CAPE TOWN – The Cape Cobras may take plenty of abuse for only using their Kolpak players sparingly this season, especially the experienced Stiaan van Zyl, but the benefits of providing young batsmen opportunities at franchise level is already bearing fruit for South African cricket.
Both Pieter Malan and Zubayr Hamza, who previously had limited game-time at the Cobras despite scoring heavily for Western Province at semi-pro level, have both been included in the South Africa A team to face Australia in Benoni this weekend after solid Sunfoil Series campaigns. Malan is the second highest run-scorer in the competition with 686 runs at an average of 62.36, while Hamza has accumulated 485 runs at 60.62.
Hamza certainly believes the chance to establish himself at franchise level has played a prominent role in his elevation to higher honours, while the role of his coach Ashwell Prince cannot be underestimated.
“I have learnt to focus on my own game, and how I play and how I want to bat. A lot of this is due to the opportunities we have received this season. As (a) young batting unit we have been granted the opportunity, but it comes with a responsibility to perform,” the 22-year-old said.
“Ashwell has been massive for me. It started with my technique. Not major things, but little things to help me be more successful. But the biggest aspect has undoubtedly been mental. It is almost like a 'bulldog attitude' that he has instilled in us that we don’t need to stand back for anyone.”
Hamza is definitely going to need some of that “bulldog attitude” this weekend at Willowmoore Park. It certainly is a major step up from franchise cricket to facing speed merchants like Mitchell Starc, Josh Hazlewood, Pat Cummins and Co.
“I was surprised when I received the initial call-up, but now I am excited,” Hamza said. “It is not every day that you get the chance to face a world-class attack like the Aussies possess.
“I have spoken to loads of people about to what to expect. Anybody willing to take my questions (laughs). But it's all about preparing mentally for the occasion. We speak a lot about getting into the right mental space at the Cobras, and this is the same type of situation.”
Hamza was a prodigious schoolboy talent at Rondebosch Boys’ High School before graduating to the WP provincial ranks where he scored a double century while still in his teens.
The fact that he has now taken a step up to the next level is crucial for SA’s pipeline, especially with the national team’s batting unit struggling at the moment without some of their stalwarts due to injury.
The South Africa A team has a good mix of youth and experience.
Hamza is joined by 23-year-old Dolphins all-rounder Senuran Muthusamy, who will also be debuting at this level, while Lions all-rounder Wiaan Mulder has also been included.
There are, however, some grizzled franchise veterans in the form of recent Proteas ODI cap Khaya Zondo. The Dolphins skipper will also lead the SA A team. Proteas “reserve” batsman Theunis de Bruyn will also line-up against the Aussies along with his Knights teammates Duanne Olivier and Rudi Second. Titans leg-spinner Shaun von Berg is the sole spinner.
The South Africa ‘A’ squad:
Khayalihle Zondo (captain), Theunis de Bruyn, Zubayr Hamza, Beuran Hendricks, Pieter Malan, Wiaan Mulder, Senuran Muthusamy, Duanne Olivier, Rudi Second, Malusi Siboto, Shaun von Berg.