Cape Town - The South Africa A top-order have endured a torrid time at the hands of Dilshan Madushanka in Sri Lanka.
Madushanka, who has since become the most expensive player at the Sri Lanka Premier League auction held this week, has troubled all the South African batters with his seam and swing movement made more difficult because of the left-arm angle and trajectory of attack.
What the tourists would give for a left-arm fast bowler of similar ilk.
And that’s exactly what they went in search of after Proteas Test bowler Lutho Sipamla went down with a back injury after the second unofficial ODI.
But to everyone’s surprise, the SOS was not sent to tried-and-trusted domestic southpaws such as Beuran Hendricks, Nandre Burger or even Mumbai Indians young recruit Duan Jansen.
Instead, Proteas coach Shukri Conrad, after consultation with bowling coach Piet Botha, made the call to St. Stithians Grade 11 learner Kwena Maphaka.
Botha’s own playing career had coincided with that of South African left-arm pace bowler Brett Schultz, who enjoyed great success on the Proteas’ maiden tour to the island in 1993.
At 17 years old, Maphaka is no Schultz yet, but he showed in the first unofficial “Test” this past week in Pallekele – which ironically was the teenager’s first-class debut – that he possesses the skills required, with match figures of 3/70.
“The fact that Kwena gives a left arm option to the team played a part in his selection,” Botha told Independent Media from Sri Lanka.
“His pace and maturity at such a young age are impressive. He is also able to bowl around the wicket while reverse swinging the ball, which is an added skill.”
Left-arm pace bowlers are so rare that only six left-arm seamers (Schultz, Hendricks, Charl Willoughby, Wayne Parnell, Lonwabo Tsotsobe and Marco Jansen) have played Test cricket for the Proteas since re-admission in 1991.
More importantly, none have enjoyed anything close to a substantial Test career, with only the incumbent Jansen (11) having played more than 10 Tests.
It is for this reason that Botha is prepared to allow Maphaka to grow slowly into his role.
“We will work on his approach to the wicket to assist his natural pace. He still needs to get physically stronger over the next three years by playing more first-class cricket,” Botha said.
“He will learn and understand how to bowl to different batters and under different conditions as he plays more, but his ability indicates that he has a bright future ahead of him.”
Maphaka will get another chance to further his learning when South Africa ‘A’ attempt to level the series in Dambulla in the second “Test” starting on Monday.
While that may be the next immediate step in his progression, Maphaka’s calendar is likely to fill up over the coming months as he remains an integral part of the SA U19 team travelling to Bangladesh next month.
The SA U19s tour Bangladesh from July 3 to 18, which coach Malibongwe Maketa is hoping to use as a “shock” tool for the schoolboys ahead of the ICC U19 World Cup in Sri Lanka next year.
Fortunately for Maphaka it will no longer be such an eye-opener after experiencing the subcontinent with the South Africa ‘A’ side, especially with a couple of his teammates going down last week through illness.