Khaya Zondo ends eight-year wait for a double-century

Dolphins batter still confident of making the step up to international level after a stunning start to the season

Firdose Moonda
Firdose Moonda
Khaya Zondo celebrates his maiden double-century  •  Cricket South Africa

Khaya Zondo celebrates his maiden double-century  •  Cricket South Africa

It was third time lucky for Khaya Zondo, who "missed" two previous opportunities to score a first-class double-hundred but celebrated 203* for the Dolphins against Western Province in the season-opening round of red-ball cricket.
Zondo's previous best of 175 came eight summers ago against Griqualand-West. Since then, he notched 157 in the 2016-17 season and four other centuries, all under 150. So this double-ton was a long time coming.
"I missed out on a few opportunities in the past but this time the chance was there and I was able to take it," Zondo told ESPNcrininfo. "It's one of my goals for the season achieved."
His runs could not beat the rain, which ultimately resulted in a draw for the Dolphins, though they were in the perfect position to close the match out on the final afternoon. Western Province trailed by 34 runs with just three wickets in hand after three days so the Dolphins only had the mopping up to do on the fourth but persistent, unseasonal showers in Cape Town meant only 4.4 overs were possible.
Instead, the story was Zondo, who has been in the headlines because of testimony given at the Social Justice and Nation-Building Hearings (SJN), where several witnesses have said that not picking him for South Africa's fifth ODI against India on the 2015 tour was a mistake. Zondo himself spoke about the mental health impact the incident had on him and now plays with a slightly different technique and a much-matured mindset.
"I was 25 then and I am 31 now, so I've gained six years experience and in that time, you go through so many situations," he said. "One thing I have looked at technically is keeping my head in a very solid position. And mentally, I just want to make the most of every opportunity. In each game, I want to make sure I grow. Every ball I face is an opportunity to learn. I also want to be present for every moment because you don't want to miss a moment. Someone told me, you only have to concentrate for half-a-second at a time and all those small moments make up the day."
Zondo's innings was made up of 54,600 half-seconds, as he spent 455 minutes at the crease crafting his double-hundred. The bulk of it was scored on the second day, which he went into on 29 not out. A further 174 runs came in 68.4 overs, most of them against the second new-ball. "They had eight overs with the old ball on the second morning. Jason (Smith) and I thought that if we could get through that then by the time the new ball comes, and if we'd added about 40 or 50 runs, we'd have equipped ourselves to deal with it and wouldn't be in such a vulnerable position," Zondo said. "When the new ball came, we found we could play freely. We also didn't have to overhit it to get to the boundary."
He struck 26 fours and two sixes in his innings and no-one, not even Wayne Parnell, was spared. Zondo hasn't come up against Parnell for almost as many years - eight - as his last attempt to reach a double ton and recognised him as the main weapon in Western Province's attack. "I haven't faced Wayne Parnell for quite a long time. He was definitely their toughest bowler and bowled especially well on the first evening," Zondo said. Parnell, who has returned from a Kolpak deal, finished with figures of 1 for 100.
Zondo celebrated his double-hundred by taking a knee, a gesture that has been much-talked about in South African cricket, especially over the last week. "I thought it was nice to take a stance against discrimination and because I am a sportsperson, it's mostly a stance against discrimination in sports," he said. "I wanted to show support for my fellow athletes and people around the world. I feel like it's something that we in South Africa can work on and I felt it was the right thing to do."
With Zondo's non-selection at national level the subject of scrutiny at the same time he's back among the runs again, does he still harbour ambitions of a South Africa call-up? Of course he does. "I'd like to think the door is open to me and that if I am performing, they would select me," he said. "At the time, being left out hit me hard but I am still here, still playing and trying to improve."

In other results:

Division One:
  • Duanne Olivier, Lutho Sipamla and Malusi Siboto took 17 wickets between them as the Lions opened their campaign with an innings and 72-run victory over North West. The Lions bowled North West out for 159, then took a 249-run lead, thanks largely to Ryan Rickleton's 159 before dismissing North West for 177 to win inside three days.
  • Marco Jansen starred in a thriller between the Titans and the Warriors at SuperSport Park, which the Warriors won by 1 wicket. In a see-saw match which started with the Titans shot out for 134, the Warriors took a 124-run first-innings lead before being set 236 to win. They were 180 for 7 at one point before half-centuries from Lesibe Ngoepe and Jansen, batting at No.7 and 8 respectively, put them on the brink of victory. The tail completed the job.
  • Pite van Biljon's 137 was met by Janneman Malan's double and Ferisco Adams' 127 in a high-scoring draw between the Knights and Boland. After the first day was washed out, Hardus Viljoen took 4 for 62 as the Knights were bowled out for 320. Boland took the lead and declared on 520 for 9 and had the Knights 143 for 2 when play was stopped.
Division Two
  • Kwa-Zulu Natal Inland bowled Easterns out for under 225 in each of their innings to earn an innings and 109-run win. Luke Schlemmer's 153 and Andile Mokgakane's 98 allowed KZN-Inland to declare their first innings closed on 440 for 6. They bowled Easterns out for 107, asked them to follow-on and then dismissed them for 224 to ensure that even a full day lost to rain could not stop them closing out the game. Keith Dudgeon took 7 for 57 in the match.
  • Border did their best to make a game out of it but did not have enough time to beat Limpopo, who needed 353 runs and had nine wickets in hand when stumps were drawn. Marco Marais' 146 took Border to 392 in their first innings before Thomas Kaber took 6 for 75 as Limpopo were bowled out for 192. Border declared on 190 for 3 in their second innings, setting Limpopo 391 to win. Limpopo were 377 for 8, 14 runs adrift of the target, at stumps.

Firdose Moonda is ESPNcricinfo's South Africa correspondent