CAPE TOWN – In 2015, Temba Bavuma became the first black African batsman to score a century for the Proteas. It was a seminal moment in South African cricket - and the roaring Newlands crowd paid homage to the occasion - for such moments have the ability to change mindsets and alter outlooks.
Today Newlands will once again provide the scenic backdrop for a significant event in the game in this country.
Perhaps the time will come in the near future, through the hard work of Cricket South Africa’s transformation committee that such selections are routine, but at this stage it is immensely significant.
The Cape Cobras will field three black African batsmen in their top order in their One-Day Cup clash against the Knights (1:30pm start).
Bavuma will form part of the trio having chosen to get in some game time after being overlooked for the last two Tests against India. The little right-hander will most likely open the innings - the position he struck his maiden ODI century from on his one-day international debut against Ireland in 2016 - alongside the in-form Pieter Malan.
This means no space for Richard Levi in the line-up. The burly opener has struggled since returning from a stellar campaign with English county Northamptonshire. For all Levi’s potential firepower, the 30-year-old has just one half-century in his last 10 white-ball innings for the Cobras and is also struggling with an injury.
Last season’s Player of the Year Aviwe Mgijima will return to the Cobras line-up after missing the Titans match through a family bereavement. But instead of slotting into his No 3 position at the expense of Simon Khomari, the Cobras have opted to retain the stylish left-hander too.
Khomari struck a solid 60 against the Titans in one of his few franchise opportunities this season, and certainly looked to have benefited from working closely with former Proteas Test batsman and current Cobras coach Ashwell Prince over the last couple of months.
DEBUT | Today is @tbavuma10's debut match for the @WorldSportsBet Cape Cobras in the @Momentum_za One Day Cup.@Dayyaangaliem3 will also make his first appearance in the #MODC this season. #COBvKNI pic.twitter.com/KkUBM2KNVO
“Temba is available, so obviously he must play he’s a national team player. Avi is back after going to a funeral, so he comes back into the side,” Prince said yesterday.
“Simon hit a 60 in the last game, so he has found a bit of form.
“In terms of developing Simon’s game, now is a really good time for him to kick on after playing such a confidence-boosting innings.”
Former South Africa Under-19 all-rounder Dayyaan Galiem is also expected to get a run out today.
The past 18 months have undoubtedly been frustrating for the former Rondebosch Boys High School prodigy as he watched former age-group national teammates like Andile Phehlukwayo and Wiaan Mulder go on to make their Proteas debuts while he struggled in the Western Province “Semi-Pro” team.
But 21-year-old Galiem now has the opportunity to make an impact with fellow young all-rounder Jason Smith yet to nail down a permanent place in the Cobras line-up, despite regular game time at franchise level.
Prince has, though, opted to rest his chief wicket-taker Mthiwekhaya Nabe for the Knights clash.
Nabe has played non-stop since making his Cobras debut at the beginning of the season and despite delivering a quality performance every game, the promising seamer is running on empty at the moment and will value his week-long break.
The tide is certainly turning down at Newlands, and with the Cobras pushing hard for a place in the One-Day Cup semi-finals, it could be yet another night of thrilling entertainment under the lights tonight.
Cape Cobras squad: JP Duminy (c), Temba Bavuma, Dayyaan Galiem, Simon Khomari, Rory Kleinveldt, George Linde, Pieter Malan, Aviwe Mgijima, Tshepo Moreki, Mthiwekhaya Nabe, Wayne Parnell, Dane Paterson, Kyle Verreynne, Lizaad Williams.