Top-order batsman Zubayr Hamza feels ready to grab his chance
The young Cobras top-order batsman could be SA’s 100th Test cricketer since readmission
While Pakistan have to pick up the pieces of what remains of this Test series, the once clumsy Zubayr Hamza has not just morphed into a neat top-order batsman but into one who is on the cusp of being SA’s 100th Test cricketer since readmission in 1992.
With regular captain Faf du Plessis missing the third Test against Pakistan at the Wanderers on Friday, Hamza will be the Proteas’ golden representative centurion if he is picked.
There is also the significant matter of his senior Cape Cobras teammate Pieter Malan also earning a deserved Test cap should Aiden Markram fail to recover from a thigh injury sustained in the nine-wicket win in the second Test at Newlands in Cape Town.
The Proteas will be captained by Dean Elgar. That is the least of Hamza’s concerns, but rebutting his parents’ stories about him with a smile is.
“I’ve heard a lot of stories from my parents, whether it was about me rolling my foot over a football and stuff like that. The one story I’m told is one of me playing football in the kitchen and I ended up being covered in fish oil, but I never really thought that cricket was going to be the sport I was going to make a career out of,” Hamza said.
“I was more into football but as I’ve grown up, I’ve fallen more in love with the sport [cricket] and the fact that I’m sitting speaking to you guys is just crazy. There’s a bit of nerves but I’m enjoying it.”
The smile Hamza had was quickly banished by the hot sun that beat over the Wanderers as Hamza took to his fielding drills.
The slip cordon of Hashim Amla, Elgar, Theunis de Bruyn and Temba Bavuma at gully also served to confirm where the spine of the Proteas’ batting is located.
De Bruyn is the batsman most ill at ease, with underwhelming showings in Cape Town and Centurion — albeit on challenging batting surfaces.
Should Hamza debut, he will probably slot in at No 6, while Malan could open if Markram is not passed as fit on Thursday.
Malan has 629 Four-Day Franchise runs at 52.41 this season, while Hamza has collected 329 runs at 36.55.
Hamza has not quite hit the heights of the 2017/18 season where he harvested 828 runs at 69, while Malan scored 892 runs at 55.75.
Hamza was not worried about his lower run output this season and also had the benefit of watching Pakistan’s terrific bowling attack at close quarters.
“Yes it’s true that I haven’t started off that well Franchise wise but I don’t feel out of form, and that is the difference. I still feel like I’m batting well and feel like I have a lot to offer. The runs and the performances haven’t shown that but that’s not necessarily how I feel at the moment,” Hamza said.
“There has been a big difference between first-class and Test cricket in terms of intensity and discipline. I hope I’ve played enough games to back myself to perform at the next level.”