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Australian youngster Harry Nielsen given emergency call to keep for South Africa in practice match

Quinton de Kock, despite scoring a century on Saturday, was down with a viral infection; reserve wicketkeeper Dane Vilas was yet to reach.

Harry Nielsen keeping for his grade side Woodville (left); in the South Africa team huddle (right)

Harry Nielsen, a 21-year-old cricketer born and bred in Australia, with no experience of first class cricket, kept wickets for South Africa during their two-day practice match against Cricket Australia XI. Regular wicketkeeper Quinton de Kock was suffering from a viral infection, and Dane Vilas is yet to reach Australia for South Africa’s tour of the country.

The match, which was played with the pink ball, ended on a good note for the visitors – 491 runs ahead in the second innings, having bowled out CA XI for 105 in the first. Nielsen took four catches to play his part in the South African domination, but did not have any inkling he would be playing his first match for an international side till the match had gotten underway.

On Saturday, Nielsen was playing for his grade side Woodville, when he received the most unusual emergency message – one that asked if he could pack his things and head to the Adelaide Oval and keep wickets for the touring South Africa side.

His father, Tim Nielsen had been a wicketkeeping legend for South Australia, most of his matches played at the same hallowed venue where he was called to. But for young Tim Nielsen, there was no time to prepare himself mentally to be keeping to Dale Steyn, Kagiso Rabada and Morne Morkel, he would simply have to jump into the battle.

Nielsen has played previously in a few Futures League matches for South Australia and had not faced any international bowler before. He had filled in for a Cricket Australia XI once before, in a practice match against India two years ago. 

On Sunday, Nielsen pouched four catches, the whole CA XI middle order being dismissed after edging to him. The first three catches were regulation, but the fourth was a top edge that flew off, and Nielsen had to run back and take.

Nielsen was made the centre of attention by the visiting team, often seen at the centre of huddles or conversing with seniors Hashim Amla or Faf du Plessis. Because this match had not been accorded first class status, Nielsen was not given a green South Africa cap. He does have the yellow South Africa training cap that is mandatory wear for practice matches to take back to add to his memorabilia.

South Africa will play a two-day practice match against South Australia with the red ball next week, before commencing on their Test series against Australia with the 1st match at the WACA.

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