SA Cricket magazine picks five uncapped U23 players destined for a successful future.
BJORN FORTUIN – Bowling all-rounder
First-class record: Matches: 22 Runs: 932 Average: 37.28 HS: 194 Wickets: 53 Average: 28.22 BBM: 8-58
Fortuin broke through the franchise ranks in the 2015-16 season and made a near-instant impact for the Lions, blasting a century coming in at No 8. Now used primarily for his slow left-arm orthodox, Fortuin has established himself as a regular in the side across the formats, and was named Bowler of the Match for two consecutive T20 Challenge games.
Did you know? Despite being a spinner, Lions coach Geoffrey Toyana has used Fortuin as an opening bowler in the T20 Challenge. ‘His greatest strength is that he can open the bowling, he’s got good control. He’s also a great fielder,’ says Toyana.
AIDEN MARKRAM – Opening batsman
First-class record: Matches: 24 Runs: 1 527 Average: 44.91 HS: 182
It’s difficult to believe that Markram is still only 22, but this is only good news, for he still has a long career ahead of him. After captaining South Africa to the U19 World Cup, many thought he would make an instant impact, but he’s only realising his true potential now, having struck back-to-back centuries for the Titans in his first two Sunfoil Series matches.
Did you know? Markram’s cricketing career took a backseat after he lifted the U19 World Cup, due to focusing on his Bcom degree at Tuks.
WIAAN MULDER – All-rounder
First-class record: Matches: 4 Runs 185 Average: 30.83 HS 104 Wickets: 18 Average: 16.05 BBM 8-79
The SA U19 captain has produced unimaginable performances for someone so young. After dominating at school level and standing out at SA U19 level, Mulder was thrown in the deep end with a Lions debut in the Sunfoil Series. There were no issues whatsoever for the schoolboy, who secured match figures of 7-43 against the Cobras, before snaring 7-25 in his second match against the Dolphins. His third match, against the Knights, saw him blast a 123-ball century, bringing up three figures with the first six of his professional career.
Did you know? Wiaan’s brother, Johan, is only in Grade 10, but already plays in the St Stithian’s 1st XI and plays for the Gauteng U17B side. He’s also a batting all-rounder.
LUNGI NGIDI – Fast bowler
First-class record: Matches: 6 Wickets: 19 Average: 21 BBM: 9-82
Much like Markram, Ngidi made a name for himself on the University scene, and despite an early exit for Tuks in the 2016 Red Bull Campus Challenge, stood out with seven wickets from his four matches at an average of 13.43. He then ripped through the Dolphins in the Sunfoil Series to bag best figures of 5-39. ‘I played a few games with Ngidi at the U19 level and he is a freak – very quick and has good discipline,’ says Mulder.
Did you know? Ngidi was the first person in his family to attend university.
JASON SMITH – All-rounder
First-class record: 22 Runs: 985 Average: 28.97 HS: 121 Wickets: 30 Average: 24.83 BBM: 8-81
Nicknamed ‘the future’ and ‘maverick’ by Proteas spinner Dane Piedt on Instagram, Smith was a middle-order regular in SA U19’s World Cup winning tournament in 2014, and after dominating the Varsity Cup scene with UWC, Smith has now broken through the ranks at the Cobras. It’s been an effortless transition for Smith, who notched up 95 and 4-24 in the first match of the season, before following that up with an unbeaten century.
Did you know? Smith was named Player of the Series in the SA Emerging Team Tri-Series in August 2016, with 329 runs at 82.25 and five wickets at 15.40.
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