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Ken Borland


Zondo able to marry experience with fighting spirit

Posted on December 20, 2023 by Ken

Khaya Zondo was able to marry the experience he has in domestic cricket with a fighting spirit as he top-scored for the Proteas on another torrid day in their Test series against Australia on Saturday, and he is confident that he and his team-mates can do it again on Sunday’s final day to save the third Test in Sydney.

Zondo scored a career-best 39 in nearly two hours at the crease as South Africa struggled to 149/6 in the two sessions that were able to be played on the fourth day. That means they are still 127 runs short of avoiding the follow-on; they are likely to have to bat through 98 overs on Sunday, but they do have 14 wickets in hand on a pitch that demands watchfulness but is far from a minefield.

Zondo shared partnerships of 48 with Temba Bavuma (35) and 45 with Kyle Verreynne (19).

“We have one day to bat, we have done it before so I’m sure we can do it again,” Zondo said after stumps on the penultimate day at the Sydney Cricket Ground. The pitch is like the one in Pietermaritzburg, so it’s familiar to me as a Durban player.

“It’s not quick, there’s turn every now and then and it’s not reversing a lot. They are just using the crease and creating angles. The short ball doesn’t get up, so that is the only challenge from the perspective of facing the seamers. You’ve got to watch it and play instead of trying to get under it.

“The conditions dictate how you must play, whether the ball is turning or not, the pitch is quick or slow; and Temba and I felt out there that we needed to be quick on our feet, whether we were coming down the wicket or going back in the crease. Certain shots are better options,” Zondo said.

Although he is 32-years-old, Zondo’s sole real experience of Test cricket has been against the powerful English and Australian attacks, away from home and in often testing conditions for batting. His Test debut against Bangladesh last April came as a Covid substitute on the final day when South Africa had already completed their batting. His seven innings have now brought 120 runs at an average of 20 – figures that suggest he is worth persevering with, especially when compared to the returns of some of his colleagues who have been given more opportunity.

The Westville Boys’ High School product is feeling positive about his prospects, a mood he said is shared by his team-mates in the changeroom despite their miserable time in Australia.

“I’ve only had a short international career, I’ve only played England and Australia at their homes and those are two top attacks,” Zondo said. “But it’s been a good experience.

“It’s comforting to know that I am able to play against the best and hold my own. It’s just about spending more time at this level and then hopefully I can dominate one day.

“If I’m selected more, then I have to make sure I perform to play every game. The last year has been challenging, but if you can get through that then you can play at this level.

“For me it’s about taking every opportunity, playing as much cricket as I can get. If it’s first-class cricket, then I must go there and nail that; if it’s SA A games, then I must nail that,” Zondo said.

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