Cape Town — Excitement always arrives in town at the same time as a new fast bowler.
And even more so when he is just 17-years-old, only in Grade 11, and hails from the same school as Proteas great Kagiso Rabada.
That was the expectation on the shoulders of left-arm seamer Kwena Maphaka when the St Stithians pupil flew to Sri Lanka last week to replace injured Proteas Test bowler Lutho Sipamla in the South Africa A squad for a two-match “Test” series.
Even more remarkable was the fact that the teenager had yet to play a single first-class match for the Lions and had not even participated in a match that was longer than two days.
But Proteas Test coach Shukri Conrad, who is overseeing the A team’s tour, had seen something special in young Maphaka during his time with the SA Under-19 team last year.
He, therefore, had no hesitation in calling up the youngster — much to the delight of Maphaka — and then playing him in the first “Test” that started in Dambulla yesterday.
“It was actually during a break at school when my cellphone rang. It was just crazy, crazy,” Maphaka told IOL Sport from Sri Lanka shortly after his debut where he took a credible 2/43.
“I couldn’t believe it. I had absolutely no idea that I was going to be called up. It was a major surprise. I just kept on smiling after that. My mates were asking all the time why I was smiling so much. I just told them that I’ll tell them next week.
“I’ve got a really good relationship with coach Shukri. We really connected while we were together at the SA Under-19s, and I was actually a bit sad when he left for the Proteas Test side, but to join up with him again so quickly is really cool.”
Maphaka was a bundle of nerves when captain Tony de Zorzi threw him the ball for the first time, especially as Sri Lankan openers Lasith Croospulle and Lahiru Udara had made a solid start against new-ball bowlers Lizaad Williams and Gerald Coetzee.
But the youngster settled down quickly to claim his maiden first-class wicket when he brought about a much-needed breakthrough for SA A by trapping Udara LBW for 48.
He showed sufficient stamina to come back for a second spell later in the day, and gained further success by bowling Lakshitha Manasinghe.
Maphaka provided solid support to left-arm spinner Senuran Muthusamy (7/122) as the hosts were eventually dismissed for 325.
“I just tried to pace myself throughout the day,” Maphaka said. “I had to think about coming back for a second spell, possibly even a third spell, so it’s about preserving energy.
“But furthermore, the processes remain the same. The same principles and game plans in terms of what I want to execute.”
Maphaka was, though, grateful to have a few familiar faces in the SA A changing-room to help him settle into his work.
“The entire team is really chilled. I thought they would be a lot more hostile, but everyone has been really supportive,” he said.
“Having ‘Brewie’ (Dewald Brevis) in the same team is really cool though. We played SA Under-19s together at the World Cup last year, so just having him around also helped a great deal.”