South Africa have named uncapped middle-order batsman Zubayr Hamza and fast bowler Duanne Olivier in their squad for the three-Test home series against Pakistan starting in Pretoria on Boxing Day.
Cape Town-born Hamza, 23, averages almost 50 in first class cricket but has had a modest domestic season to date with two fifties in nine innings and an average of a little over 31.
The right-hander, who bats at number three for his provincial Cape Cobras side, has been rewarded for his excellent form over the last 18 months though and his potential as a future regular in the team.
“Zubayr has been one of the standout cricketers in domestic cricket over the past year and carried that form into the South Africa A tour to India where he averaged over 50 in the four-day series against tough opposition and under tough conditions,” Cricket South Africa national selection panel (NSP) convener Linda Zondi said in a media statement on Thursday.
“Before that, he had an outstanding season in the four-day franchise competition where he scored 823 runs, including three centuries, at the impressive average of 69.
“His selection is part of our vision for the future as we start to feed new players into the system. It is inevitable that some of our senior players will start thinking of retiring in years to come and it is vital that we have a good succession plan in place.”
South Africa have also recalled Olivier as a replacement for the injured Lungi Ngidi, who will miss the entire Pakistan tour that also includes five One-Day Internationals and three Twenty20 fixtures.
The Proteas have retained experienced batsman Hashim Amla despite a poor run of form that has seen him top-score with 31 in his last nine Test innings and continually fail in domestic cricket, with the selection of Hamza possibly much to do with Amla’s struggles.
Fast bowler Dale Steyn will hope to get the one wicket he needs to pass Shaun Pollock as the country’s highest Test wicket-taker and has been in excellent bowling form in domestic cricket.
The second test will be played in Cape Town from 3-7 January, with the series finale in Johannesburg from 11-15 January.
Squad: Faf du Plessis (captain), Hashim Amla, Temba Bavuma, Theunis de Bruyn, Quinton de Kock, Dean Elgar, Zubayr Hamza, Keshav Maharaj, Aiden Markram, Duanne Olivier, Vernon Philander, Kagiso Rabada, Dale Steyn.
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Chasing a target of 165 to win, Pakistan romped home in 18.4 overs after David Miller had blasted an unbeaten 85 off 45 balls to lift South Africa to 164-8 in 20 overs.
While the move has led to key players not featuring in big-ticket matches and series in turns, Steyn feels it is boosting England's bench strength and will benefit them while picking teams for future ICC events.
The touring team will stay in a bio-secure environment and matches will be confined to two venues – SuperSport Park in Centurion and the Wanderers Stadium in Johannesburg.