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SA pick uncapped Zubayr Hamza for Pakistan Tests

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Zubayr Hamza, the 23-year-old Cape Cobras batsman, could make his Test debut against Pakistan on Boxing Day after being named in the 13-man South African squad for the upcoming three-match Test series. If he gains selection in the final XI he will become the 100th player to represent South Africa in Test cricket since readmission.

“Zubayr has been one of the standout cricketers in domestic cricket over the past year and carried that form into the South Africa A tour to India where he averaged over 50 in the four-day series against tough opposition and under tough conditions,” said CSA National Selection Panel convener Linda Zondi.

Hamza also enjoyed an outstanding season in the 2017-18 four-day franchise competition, scoring 828 runs at an average of 69 with three centuries.

“His selection is part of our vision for the future as we start to feed new players into the system,” Zondi explained. “It is inevitable that some of our senior players will start thinking of retiring in years to come and it is vital that we have a good succession plan in place.”

ALSO READ: One step at a time for level-headed Hamza

Cricket South Africa’s squad for the series also features the return of seamer Duanne Olivier in place of Lungi Ngidi, who injured his knee during a T20I against Australia last month and has been ruled out until the end of February. Olivier was part of the squad for the home Tests against Australia in 2018 and has represented the South Africa in five Test matches.

“As unfortunate as Lungi’s injury is we are blessed to have outstanding depth in our fast bowling resources,” Zondi said. “Duanne has impressed on his previous appearances for the Proteas and has had a good franchise season to date with 20 wickets in his five matches at an average of 22.80.

While he has been ruled out of Tshwane Spartans’ ongoing Mzansi Super League campaign with a back injury, batsman Theunis de Bruyn has also been included in the Test squad, and Tladi Bokako, the 25-year-old Cape Cobras and Durban Heat fast bowler, will join him as a non-playing member to gain experience.

“Tladi Bokako will work with the squad as a learning experience during the series in a continuation of the initiative we started with Kagiso Rabada and continued with Matthew Breetzke earlier in the season. He has had a good debut season for the Cape Cobras with 21 wickets at 26.33 to date. “We will continue to identify young players with the potential to become future Proteas,” Zondi concluded.

South Africa play three Tests, five ODIs and three T20Is against Pakistan starting on December 26.

South Africa squad: Faf du Plessis (capt), Hashim Amla, Temba Bavuma , Theunis de Bruyn, Quinton de Kock (wk), Dean Elgar, Zubayr Hamza, Keshav Maharaj, Aiden Markram, Duanne Olivier, Vernon Philander, Kagiso Rabada, Dale Steyn



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‘As long as he is alive, Hope will play tomorrow’ – Brathwaite

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When the best player on tour is injured, the captain and the team management tend to get nervous. Perhaps many captains would think, or even say in private, that they would do anything to ensure that he or she plays the next game. Carlos Brathwaite, West Indies’ T20I captain, said this about Shai Hope, whose back-to-back unbeaten centuries have been the visitors’ only batting beacon in Bangladesh in the past week.

Hope felt dizzy after receiving a blow to the head during Friday’s third ODI in Sylhet, but he trained with the squad on Sunday, ahead of the first T20I.

“Shai [Hope] is in beautiful batting form, fresh off two back-to-back unbeaten centuries,” Brathwaite said. “Even if Shai has to play with a stretcher, I will volunteer to carry the stretcher between the wickets. He is fine and in good spirits. He is out practicing, so hopefully he is close to 100 per cent. As long as he is alive, he will play tomorrow.”

ALSO READ: WI look to break five-game losing streak against upbeat hosts

Brathwaite’s side will further be boosted by the return of Evin Lewis, who missed the India tour and the Bangladesh ODIs. “He is one of the better batsmen in the world. For the last 18 months or so, he has three T20I hundreds and also centuries in regional and franchise cricket all over the world.

“He is a definite plus for any team. It is a positive to have in our side. Hopefully he will deliver some big performances which will help us win the game and the series,” said Brathwaite.

But of course, injuries and unavailability have been a major bother for the West Indies. Kieron Pollard, Andre Russell and Jason Holder are injured, while Chris Gayle has been busy with league commitments.

“We have had some informal chats about it. We can’t do much as players if we continue to lose. We don’t have much power or say. The group of players needs to find a way to win, regardless of who is and who is not selected. When we start to win, we can pull on experiences on learning how to win games.

“Evidently you become more experienced and confident, and start creating your own brand of cricket. We haven’t been able to, because of a lot of chopping and changing for different reasons. The feeling in the dressing room is that whenever a team is picked for a tour, we put our heads together as a unit, and find a way to win games. Once we do that, West Indies cricket will find a way to the top, whichever format,” he said.

Brathwaite believes West Indies’ favourite format can get them the much-needed win in this tour, which would also be a bounce back from their wretched year in T20Is. They have won just two out of 12 games in 2018.

“The people back home deserve a Christmas gift,” he said. “We hope to close out the year with a win. We still think T20 is our premier format.

“We obviously haven’t had the results to be in the recent past proud of. But here’s a chance to turn things around and ending 2018 in a good way.”



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Williamson’s fluency allowed me to keep going – Latham

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The tempo at which his team-mates – particularly Kane Williamson – built their own innings, helped Tom Latham get through some tough spells, and assisted in his getting to a seventh Test hundred.

Latham went to stumps on 121 off 256 balls – his strike rate a respectable 47 for the day – but had been much slower at the start of his knock. He had been 16 off 86 balls at one stage, and also went through another period – when he was on 50 – in which he did not score a run for 17 balls.

Williamson, meanwhile, made 91 off 93 balls. To the pair’s 162-run second wicket stand, Latham’s contribution was only 67.

“At the start of my innings, I wasn’t playing that quickly, but the way Jeet Raval played and the way Kane came and played – that took the game to the opposition and kept the scoreboard ticking over,” Latham said. “It was good for me. I could just keep going. The most important thing we talk about was making those partnerships big ones, and I managed to get a good one with Kane.

Williamson had signaled his aggressive intentions early, hitting three fours off the first three deliveries he faced. Two of those strokes were especially memorable back-foot punches either side of point, off the bowling of Lahiru Kumara. He would go on to hit 10 fours in his innings, and had little trouble finding gaps in the outfield in between the boundaries.

“Kane came out and hit the ball fantastically well – I guess he’s a world-class player and is hitting the ball unbelievably well in all conditions,” Latham said. “You look at some of the shots he plays – from ball one – those early boundaries set the tempo for his innings and he kept doing that. He’s a fantastic player and one to get a few more tips off. When guys are going like that it’s almost easier to give them the strike and let them do their thing.”

For Latham, this was his first trip to triple figures since January 2017, and breaks a relatively lean spell that goes back at least six innings. In the three Tests in the UAE, Latham mustered only one 50, and averaged 16.5 across the three Tests. Which is why, he said, it was important to start slowly and build from there.

“The slow start was about trying to get them to bowl to me as much as possible. Coming from the UAE where the conditions were a lot different, it was important for me to try and wait to score when the ball was a lot straighter, or when it was shorter or fuller.

“I didn’t have the results I wanted in the UAE, but I felt like I was hitting the ball alright. The biggest thing was the trust in my own game, and the trust that I can do it at this level. It’s been a while since I made a big score, but it was nice that I managed to do that straightaway.”



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Repeat finger blow spells trouble for Aaron Finch

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Aaron Finch was taken for x-rays on a possible fractured right index finger on day three of the second Test in Perth. Finch was struck a painful blow in the 13th over of the innings by Mohammed Shami in more or less the same spot where he had twice been struck by Mitchell Starc in net sessions earlier in the summer.

The finger troubles for Finch had begun when Starc hit him on the bottom hand during training for the first ODI of the season, also in Perth against South Africa last month, and the same spot was hit by the same bowler in Australia’s main training session before the first Test in Adelaide, whereupon Finch muttered the words “same finger” before seeking treatment from the team doctor Richard Saw.

After struggling in both innings of the Adelaide Test, Finch scrapped his way to a half-century alongside Marcus Harris on day one of the Perth Test, and having reached 25 not out in the second innings was quickly wringing his right hand after the blow from Shami.

In obvious pain, Finch received extensive treatment on the field before it was decided that he must retire hurt to seek further information on the seriousness of the blow. The umpires then called for tea about a minute earlier than scheduled, and Finch did not resume in the evening session.

It’s not the first time Shami has inconvenienced an Australian batsman this series, having also struck Tim Paine on the right index finger in the second innings in Adelaide and duly creating a wave of concerns given the captain’s long history of troubles with the digit.

More to follow…



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