EP speedster’s sights set on Africa T20 Cup

STRONGER PLAYER: Eastern Province’s Solo Nqweni will be in action in the Africa T20 Cup semifinal against Zimbabwe on Friday. Picture: GALLO IMAGES
STRONGER PLAYER: Eastern Province’s Solo Nqweni will be in action in the
Africa T20 Cup semifinal against Zimbabwe on Friday.

Nqweni determined to push for higher honours after comeback

Eastern Province have set their sights on bringing home the bacon for cricket fans in the region, says fast bowler Solo Nqweni.

EP swept away challenges from Gauteng, KwaZulu-Natal and Boland at the weekend to qualify for the semifinals of the Africa T20 Cup in Oudtshoorn on Friday.

They play Zimbabwe in the first semifinal at the Recreation Ground at 9.45am and the second will be contested by Northern Cape and North West at 1.30pm.

The 22-year-old Nqweni, who has overcome bowling action adversity in his short career, said EP would be up for the task after consummate performances in their three pool games.

“We executed our skills and plans well and it’s only just reward that we are playing in the playof fs,” he said.

“Maybe things will go our way and we rock up and do the same thing. “We definitely want to bring something back to the people of the Eastern Cape. It’s been a while since we’ve brought some silverware back.”

“I’ve definitely got some butterflies in the tummy but it’s a challenge I’m looking forward to,” Nqweni said.

The former Grey High star has Cricket South Africa’s backroom structures and a fighting spirit to thank for the fact that he is playing cricket again.

In December 2012, CSA announced that Nqweni was banned from bowling after having been found to have a suspect action.

He was allowed back in the fold the following year and on Sunday he continued with his impressive comeback by taking 3/16 in the pool-deciding victory over KwaZulu-Natal.

“I’ve been playing for the EP team for five years now. I had a setback. I had to work on my action again. So it’s kind of like I rebuilt myself. I really want to push for higher honours going into this season and the next,” Nqweni said.

“I’m a good age now and I’m in a good mental space, so hopefully things work out for me.”

He said he had battled inner demons while serving out the ban.

“It was really tough. I was out of cricket for a whole year watching my boys carry on with their careers. I went through a spell of depression,” Nqweni said.

“But I spoke to a guy named Tim Goodenough [sports psychologist] who works with the cricketers around the country, and he really helped me build my mental strength. “It helped me overcome my challenge and become a stronger player mentally.”

Nqweni said his new action meant he could not bowl as quick as the wind any more, but now relied on variation in his deliveries to pick up wickets.

“Back in the day when I was playing for the South Africa U19s I had a lot of pace. I used to come in and bowl bouncers and nick the guys off. But I’ve had to reinvent myself into a different player,” he said.

“I didn’t want this thing to defeat me and Tim Goodenough actually said to me ‘the guys that have been banned before – the Muralitharans, your Ajmals and your Bothas – would you not want to put your name up there with those guys’.”

“So you know what, challenge accepted and here I am now and hopefully this continues.”

Both the semifinals and Saturday’s final will be to be televised live on SuperSport.

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