Zubayr Hamza, South Africa's 100th Test player (post isolation). Photo: Muzi Ntombela/BackpagePix

JOHANNESBURG – Zubayr Hamza became South Africa’s 100th Test player of the post-isolation era here on Friday morning, when he made his debut in the third Castle Lager Test against Pakistan.

It’s been a long journey to the "Bullring" for the talented 23-year-old, who survived an awkward accident involving a football and some fish oil in his mum’s kitchen.

Hamza, picked in place of the suspended Faf du Plessis, may get his chance at the crease Friday morning, after stand-in skipper Dean Elgar won the toss and chose to bat in bright sunshine.

Hamza’s path to an SA Test cap, while seemingly straightforward, given where he was schooled, was somewhat circuitous. Cricket wasn’t his first love. “I was more into football when I was younger,” he admitted this week.

That love led to an accident at home when he was younger, something that happened frequently apparently given his clumsiness as a youngster. “I’ve heard a lot of stories from my parents, whether its rolling my foot over a football...or the time I was playing soccer in the kitchen and somehow I ended up covered in fish oil.” 

“Growing up I always enjoyed sport, but I never thought cricket would be the sport I’d make a career out of...as I’ve grown up I fallen more in love with the sport.”  

Zubayr Hamza (right) in action for the Cape Cobras. Photo: Chris Ricco/BackpagePix
Zubayr Hamza (right) in action for the Cape Cobras. Photo: Chris Ricco/BackpagePix

Hamza, who completed his schooling at Rondebosch Boys High - also the alma mater of Gary Kirsten, HD Ackerman and Jonathan Trott - has been on the selectors’ radar for a couple of seasons, really grabbing their attention last summer when he scored 828 runs in the Sunfoil Series for the Cape Cobras at an average of 69, making three hundreds and four half-centuries. 

He went to India with the SA A side in the winter and made a pair of fifties against India A and while his form this season for the Cobras hasn’t been as hot last, he remains confident he’ll deliver when called upon later this week. 

“I haven’t started well in the franchise competition but I don’t feel out of form, I feel like I’m batting well. The runs and performances haven’t shown it, but it’s not how I feel at the moment.” 

Hamza said he valued runs he had to graft for over those that he made stylishly. “At times I’m free flowing but I’m willing to graft. I’ve never really been the prettiest, but I take pride in the innings where there is a bit more of a struggle. A willingness to battle, is what I bring to the team,” said Hamza.

Pakistan made three changes to the side that lost the second Test at Newlands by nine wickets; Shadab Khan comes in for Fakhar Zaman, Faheem Ashraf for Shaheen Shah afridi and Hassan Ali for Yasir Shah. 

Zubayr Hamza during a training session ahead of he 3rd Test at the Wanderers Stadium. Photo: Muzi Ntombela/BackpagePix
Zubayr Hamza during a training session ahead of he 3rd Test at the Wanderers Stadium. Photo: Muzi Ntombela/BackpagePix

South Africa: 

Dean Elgar (capt), Aiden Markram, Hashim Amla, Theunis de Bruyn, Zubayr Hamza, Temba Bavuma, Quinton de Kock, Vernon Philander, Kagiso Rabada, Dale Steyn, Duanne Olivier.

Pakistan: 

Imam ul-Haq, Shan Masood, Azhar Ali, Asad Shafiq, Babar Azam, Sarfraz Ahmed (capt), Shadab Khan, Faheem Ashraf, Muhammad Amir, Hassan Ali, Muhammad Abbas 

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