John Nyumbu’s stunning Test debut was all the sweeter given he feared his opportunity to play international cricket would never come having also given up the chance to be a professional football player.
Yesterday’s five-wicket haul for Zimbabwe against the world’s number one side South Africa left the 29-year-old beaming and banished any rueful thoughts about a life in football.
Nyumbu recorded figures of five for 157, admittedly on a helpful Harare Sports Club pitch, and counted top batsmen Faf du Plessis, JP Duminy and AB de Villiers among his wickets in South Africa’s first innings of 397.
“It is such an honour for me to represent my country and I am just glad things have turned out well,” he told reporters after the third day’s play of the one-off Test.
It is puzzling why Nyumbu, once coached by Shane Warne’s mentor Terry Jenner, has had to wait so long for his international break having burst onto the scene over a decade ago as a teenager.
He did have problems with his action in the past and has also played his provincial cricket in Bulawayo where the wicket has traditionally been prepared for seam bowlers.
“It has been a rocky road for me, but it has culminated in the now and at times like this you don’t remember what has gone in the past, you live in the moment.
“My passion for the sport has kept me going, so many people had written me off. But I’m glad I held on and kept going because I have managed to get to this stage.”
Asked which was the favourite wicket of his five, a smiling Nyumbu was quick with his response.
“AB, it’s an honour to bowl to the best batsman in the world and an even greater honour to get him out,” he said.
Nyumbu received praise from Du Plessis, even after the Zimbabwean denied the South African a fourth Test century when he steered a delivery to backward short-leg when on 98.
“He bowled very well, he bowled a lot of overs and not many bad balls,” Du Plessis said. “When a guy comes in on debut, generally you get a lot more to hit. He deserved his five wickets.”