Cape Town — Western Province captain Wayne Parnell is intent on not placing any undue pressure on the returning Zubayr Hamza in their must-win One-Day Cup clash at Boland Park on Friday.
Province and the Rocks will contest a winner-takes-all final league match that will decide who will face the Lions in next week's final at the Wanderers.
With all that already on the line, Parnell does not want Hamza, who will playing his first match since serving a nine-month suspension for taking a prohibited substance, to feel anymore undue pressure.
Proteas batter Hamza last played in March before he provided an out-of-competition sample on 17 January in Paarl which was found to contain furosemide, a substance specified in Section S5 of the 2022 Wada Prohibited List.
"Having Zuby back is always nice because he is an experienced quality player. He is in a really good mental space. From what I have seen he is also looking good in the nets, but we all know its different out in the middle in an environment where there is pressure," Parnell told IOL Sport on Thursday.
"My message to him is to go out there and enjoy it because we don't want to put any pressure on him. He understands it too that a good score is not assured, but he he is in a good space mentally."
WP will certainly be relying on Hamza to make an immediate impact with the experienced Yaseen Vallie out injured. Furthermore, after a red-hot start to the competition with four victories on the bounce, the Newlands-based team have lost two matches in succession.
Equally, it has been the batting unit that has struggled which further places Hamza in the spotlight.
In contrast the Rocks have turned around their season with a couple of victories and are now looking to sneak into the final through the back door, and JP Duminy's team would like nothing more than to put one over their big city neighbours.
"I think everyone is looking forward to the derby against the Rocks. We have seen this season already and last season has provided us with entertaining cricket regardless of the format," Parnell said.
"Obviously it’s a must-win game for us tomorrow. I think if you are looking at current form going into the game we've lost a couple of games and they obviously had a good win over North West.
"But at the end of the day it’s about rocking up on the day and playing the way we can play. Obviously looking forward to that."
WP have suffered a major blow with left-arm seamer Nandre Burger being ruled out with a tooth infection.
Western Province squad for Boland Park
Aviwe Mgijima, Beuran Hendricks, Daniel Smith (w/k), Eddie Moore, Gavin Kaplan, George Linde, Jonathan Bird, Kyle Simmonds, Mihlali Mpongwana, Tony De Zorzi, Tshepo Moreki, Wayne Parnell (C), Zubayr Hamza