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banner Friday, 22 February, 2002, 17:39 GMT
Prince holds court for SA
Prince plays a cover drive against Australia
Prince: A combination of style and sound temperament
The South African selectors have given batsman Ashwell Prince his first Test cap after earmarking him as a player of immense natural ability. Marcus Prior reports for BBC Sport Online.

Make no mistake, Ashwell Prince is one of South Africa's brightest young batting talents.

It is no surprise that the 24 year-old from Port Elizabeth was chosen to make his debut in the first Test against Australia at the Wanderers after Justin Ontong was forced to pull out with a hamstring injury.

However, given the current quota debate in South Africa, there was another whiff of political interference in his selection - the black left-handed batsman being preferred to two white players, Graeme Smith and Jacques Rudolph.

He has something very special indeed
Mike Procter on Prince

Smith especially must have thought he was at the front of the queue, having been named 12th man for the Test before Prince was called up to reinforce the squad.

The selection of Prince almost certainly had political undertones, but despite the fact that he has played just one first-class game this season due to a shoulder injury, it is as much as anything the nature of the opponents and his performance in that single game which forced his name onto the team sheet.

In short, Prince put his hand up with perfect timing, scoring a fluent 92 for South Africa A against the Australians earlier in the week.

Crucially, both Smith and Rudolph failed as the South Africans were dismissed for just 190 in their only innings.

Such are the slings and arrows of sporting fortune, although of course it does no harm to the transformation cause to have three black players in the starting eleven.

Ashwell Prince
Prince: Hoping to cement a regular place

Prince has a substantial pedigree. He was marked out from a young age as a player of sublime natural talent.

That promise began to be fulfilled last year when he was named the player of the season at Western Province, seeing off competition from the likes of former Zimbabwe international Neil Johnson and his captain HD Ackerman as he averaged over 50 in both the domestic first-class and one-day competitions.

Prince's selection has been welcomed as "a stroke of genius" by former South African all-rounder, Mike Procter, who first saw him bat for South Africa 'A' in the West Indies two years ago.

Prince's provincial coach, Eric Simons, has no doubts that he has what it takes.

"Last season he matured incredibly as a player and certainly showed signs he was going to end up in the national side - I never had any doubt about that," Simons told BBC Online.

  Ashwell Prince factfile
Born 28.5.77, Port Elizabeth
First-class debut Eastern Province B v Griqualand West 1995-96
Played for South Africa U19s and South Africa A
First-class record: 2,886 runs at an average of 37.48, five 100s, 17 50s

"Technically he's a good player - there's nothing wrong with the way he plays.

"He used to get his hands too far in front of his body and his shot selection was questionable. But he's improved enormously over the last few years and mentally he's very strong - he'll be an asset to the side in that sense.

"He's a bit like Jacques (Kallis) in that way - he won't be upset by anything that's said to him and he won't be intimidated by people, by names or by reputations. He's not going to let himself down in that area," Simons said.

That, since it is almost universally accepted that South Africa were psychologically browbeaten into their 3-0 series drubbing in Australia last month, is about as decent a recommendation as there could be.

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