Stiaan van Zyl
September 19, 1987, Cape Town
Left hand bat
Right arm medium
Stiaan van Zyl abandoned his South Africa ambitions to sign a Kolpak contract with Sussex in 2017, part of an outpouring of South Afrixans into county cricket as the UK's vote to leave the European Union brought fears among players and agents that the pathway might soon be closed.
Van Zyl's last of Tests came against New Zealand in August 2016, the highlight being his unbeaten century on debut in 2014, as South Africa beat the West Indies by an innings at Centurion. He joined Sussex at 29, with almost 8,000 first-class runs to his name at 42.55.
A left-hander with a classic cover drive, van Zyl was not always an elegant top-order batsman. At primary school, he fancied himself as a quick bowler but later chose batting over a bucolic life in the Boland, where he was educated at the rugby-mad agricultural high school, Boland Landbou. He made his first-class debut at 19.
Van Zyl averaged over 50 for the Cobras in the summer of 2007-08 but it was not until two seasons later that he arrived in the top-ten run-scorers in the first-class game. In 2009-10, van Zyl was sixth with an average of 58.00 and was rewarded with a call-up to the South African A side to tour Bangladesh and Sri Lanka. By then, he had also developed as a handy medium pacer.
He remained a regular in the national reserves but it was not until the 2012-13 season, when he finished second on the domestic competition run-scorers' list, that he was spoken of a possibility for the senior side. With a batting line-up that included top-order heavyweights like Graeme Smith, Jacques Kallis and Hashim Amla, it became difficult for van Zyl to get a look in.
But both Smith and Kallis retired in the summer of 2013-14 and van Zyl topped the run-charts, which made him possible to ignore. He travelled with the Test squad to Sri Lanka and Zimbabwe in the winter of 2014 but did not get a game before making his spectacular Test debut , becoming the 100th batsman to score a century on Test debut.
After his abrupt international retirement, his Twitter feed continued to state "Proudly South African" but it was Sussex where his career took him, his most significant Championship innings in his first season being his 166 not out against Leicestershire at the Arundel Festival. A knee injury curtailed his involvement in 2018, though he returned to top Sussex's run-scoring charts the following year, including a 173 against Middlesex at Lord's.
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