Independent Media cricket writer Stuart Hess list five young stars in the making on the South African domestic cricket scene.
JASON SMITH (COBRAS)
In an otherwise laughably bad season for the franchise representing a region that is one of the bedrocks of the game in this country, Smith’s emergence was a bright spot. An elegant right handed batsman and a handy slow medium pace bowler, what stood out aside from aesthetics of his play was his willingness to knuckle down when the going got tough.
That was no more clearly illustrated than at the Wanderers in the opening Sunfoil Series match when Smith’s second innings 95 – out of a total of 211 – gave the Cobras respectability. It was forever thus in the 2016/17 season for the 21 year old.
WIAAN MULDER (LIONS)
Mulder and his family got the shock of their lives when he was called up to play for the Lions in the first match of the Sunfoil Series. But even while studying for his matric he made a heck of an impression with both bat and ball, scoring a maiden first class hundred against an attack featuring Duanne Olivier and Marchant de Lange, and picking up ‘seven-for’ in just his second match as a professional.
His pace is not overly disconcerting for batsmen, but he can bowl a ‘heavy ball,’ while his batting is still reliant on his physical strength. There’ll be greater refinement next season, when he will look to establish himself in the Lions team.
AIDEN MARKRAM (TITANS)
AB de Villiers and Mark Boucher believe he’s almost ready for the international stage. He’s certainly produced some memorable innings throughout the season; twice in the One-Day Cup while in the Sunfoil Series he backed up a fine innings of 162 against the Dolphins at Centurion, with a knock of 139 the following week in Cape Town against the Cobras.
Over the course of the season he tightened up his technique, although he’s still prone to bouts of inconsistency – but then he’s only 22. The kid’s got a very bright future and is dead keen on captaincy too – at franchise and international level.
SIBONELO MAKHANYA (DOLPHINS)
The 21-year-old is not someone who you can judge on stats – he desperately needs to improve those of course if he wants to be taken more seriously – but there is just a bubble of excitement about this all-rounder. When he has bat in his hand or when he’s bowling, something is bound to happen that will invariably turn a match.
In a One-Day Cup match against the Lions at Kingsmead he displayed some wonderful audacity to compile a run-a-ball 82 on a tough pitch. In the last league game against the Knights he picked up a wicket, took a catch, helped turn a run out ... he’s simply one who is always in the mix, a player who makes something happen.
DUANNE OLIVIER (KNIGHTS)
He is by no means the most remarkable looking fast bowler – but he certainly got results this season and was instrumental in getting the Knights’ name engraved on the Sunfoil Series Trophy.
His pace is sharp enough to make batsmen uncomfortable and he does get the ball to move away from the right hander. Most importantly he’s tough mentally, capable of returning in the afternoons for a fourth spell and giving as good as he did in his first in the morning. Will be a useful back-up at international level, but whether he can establish himself as a starter at the highest level, remains to be seen.
Two thirds of the trophies handed out at franchise level in the last two seasons reside at SuperSport Park. Not only is the franchise winning but they’re producing Proteas young, and in Heino Kuhn’s case not so young. In addition this year they added a new coach in Mark Bouchert, who despite not having grown up in the region, slotted in seamlessly, reinforcing the winning culture there, while working to maintain the supply line of young talent that’s coming through that system.
One of their affiliates, Northerns, won the semi-professional one-day competition and also qualified for the final of the three-day competition. They joke at SuperSport Park that they are the home of South African cricket – they really shouldn’t, because they’re a seriously good team and look like being that way for some time yet.
THE CAPE COBRAS
Briefly back in January it looked like, having finally come to their senses about changing the coach, the Cobras might be able to make an impression on the season, then it all fell apart again. The problems of a directionless boardroom eventually filtered into the dressing-room and poor old Ashwell Prince inherited a proper mess in the middle of the season.
He deserves nothing but praise for providing a modicum of stability however briefly, but he was always rowing up crap creek with a defunct paddle. The region will always produce good young cricketers thanks to the strong school system as well as the club structure, but there really needs to be a more unified outlook from the "suits".