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Ready to take the blows

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Proteas are willing to do what it takes to win Wanderes Test

Dean Elgar will captain South Africa against Pakistan in the thrid Test at the Wanderers starting tomorrow. The Proteas batsmen know that they will have to face a barrage of aggressive quick bowling from the wounded Pakistan side. Picture: Omar Maged BackpagePix

The Proteas have not minded taking body blows before raising their bats against Pakistan and even with the series won, won’t mind doing so again in the third Test at the Wanderers.

The squad’s rookie Zubayr Hamza has quickly bought into that line of thinking and if, as expected, he does make his Test debut tomorrow, he’ll be happy to follow the example set by Faf du Plessis – who, owing to a one-match suspension, Hamza is likely to replace – Dean Elgar, Hashim Amla and Temba Bavuma.

It’s not been a pretty series for the batsmen; the respective pace bowling units are very good and they’ve been given plenty of help by the pitches.

“It adds a lot of value to the runs that have been scored in this series,” Hamza said about the batting in the first two Tests. “The pitches have been challenging, it’s never easy when it’s inconsistent bounce. It’s been tough for the batsmen to me it’s got nothing to do with techniques and a lot more to do with mental strength. In the change-room we’ve valued those innings where they’ve grafted and been gritty throughout this series.”

Although his playing time has been limited to appearances as a substitute fielder, Hamza has kept himself busy within the squad asking questions and listening to his teammates throughout what he described as a “crazy” few weeks since his call-up.

“I’ve tucked myself under the wings of a few guys, just leaching as much information as I can about what it takes to perform at this level.”

Hamza, 23, completed his schooling at Rondebosch Boys High – also the alma mater of Gary Kirsten, HD Ackerman and Jonathan Trott – and has been on the selectors’ radar for a couple of seasons, before really grabbing their attention last summer when he scored 828 runs in the Sunfoil Series for the Cape Cobras at an average of 69, making three hundreds and four half-centuries.

He went to India with the SA A side last winter and made a pair of fifties against India A and while his form this season for the Cobras hasn’t been as hot, he remains confident he’ll deliver when called upon later this week.

“I haven’t started well in the franchise competition but I don’t feel out of form, I feel like I’m batting well.

“The runs and performances haven’t shown it, but it’s not how I feel at the moment.”

He certainly looked in good touch at training yesterday during a centre net session in which he faced Duanne Olivier, Kagiso Rabada and Wiaan Mulder, who is making his way back to full fitness after injury.

Du Plessis’s absence, punishment for the Proteas’ slow over rate during the Newlands Test, leaves some question marks over the home side’s batting order while in addition there are still concerns over the fitness of Aiden Markram.

The opener is nursing a badly bruised thigh and will undergo a fitness test this morning.

If he isn’t fit then Pieter Malan from the Cape Cobras will make his debut as well.

Then the Proteas brains-trust also have to think about where Hamza will slot in. He admitted his preference for playing in the top order having spent most of his career at No 3, but with Hashim Amla seemingly fit, it looks like Hamza will have to make his debut in the middle order.

Whether that is at No 5 – Du Plessis’s spot – or No 6 depends on whether the side’s leadership group feel he needs extra protection and thus allow the in-form Bavuma to move up one spot.

Meanwhile, CSA announced yesterday that Dean Elgar will captain the Proteas in the last Test owing to Du Plessis’s suspension.

It is the second time the left-hand opener will lead the team having first done so at Lord’s in 2017, when Du Plessis was absent due to the birth of his daughter.