• Hamza – secret weapon or weakest link?

    Zubayr Hamza’s 62 off 79 balls in the third Test against India in Ranchi offered a glimpse of what the Cape Cobras batsman has to offer, while also making it clear he still has progress to make as an international cricketer.

    South Africa’s 100th Test player since readmission has more strokes in his arsenal than most of those who went before him, but there are no sure things in cricket’s ultimate format.

    Hamza’s introduction into the Test outfit has been deliberately slow, despite being identified as a potential successor to Hashim Amla years before the bearded batsman hung up his boots. 

    He is the youngest batsman in the Proteas squad, but could prove to be the secret weapon for Faf du Plessis’ side. While many of the Proteas players have been playing T20 cricket in the Mzansi Super League Hamza, has turned out for Western Province in provincial three-day cricket.

    The quality of the opposition in the second tier of South Africa’s convoluted first-class system might be questionable. Still, Hamza has enjoyed more time in the middle than any of the other capped batsmen in the squad. 

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    He struck an impressive 183 against the Northern Cape, which showcased his ability to keep the scoreboard moving for prolonged periods.

    Hamza’s greatest strength is his stroke-making, but it can also be his achilles heel as he often gives his wicket away while looking to score.

    Zubayr Hamza

    The Cobras batsman has progressed about as much as he is going to while playing domestic cricket – and only regular exposure to the international game can determine whether or not he is suited to holding a place in the Proteas XI long term.

    The Proteas would do well to fix his batting position as soon as possible despite going into a series that is likely to have a fair amount of movement from three to five. At three he would have more opportunities to punish the new ball, but would also come up against fresh English bowlers all capable of extracting sideways movement.

    Hamza has often seen comparison drawn between himself and Amla, but the challenges he faces could be a lot more like those that beset AB de Villiers in the longest format. A talented and versatile stroke player, he has been prone to losing concentration at critical moments.

    He already has two first-class double tons – the first coming when he was still a teenager, the second at franchise level in January 2019 which sealed his call-up to the Test team. These suggest he can control his instincts and become an imposing middle-order batsman.

    Normally Hamza would be afforded the luxury of a few failures, but this Proteas side will be desperate to get results. Coach Mark Boucher and batting consultant Jacques Kallis will need to impart their grit and decision-making skills to a young batsman who could be a superstar.

    Photo: Gallo Images

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