It was double delight for three of East London’s most exciting cricket talents earlier this week as Akhona Mnyaka, Jason Niemand and Thando Ntini were included in the 15-man Coca-Cola South Africa U19 squad to take part in the ICC U19 World Cup in New Zealand next month.
This announcement came the day after all three players featured in the Youth One-Day International (ODI) triangular series final against England, which the SA team won by six wickets.
Hudson Park High School pupils Niemand and Mnyaka will be elated to have made the team, having missed the SA side’s mid-year tour against the West Indies before being recalled to the team for the tri-series against England and Namibia, where they impressed enough to make the final cut.
“I am pretty happy to have made the World Cup team. That is what everyone’s goal was and not all of the guys in the team for the tri-series was going to make it, so it was great when I was picked,” said Mnyaka.
“I am now really looking forward to it. This is one of the biggest moments in my career and hopefully we will be able to bring back the cup.
“I have grown up watching cricket being played in New Zealand and now I will be able to play there myself, so it’s like my dreams are coming true.”
Mnyaka played in four games during the tri-series, three against England and one against Namibia, with his best performances 2/70 and 1/39 with the ball in the two pool stage losses against England.
“I didn’t take as many wickets as I wanted to, but the conditions did not favour the bowlers so I feel I bowled quite well,” said Mnyaka.
“But I think it was very important for the team to win the tri-series final. We did not play very well in our group stage losses to England, but we always knew we were good enough to beat them and we showed that in the final.
“We can now take that confidence into the World Cup as we know we are good enough to beat the best U19 teams from around the world and win the cup.”
Niemand played in two games in the tri-series, against Namibia and then in the final against England, and impressed in both outings.
He claimed 2/23 with the ball against Namibia and was then the man-of-the-match in the final with his superb allround effort, picking up 3/52 and scoring an unbeaten 60 off 53 balls to lead the team to victory.
Ntini’s progression has been impressive, playing for the U19s in both of their most recent series against the West Indies and in the tri-series, and he is now heading to his first World Cup.
In the tri-series he played in three games – in the win over Namibia, the pool stage loss against England and in the final.
His best performance was the 3/27 he managed with the ball against Namibia.
The former Selborne College and now Wynberg student will be hoping to impress at the showpiece event and take another big step in following in his father Makhaya Ntini’s footsteps.
All three players will be in action in the 2017 Coca-Cola Khaya Majola week from Sunday, with Niemand and Mnyaka in the Border team and Ntini playing for Western Province.