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Breetzke to step up to the plate and open for Proteas in T20I series against India

Breetzke to step up to the plate and open for Proteas in T20I series against India
POTCHEFSTROOM, SOUTH AFRICA - DECEMBER 03: Jiveshen Pillay of South Africa and Matthew Breetzke of South Africa during the U/19 Tri Series match between South Africa and England at Senwes Park on December 03, 2017 in Potchefstroom, South Africa. (Photo by Sydney Seshibedi/Gallo Images/Getty Images)

Proteas head coach Rob Walter confirmed that Matthew Breetzke will open the batting across the T20I series against India. The impressive strokemaker is looking to lay down a marker.

The Proteas were scheduled to take on India on Sunday in the first match of an eight-game multiformat series, but rain forced its cancellation in Durban, leaving opening batter Matthew Breetzke to wait a little longer to show his worth.

Kingsmead Stadium in Durban would have been the perfect stage for Breetzke’s second T20I, having spent the last SA20 season representing Durban’s Super Giants.

It’s where the 25-year-old made his mark and was recognised by Proteas management for a spot in the national setup.

Match abandoned during the 1st KFC T20 International match between South Africa and India at Hollywoodbets Kingsmead Stadium on 10 December 2023 in Durban, South Africa. (Photo: Darren Stewart / Gallo Images)

Breetzke was impressive at the Super Giants last season. The dashing right-hander entered the tournament late for the languishing Durban outfit and had an immediate impact.

In his four innings, he struck 125 runs at a strike rate of 137.36 with a high score of 48.

“The experience was awesome,” Breetzke said before the series against India was scheduled to start. “With a tournament like the SA20 it almost gets you used to international cricket with the media and the crowds.

“Coming into the setup now, I feel a little bit more relaxed [compared with] if I had to have come in two or three years ago.”

Breetzke, who played a T20I match for the Proteas against West Indies earlier this year, joins a crop of young players selected by Rob Walter for the white-ball section of India’s visit.

Debutants Nandre Burger and Ottniel Baartman are joined by Breetzke and Donovan Ferreira, who each have one cap.

“All the guys that have been picked have put in good performances at domestic cricket,” Breetzke said. “From our side it’s business as usual coming in trying to win matches for whatever time I play for and especially now my country.”

Head coach Walter confirmed last week that the exciting young batter will open the batting throughout the T20I series alongside Reeza Hendricks.

“My first game, I got the last game of the series so only got one shot at it,” Breetzke said. “Hopefully I can get all the shots this time and it definitely frees me up to be the best I can be, so hopefully I can put in some good performances.”

Nandre Burger of Western Province during day 1 of the CSA 4 Day Domestic Series Division 1 match between Tuskers and Western Province at Pietermaritzburg Oval on 11 November 2023 in Pietermaritzburg, South Africa. (Photo: Darren Stewart / Gallo Images)

Taking the opportunity

Experienced wicketkeeper-batter Quinton de Kock, who recently retired from one-day international cricket, is expected to take the opening batter slot alongside Hendricks in future T20Is, when the Proteas are back to full strength.

De Kock was on the verge of retiring from international cricket completely – having signed for the Melbourne Renegades in Australia’s Big Bash League (BBL) – but Walter convinced him to continue playing T20I cricket while allowing him to go on the BBL stint in December.

Breetzke, who also often dons the gloves for his domestic side, the Warriors, therefore looks like the perfect like-for-like replacement.

He, however, does not see it that way. “I don’t really look at it like that,” Breetzke said. “I’m just grateful to be afforded the opportunity. I’m coming in here to win games for the team and hopefully I can do my best.

“I’ve been given the opportunity to play in the series and if I do well then hopefully the opportunities will keep coming but for now I’m just focused on the next game.”

Indian challenge

Breetzke acknowledged the challenge of playing a red-hot Indian side that recently beat Australia 4-1 in a home T20I series.

“I think they’re going to come out and play aggressive cricket which they do in the IPL [Indian Premier League],” he said.

“They also have a lot of new faces, so I’m just looking forward to challenging myself against the best in the world.

“I can’t wait. They’re one of the best teams in the world and for me to challenge my skills against them is a special opportunity.

Injury concerns

Fast bowler Lungi Ngidi has been ruled out of the three-match T20I series against India owing to a left lateral ankle sprain. 

The 27-year-old has been released from the squad and will return to his provincial team where he will undergo his rehabilitation with the Titans under the supervision of the Proteas medical team. 

Initially, he was expected to play in a round of four-day matches from 14–17 December in preparation for the two-match Test series, but his progress will instead be further assessed by the medical team. 

Western Province fast bowler Beuran Hendricks has been named as his replacement.

The first match between India and the Proteas will be bowled at 4pm on Sunday, 17 December, at Kingsmead. DM

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