Cape Town - South Africa’s history of exporting cricketers to the United Kingdom is a well-documented story, but on Sunday’s opening day of the 2021 ICC T20 World Cup in Oman a new chapter emerged.
Johannesburg-born all-rounder Chris Greaves, who was playing just his second international match, delivered a match-winning all-round performance to power his adopted country Scotland to a shock six-run victory over Bangladesh.
The impact of Greaves’ performance goes far beyond his 28-ball 45 that led Scotland to 140-9 and 2/13 which restricted Bangladesh to 134/9.
Greaves walked to the crease with Scotland in all sorts of trouble at 53/6 in the 12th over. He would never before have come close to facing the quality and class of a bowler such as the highest wicket-taker in T20 World Cup history Shakib-al-Hasan. Neither the mystery of Mahedi Hasan or Mustafizur Rahman.
But Greaves found a way - just like he did with the ball when Bangladesh’s premier batsmen Shakib and Mushfiqur Rahman were at the crease threatening to haul in Scotland’s total.
It wasn’t the greatest leg-spin deliveries he will ever bowl in his career, but it was thoroughly deserved considering the sacrifices Greaves has made just to be on the same field in Muscat as the two Bangladeshi legends.
It was only a couple of years ago that Greaves was still an Amazon delivery driver after the dream of becoming a professional cricketer sold to him more than a decade ago never quite bore fruition.
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Greaves’ story does not resemble Kevin Pietersen – or many other South African-born cricketers – that left their native South Africa due to the perceived lack of opportunities at franchise level in their native land. He was merely looking to play some cricket.
And that all changed one morning when Greaves, who had just finished school, was called up to bowl at the 2009-10 English touring side at the Wanderers nets one morning.
“I was in the (Gauteng) district Under-19 set-up and was invited along to bowl at England in the nets [before their Test match] at the Wanderers. It was one of those casual conversations you have. (Former England wicket-keeper) Matt Prior walked past and I said to him that I’d be interested to come over to the UK at some point – I’ve got a British passport, it’s where my mum is from and so on – and that turned out to be the little spark that lit the fire,” Greaves told Scotland Cricket.com
The then-teenager spent a season playing in the Dukes North East Premier League Division One for Stockton CC before a shoulder injury actually forced Greaves to undergo rehabilitation in Scotland.
Greaves fell in love with life and the people north of the border and settled in a small town called Glenrothes – about 50km north of Edinburgh – and committed to the local club Glenrothes CC.
The all-rounder spent the next decade ploughing away in the Scottish club leagues before a call-up to a national team camp emerged in 2018 where Greaves was able to work with legendary Pakistani leg-spinner Yasir Shah.
However, as fate would determine, it was a return home to his birth town of Randburg during the Covid-19 lockdown that prepared Greaves for his heroic night in Muscat.
“I was presented with an opportunity to return to South Africa where I grew up to play some cricket at the start of this year and it was a chance I jumped at,” Greaves said.
“It has felt very much like being back at home for me because I am lucky enough to be staying with my parents and my sister. That has been excellent and made me feel settled off the cricket field because I can chat to them face to face rather than on Zoom.
“And on the field, there has also been some familiarity because I am playing for Randburg Cricket Club which is where I grew up playing the game as a youngster.
“It is wonderful to be back playing for the club and it is a wonderful opportunity for me to get some sunshine and, most importantly, stay fit and focused so that I can keep pushing on with my goal of one day soon playing for Scotland in ODIs and T20Is.”
Greaves has fulfilled his ambition beyond his wildest dreams after an “incredible” night at the Al Ameerat Stadium, although the adventure is not done yet.
If he continues in this vein, and Scotland under their South African coach Shane Burger manage to qualify for the Super 12 round of this ICC T20 World Cup, he may just line up against the Proteas in the next round of the competition.
Who said dreams don’t come true anymore …