Bright prospect: Opening batsman Marco Marais of Nelson Mandela Bay Giants is fairly unknown but already has a world record under his belt. Picture: RICHARD HAGGARD/GALLO IMAGES
Bright prospect: Opening batsman Marco Marais of Nelson Mandela Bay Giants is fairly unknown but already has a world record under his belt. Picture: RICHARD HAGGARD/GALLO IMAGES

Little-known Nelson Mandela Bay Giants opening batsman Marco Marais is hoping the Mzansi Super League (MSL) will unlock the huge untapped semiprofessional talent in SA.

The 25-year-old Marais‚ picked in the 10th round of the MSL draft and one of many semiprofessionals in the tournament‚ has been impressive for the Eastern Cape franchise.

On Sunday he top-scored for the Giants with 47 off 41 in their seven-run (D/L method) win over the Tshwane Spartans in Pretoria as they moved to second spot on the log. He is holding his own against established internationals such as Dale Steyn and AB de Villiers.

"It is amazing to be playing against players like AB and Dale‚" he said after his man-of-the-match performance at SuperSport Park.

"Two months ago I was playing semiprofessional cricket and now I find myself standing at the nonstriker’s end and AB fielding at midwicket.

"It is amazing for the younger players‚ especially those who have not played a lot of franchise cricket‚ to get exposure at this level. I had to face Dale Steyn the other night, which wasn’t fun.

Deep end

"I was thrown into the deep end because the coaches wanted to see if I can swim and fight for myself," Marais said.

He may be unknown‚ but a year ago he broke a 97-year-old world record with the quickest triple hundred in first-class cricket when he got 300 (not out) off 191 balls in a three-day match for Border against Eastern Province in East London.

He bettered the record that was held by Australia’s Charles Macartney who took 221 balls to reach his 300 for Australia against Nottinghamshire in 1921.

Other semiprofessional players who have caught the eye are bowlers Anrich Nortjé of the Cape Town Blitz and Lutho Sipamla of the Spartans with eight and seven scalps after four rounds of matches.

Marais said he has had to adjust quickly. "A lot of people have different opinions about the difference between semiprofessional and franchise cricket‚ but I think the wickets are a lot quicker at this level.

"In semiprofessional cricket‚ you mostly face pace of about 120km/h to 130km/h but it is more about getting used to facing the more experienced fast bowlers. The ball comes to the bat a lot quicker and you have to adjust. I would say as a batsman the pace is something to get used to," he said.

Looking back at his performance against the Spartans‚ Marais said it was not easy to score because the SuperSport Park pitch was inconsistent.

"The pitch was a little bit two-paced and difficult to score in the first six overs‚" he said. "I know that when you come here the wickets normally have bounce and carry.

"I feel that people overcomplicate T20 cricket. I know that you have to adjust your game plan whether it is on the coast or in the highveld‚ but you must back your skills."