Hendricks steps up to next level
The South African think-tank's main concern is that up and coming bowlers are not learning how to take wickets on surfaces which require some back-bending, but Beuran Hendricks proved that is not always the case. The 23-year-old left-armer produced a match-winning 11-wicket haul against India A in Pretoria to ensure South Africa A levelled the two-match unofficial Test series and enhanced his own reputation ahead of the summer.
Hendricks was the joint-highest wicket-taker in the series along with Ishwar Pandey. His 11 wickets came at an average of 5.72, to take his winter tally to 17. He also claimed a five-for against Australia A earlier this month to end that series with six scalps, one behind Marchant de Lange.
After last season, in which Hendricks was the fifth-highest wicket-taker in the first-class competition with 35 wickets at 17.74, the signs are promising; he is steadily improving and readying himself for national honours. "The biggest change for me this winter was learning how to step-up to the next level," he told ESPNcricinfo. "It was all about adapting to the conditions and I was able to do that."
Hendricks' confidence is justified. South Africa's winter pitches are notoriously flat and offer little to the bowlers. Even though India A lost five for 18 on the fourth morning and a further five for seven later on, Paul Adams, Hendrick's coach at the Cobras, who was at the game, said the bowlers were challenged on a fairly unresponsive surface and Hendricks was one of the few who could make something happen. "He has a knack of being able to make something happen and he did that," Adams said.
Unlike his Cobras team-mate and mentor Vernon Philander, Hendricks relies on different skills. "He has got real pace, in the 140s, a lot of the time, and a fantastic ability to swing the ball," Adams said. "He also has the maturity to trust his instincts and said he was not tempted to bang it in too short to the India A batsmen but tried to 'concentrate on hitting the lengths'."
Bowling slightly fuller than usual and with generous inswing to the right-handers, he sliced through India A's top order and then returned to clean up the rest. "We had to be a lot more patient than we were in the first match in Rustenburg but that's what we did," he said. Hendricks was impressed with India's line-up and expects them to "put on a good show" when some of them return later in the summer.
He is unlikely to be part of the pack that bowls to them but will be honing his skills to do so in future. Adams said the upcoming season will be a "big test" for Hendricks, who will have "batsmen looking out for him". Adams believes Hendricks will have "gained valuable insight" from his time with the A squad and will return to the domestic circuit "realising what he has to do" to catch the national selectors' eyes.
Adams is also looking forward to Hendricks leading the attack for the Cobras. "Last season, he really grew when he played alongside Johann Louw and Charl Langeveldt and now he has a nice base from which to build." Having stayed injury-free thus far and with a real hunger, Hendricks will be one to watch in the future.
Firdose Moonda is ESPNcricinfo's South Africa correspondent