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Ken Borland

Hamza celebrating white-ball breakthrough as he realises his skills are applicable in those formats too

Posted on December 31, 2021 by Ken

Zubayr Hamza is definitely one of the most skilful batsmen in the country and his breakthrough in limited-overs cricket came when he realised those same abilities were applicable in the white-ball game.

Over the last couple of seasons, Hamza has shaken off the tag of being a red-ball player, becoming a key batsman for the Cape Cobras and now Western Province in both 50-over and T20 cricket.

After being dropped from the Test side in January 2020, having played five Tests, during South Africa’s troubles against England, Hamza found himself in the middle of a slump in form. It was actually 50-over cricket that revitalised his career as he averaged 55.58 at a strike-rate of 97.81 later that season in the Momentum One-Day Cup. This season it has been T20 cricket in which he has sparkled, averaging 46.75 at a strike-rate of 142.74, including a century against the powerful Central Gauteng Lions attack.

And so the national selectors have rewarded him with a call-up to the squad for the three-match series against the Netherlands in Gauteng from November 26.

“I started as a red-ball batsman in the middle-order, now I’m at the top in white-ball cricket. It’s been a learning curve in terms of adapting my scoring areas and strike-rate, I’m very happy with my progress.

“It was a bit of spite actually to get one-up on the naysayers who said I couldn’t play limited-overs cricket. To play white-ball cricket for South Africa has always been a goal.

“So I adapted my game to meet the standards around the world. The game is evolving and it’s best to keep up with that.

“If you want to keep up at the highest level then you have to continually adapt and become a better all-round batsman. I’ve learnt to apply myself to whatever game-plan is required in the different formats,” Hamza said.

It’s been a winding road for Hamza since he began playing franchise cricket for the Cobras shortly after turning 21. The Rondebosch Boys High prodigy was soon averaging around 50 in first-class cricket and his Test debut came in 2019 when he was 23.

And then came the loss of form, but the talented batsman now seems to have regained his usual prolific ways, thanks to the freedom he has enjoyed in limited-overs cricket.

“The turnaround came after a tough run for a season and a bit,” Hamza said on Thursday. “When you’re not performing and things aren’t going your way, you can look for issues that aren’t actually there.

“It was mostly in the mental space that I had problems, but I managed to turn it around. Now playing is purely about enjoying myself and trusting the players around me.

“There will always be criticism and I’m realistic with how I view the game – obviously there were certain areas I had to improve. Other guys have enhanced their games to fit into different formats and I’ve taken some advice from them.

“My focus is on adapting and understanding my different roles, all purely for the good of the team,” Hamza said.

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