Cape Town - After a stellar season for Western Province, Pieter Malan has been rewarded with a Cape Cobras contract for the 2017/18 season.
The sheer weight of 1 069 runs at an average of 118.77 opened the door and now Malan is a fully contracted Cape Cobras player - almost ten years after this former South African Under-19 player appeared in his maiden first-class game at age 17.
His excellence performances for the WP amateur team made him an almost automatic selection at the top of the order alongside Andrew Puttick, Simon Khomari and Richard Levi as primary candidates to open the innings.
“When I was younger, I possibly did not appreciate my contract for what it was and did not value it enough. One thing I learned when I moved to the Cape, was to play the ball as late as possible,” Malan exclaimed.
“I also became more selective, and did not express my attacking game in certain areas until later in the innings.
“But I also did not allow bowlers just to operate without pressure. Whether it was the first ball or the hundredth, if it was bowled in a certain area, it had to go (to the boundary),” said Malan.
“I think the past three years has been so good for my character. It forced me to work enormously hard to get into the Cape Cobras squad,” he said.
The new Cape Cobras squad, freshly released, boasts a powerful top seven.
The collective wisdom and batting acumen of Andrew Puttick, Justin Ontong, Stiaan van Zyl and the returning Qaasim Adams (from the Titans) could be a vital factor in assisting the Cape Cobras to score ten Sunfoil Series tons next season, as was regularly the case in the mid-summer of their domestic dominance.
The quartet can assist the young guns like Jason Smith, Kyle Verreynne, Zubayr Hamza and Dayyaan Galiem to evolve smartly.
Puttick has reached a hundred 26 times in first-class cricket. Ontong has smashed 25 tons. Van Zyl has assembled 21 centuries.
Adams has raised his bat to acknowledge the applause for a hundred ten times.
The four possess oodles of talent and experience.
Adams occupied the crease for 474 minutes in the penultimate Sunfoil Series match of the 2015/2016-season and scored 144 runs. It was his stone-walling and defiance that did much to determine the destiny of the Sunfoil Series through his heroic defensive toil.
Aviwe Mgijima was the Cobras’ player of the year in 2016/2017. Add to that the fact that Wayne Parnell might be available occasionally, and the Cobras will possess a richly talented lower order.
“This is one of the most exciting emerging squads assembled in years,” said Nabeal Dien, chief executive officer of the Cape Cobras.
“We have young, very talented players like the batting all-rounder Galiem, a former national U19-player, the former SA U19-star and wicketkeeper Verreynne, Smith and the excellent Hamza.
“I believe our senior players will not only perform to propel the Cobras back to the summit of the log. They will also serve as enthusiastic and selfless mentors to these young players. I’m indebted to Puttick, Ontong and Van Zyl for sharing their rich international knowledge with the emerging stars,” Dien remarked.
The one question which Dane Piedt and Dane Paterson want to answer emphatically is strike-power with the ball.
Piedt finished with 45 Sunfoil Series-wickets in 2014 and 39 in 2015/2016. The captain was not at his all-conquering best in 2016/2017, although he was still a force to be reckoned with.
Paterson could not emulate the performances of 2014/2015, when he was the leading wicket-taker in South African cricket with 42 scalps.
Lizaad Williams’ performances underline the view of many astute observers that the former SA Under-19 bowler is coming of age and ready to take the next step up.
The Cobras will be assisted by the experience and enormous knowledge of Rory Kleinveldt, who will serve as bowling consultant and still perform on a pay-for-play basis.
The semi-professional bowlers might just ask persistent questions and force a selection rethink if the frontline bowlers don’t hit their straps consistently.
Mthiwekhaya Nabe is a forceful, probing fast bowler. Michael Cohen is an 18-year-old swing bowler who produced match figures of 6-49 in his first first-class match.
Mpilo Njoloza can swing it at pace and took a hat-trick in his maiden franchise-match.
The leg-spinner Junaid Dawood has captured 13 wickets in one first-class game against Namibia and will be a welcome addition to the semi-professional ranks.
Beresford Williams, chairperson of the Western Cape Cricket Board, paid homage to a group of top-players and a galaxy of super stars that powered the Cape Cobras to ten titles during a decade of almost unparalleled success. Now, a new exciting breed of players is advancing and he is confident they will do the Cape Cobras proud.
“Now it is a new, exciting dawn and we have full confidence that the young breed of players will do us proud. I believe it is important to create an excellent environment in which the Cape Cobras can produce trophy-winning performances again and do their fans proud.”
Angelo Carolissen, vice-chairperson of the Western Cape Cricket Board, said the board’s vision is to give young, talented players opportunities to excel and cement their positions in the Cape Cobras, squad. “We believe by blooding the new, young, energetic squad they will enhance the Cape champions’ performances.”
Cape Cobras professional squad for 2017-2018 season: Qaasim Adams, Dayyaan Galiem, Zubayr Hamza, Simon Khomari, Richard Levi, George Linde, Pieter Malan, Aviwe Mgijima, Tshepo Moreki, Justin Ontong, Dane Paterson, Dane Piedt, Andrew Puttick, Jason Smith, Stiaan van Zyl, Kyle Verreynne, Lizaad Williams.
The seven semi-professional players are: Neo Mlumbi, Mthiwekhaya Nabe, Mpilo Njoloza, Matthew Kleinveldt, Michael Cohen, Taariq Chiecktey, Junaid Dawood.