PRETORIA, (Reuters) – South African Stiaan van Zyl waited a long time for his test debut but made the most of the opportunity when it finally arrived with an unbeaten century on debut in the first test against West Indies on Thursday.
Usually a number three with provincial side the Cobras, Van Zyl came in at six for the Proteas and after a nervous start, showed his usual elegance as he struck boundaries both sides of the wicket on his way to 101 not out. In many ways the platform had been laid for him as a precarious position of 57 for three was turned into a dominant one of 365 for four after a record fourth-wicket partnership of 308 between Hashim Amla (208) and AB de Villiers (152) dug South Africa out of a hole before they declared on 552 for five. “Walking in at 380 for four is much easier than 50 for four,” Van Zyl told reporters after the day’s play was cut short by rain.
“All credit must go to Hash and AB. They allowed me to play freely.” The 27-year-old was a picture of nerves in his first few deliveries and might have been out first ball as he steered a delivery just short of the leg slip. He was also dropped on two in the same position.
“Before I faced my first ball my gloves were already wet,” he admitted. “I can’t describe it, but getting off that zero was such a crazy feeing.”
Striking a first boundary appeared to release the shackles and what followed was a rapid hundred in 129 balls with 15 mostly elegant fours as he became the fifth South Africa to score a century on debut.
“I said to myself to just get past 10. Then when I got to 50, I thought a hundred might be on,” he said.
Watched on by his parents, he said he felt the same comfort having them there as he had all throughout his cricketing life. “My mom and dad were here, two of my close friends as well. It’s great to know they’re here. I gave my mom and dad a kiss and a hug when I got off the bus this morning. Maybe that was my lucky charm,” said Van Zyl, in the side as a replacement for the injured JP Duminy.