Stiaan van Zyl is a down-to-earth, phlegmatic character – a nature ideally suited to his cricketing role of top-order batsman.
It means he is not flustered by any short-pitched barrages from fast bowlers, or the inevitable sledging from the close-in fielders.
And his unflappability would have stood him in good stead when he was asked by the Cape Cobras brains trust to take on the role of aggressive opening batsman for the side’s opening T20 Challenge match against the Warriors in Port Elizabeth on Wednesday.
The assignment? Take on the role normally played by power-blaster Richard Levi (away in New Zealand with the Proteas) as opening bat. Try to clear the field in the power-play overs (the first six of the innings).
“No problem, coach,” might have been the left-hander’s response.
And he delivered handsomely, with a 41-ball innings of 58 which helped the Cobras reach 155-5, and an eventual 10-run victory. On the way there he clubbed four sixes and two fours, putting down a marker for his retention in the T20 format, even when the Cobras’ more experienced players start to dribble back into town in the coming weeks.
The Cobras will expect more of the same from Van Zyl today, though, when they take on the Knights in Kimberley, on a wicket which normally produces more runs than the slow St George’s Park track in Port Elizabeth. Two from two on the road would be a great return, given that the Cobras are under-strength.
Coach Richard Pybus was pretty pleased with the first outing. “Maybe we were a bit tentative… as a new group. For some of the guys it was the first time playing T20 at franchise level, and there were some butterflies,” said Pybus.
Apart from Van Zyl’s bolter at the start, and stand-in captain Andrew Puttick’s 55, there was the fine, composed showing from the trio of spinners in Yaseen Vallie, Alistair Gray and Dane Piedt in the positives column.
Some attention was paid to the fielding in preparation for today’s match, though.
Puttick is likely to have the reins for a few more matches, since regular skipper Justin Kemp has a foot stress fracture, which will keep him out of action for the next couple of weeks.
With veteran swing bowler Charl Langeveldt just working his way back after a calf niggle, the Cobras have called up left-arm seamer Beuran Hendricks as a replacement. Hendricks is contracted by the new franchise, the Impi, but competition rules allow the original franchises to recall players in the event of a spate of injuries.
Meanwhile, the Dolphins, who kick off their campaign against the Impi in Maritzburg on Sunday, will have to do so without top signing, West Indian Chris Gayle. The powerful opener hurt his groin while playing in the Bangladesh Premier League. The BPL said on Twitter today that the tall left-hander could be out of action for three weeks.