Cape Town — Through a sublime century, young Tristan Stubbs provided South African first-class cricket with the shot in the arm that it desperately required on Tuesday in Colombo.
South Africa’s red-ball batters have been a concern for some time now, particularly the Proteas Test side where abysmal collapses have become routine.
It seemed to be a contagious disease with the South Africa ‘A’ side’s top-order failing miserably over the past fortnight on the tour of Sri Lanka.
And the script seemed to be running to order when captain Tony de Zorzi was dismissed first ball of the innings followed by Matthew Breetzke shortly afterwards to leave South Africa ‘A’ in the all-too familiar doldrums of 15/2 in response to the hosts’ 290 all out.
The situation was yearning for a batter to show old-age temperament, technique and grit. England’s “Bazball” may be the rage at the moment, but launching a counter-attack on the subcontinent often requires an altogether different skill-set.
The fact that it was delivered by a 22-year-old, whose reputation has been built on clearing the boundary in T20 franchise leagues that has already earned him millions of rands, would have been even more pleasing.
Stubbs had only played 10 first-class matches prior to this Sri Lankan tour. But here he was battling away in the crucial No 3 position, having walked to the crease second ball of the innings, displaying dollops of patience and resilience that allowed South Africa ‘A’ to close the second day on 287/6.
It helped that he had Proteas Test batter Keegan Petersen’s experience at the other end to keep him company during their 123-run partnership for the third wicket.
Petersen succumbed for 50 though, leaving Stubbs and Zubayr Hamza (43) to continue the battle.
Stubbs was, however, not going to let the hard graft come to nothing as he brought up his second first-class century before eventually being dismissed for a strikingly good 117 (181 balls, 15x4, 1x6).
“It’s immensely satisfying,” Stubbs told Independent Media from Sri Lanka. “I told Breetzke that I hadn’t actually realised what I had done until afterwards. I am just extremely happy. I just love batting and to go out there and make a contribution to the team when it's needed feels really good.”
In an age where young batters — and older generations too — are looking to move away from red-ball cricket in favour of lucrative T20 Leagues, Stubbs would be tailor made for a life as travelling wilbury.
But the Knysna-born youngster made an emphatic statement on Tuesday that he values the longest format of the game with all its trials and tribulations and will continue to work even harder to fulfil the dream of donning the Proteas Test baggy green cap.
“I didn’t even have much time to think about my innings because we lost a wicket first ball,” Stubbs said. “But I was looking forward to the challenge to batting the entire day.
“I want to play red-ball cricket. It’s so nice. The challenges are completely different. There are a lot of mental challenges which I really enjoy.
“I enjoyed batting with KP (Petersen) and Zuby (Hamza) for different reasons. KP and I really had to graft, but then Zuby came in and just batted with great intent because he changed the momentum.
“I thought we wore them down quite a bit because their first spells were really good. As the day went on it became a bit easier, that’s why I really love batting in red-ball cricket because the game changes all the time.”