he been able to play the full season he might well have been in line for the Samuels Cup presented to the leading all rounder in Leinster senior cricket.

His one appearance for Ireland came against Yorkshire at Stormont in the Cheltenham and Gloucester Trophy. He was used as the one permitted non qualified player. He owed his selection to doubts about Kyle McCallan's fitness to bowl, though in the event both men played. Put in, Ireland began disasterously losing 3 wickets to Tim Bresnan and Mathew Hoggard for 34. They recoverd to 201-7 thanks mainly to 50s from Eoin Morgan and Peter Gillespie in a partnership of 113. Johan was 18* at the end. Perhaps he might have come in earlier as the total was, despite difficult conditions, nowhere near enough, as the Yorkshire top three all passed 50, Michael Vaughan topscoring with 58. Johan was economical as always but went wicketless. However his 10-0-37-0, had shown his worth. Ireland's exit from the competition denied him another cap.

Though he has had little success with the bat in his six Tests - 83 runs at 20.75, he has taken 17 wickets at 33.10. Johan's first class career has, at he outset of a new (2011 - 2012) brought him 3218 runs at 34.60. He has also taken 156 wickets at 31.75. His sole hundred so far came for Warriors against Dolphins at Port Elizabeth in October 2009, a match in which he played a leading part in securing victory. Warriors led by 27 in the first innings but had subsided to 80-5 in the second when Johan came in to play a most valuable innings. Last out he batted 214 minutes and faced 150 balls for his 109 which contained 16 fours and 2 sixes. His runs came out of 174 made while he was a the wicket. He then took 4-69, including the dangerous Andrew Hall to see his side home. His best bowling figurs of 6-42 were achieved for Eastern Province against Northerns also at PE in 2003-04. After helping secure a 105 run lead with first innings figures of 2-22, he had an analysis of 25.2-11-42-6 in the second to bring about victory.

His best Test performance came against The West Indies at Bridgetown in June 2010. He was instrumental in collapsing twice to give South Africa victory by 7 wickets. He had 4-56 in the first innings - including Chanderpaul brilliantly caught one handed by Jack Kallis at slip for 72 - and 3-46 in the second. He was a clear choice for Man of the Match. He lacks a century at either ODI or other List A level, his highest being a top score 46 against Australia at Melbourne in 2004-05. It was, however, in a losing cause. he was one of the four wickets taken by Brett Lee as the fair haired paceman bowled Australia to victory. His best List A bowling also came in an ODI when, captaining the side, he had 4-19 to make certain of a win against Kenya at Blomfontein in 2008-09. He has made one appearance against Ireland this being in the 2011 World Cup. Coming in at No 8, he made an undefeated 21 off 28 balls, being restricted to a single boundary. He then had 1-32 in 8 overs, the valuable scalp of Ed Joyce for12, as Ireland gave their only really poor batting performance of the tournament.

He has also proved a successful T20 player, not only in domestic and International competitions but also for Northamptonshire in 2011 and in the IPL, where he admits to having learned much about leadership and spin bowling from Shane Warne. He is highly regarded as a captain and at one time, seemed to have a long career in this role at ODI and T20 level in front of him. Injury to Smith in Australia in 2009 saw Johan take over the side for the ODIs and lead it to a series win. It was generally seen as no surprise when he was appointed his country's T20 captain the following year Cricket SA's Chief Executive, Gerald Majola declaring,"We have every confidence that he will do an excellent job leading up..... to the ICC World T 20 Cup in 2012." Chairman of Selectors Andrew Hudson described him as an inspirational leader.

Yet less than a year later AB de Villiers was named T20 captain with the clear indication that he would also take over the ODI side as Smith was quitting that form of the game. Johan, playing in England at the time expressed himself disappointed but not surprised, believing that it was the selectors' intention to have the same leader in all three forms of the game. Later de Villiers broke his arm, but Johan saw little chance that he would be restored for the upcoming series against the Australians.

Johan Botha may not be remembered as a great cricketer. He is however a very good one and a leader, who despite the apparent change of heart by the South African authorities, is held in high esteem by his peers. His one outing for Ireland was not very successful, exit from the C&G Trophy denying him a further chance. However there can be little doubt that had he decided to follow the trail blazed by his countryman and unrelated namesake by throwing his lot in with Ireland, he would have proved a most valuable, indeed essential, member of the team.