Sinethemba Qeshile came, saw, got capped, kept and caught on an international debut he will not soon forget.
The 20-year-old has made himself the talk of the domestic scene this summer - his first season as a professional. He was one of just five players to score over 700 runs in the four-day franchise competition, and until his call up to the Proteas T20 team, he’d scored 277 runs for the Warriors in the Momentum One-Day Cup and was one of the main reasons they flew to the top of the log in that competition. He went a bit cold in the last few weeks and its seen them struggle too, but his exploits with the bat and behind the stumps couldn’t be ignored by the national selectors.
He made a quiet debut Friday night, in the sense that we didn’t get to see him perform with the bat. That was because some World Cup ‘definites’ and a couple of World Cup ‘maybes’ took control of the South African team’s innings.
Reeza Hendricks is still a topic for debate as far as a spot in the South Africa squad for England is concerned. He hasn’t made a strong case for himself, but he’s retained his place lately because of Hashim Amla’s absence.
Hendricks, having made one double-figure score in his last five innings for the Proteas, rekindled some of the form he showed in the first half of the season at domestic level, scoring 65 (46b, 9x4). The innings contained some characteristically exquisite stroke-making and his partnership of 116 runs for the second wicket with Rassie van der Dussen, provided the perfect foundation for the home-team after they were asked to bat by Lasith Malinga.
Van der Dussen has probably moved ahead of Hendricks in the World Cup pecking order in the last few weeks and may have even played himself into the starting team for that opening match at The Oval on May 30. He scored 64 (44b 4x4, 3x6), continuing the fine form of the last two seasons which he has transferred to the international arena.
The skipper for the last two T20 matches, JP Duminy finished off the South African innings with some lively hitting (33, 17b, 2x4, 2x6), which meant Qeshile didn’t even have to pad up.
Dale Steyn immediately had the Sri Lankans on the backfoot claiming the wickets of Avishka Fernando and Kusal Mendis in the first over, the latter with a peach, that pitched on the line of middle and off and then moved away from the right-hander just enough to clip the outer half of the off stump - it was ball that was deserving of a bigger occasion than an inconsequential T20 game at the end of the summer
Qeshile was called into action in the field in the fourth over, claiming the first of two catches, both relatively simple. His keeping was neat, in that he was barely noticed - always a good thing for any wicketkeeper.
There was some blazing hitting from Isuru Udana in the latter stages of Sri Lanka’s ultimately futile pursuit. He took advantage of some misdirected deliveries and being caught off a no-ball bowled by Duminy, to finish on 84 not out (48b, 8x4, 6x6).
For Qeshile it was a debut without fuss, one that ended with a win. He’d probably like a bat in Sunday’s ‘dead rubber’ at the Wanderers, just to show why he’s causing so much excitement. But Friday night will do just fine as a start of what many in South African cricket hope will be a long international career.