Despite the past weekend’s victory over the Warriors – the Cobras’ first of the four-day competition – there will be at least three changes to the side that won in Port Elizabeth.
Former schoolboy prodigies Zubayr Hamza (20) and Jason Smith (21) will make their much-awaited Cobras franchise debuts after prolific seasons for the Western Province semi-pro team. They will be joined by their WP teammate Matthew Kleinveldt (26), who played one previous first-class match for the Cobras last year when he scored 97 on debut.
Hamza, a stylish right-handed middle-order batsman, has virtually knocked the Cobras door down since making his first-class debut as a teenager in 2014. In 16 first-class games Hamza has already amassed 1 268 runs, including a career-best 202 not out, at an average of 60.38.
Smith meanwhile has the potential to fill the much-needed all-rounder slot as he has impressed with both bat and ball this season. Tall and strongly built, the SA Under-19 World Cup winner in Dubai alongside the likes of current Proteas star Kagiso Rabada, has the ability to hit a really long ball, while he is a competent fourth seamer.
He was particularly good last week against South Western Districts when he struck a fluent 74 off just 103 balls before going on to claim 6/49 and 2/32 for match figures of 8/81.
Kleinveldt, meanwhile, will step in for Proteas discard Stiaan van Zyl at the top of the order. Van Zyl was released from the national Test squad on Tuesday, but arrived in Cape Town with a side strain and is unavailable for the Durban trip.
“Paul (Adams, Cobras coach) and I have had long discussions about the team and we’ve realised that the Cobras are a side in transition and that we have to start providing opportunities for the youth in our region,” Cobras chief executive Nabeal Dien said last night.
“I have worked in the youth structures at Western Province throughout my career at Newlands and always been very passionate about the talent in the province.
“With Andrew Puttick’s wife giving birth this week and Robin Peterson off to the Masters Champions League in Dubai, it is an ideal opportunity to give these players with immense potential a chance at franchise level.
“I have the utmost faith in these players as they have proved themselves at the semi-pro level and deserve their opportunities.”
The Cobras squad has not been completely finalised yet, with the team coach still waiting to hear about the availability of wicketkeeper Dane Vilas.
The vice-captain hurried off to Johannesburg last week to answer an SOS call from the national team when Quinton de Kock injured his knee. De Kock will undergo a fitness test on Wednesday which will determine Vilas’s availability for the Cobras.
Should De Kock fail the test, Vilas will obviously remain with the Test side, leaving young Keegan Petersen to continue keeping wicket for the Cobras.
Original source: Cobras to bank on energy of youth