Nonkululeko Mlaba (R) celebrates a wicket with Dane van Niekerk. © Getty Images

Nonkululeko Mlaba, South Africa’s left-arm spinner, expressed her happiness on being named as the Newcomer of the Year at the recently held Cricket South Africa awards.

“I am so proud of myself for this and it shows I have been working hard and that hard work does pay off,” Mlaba said. “It doesn’t mean I am going to stop working hard, it just encourages me to continue striving. But I am really happy and think I have done a good job to get here.”

20-year-old Mlaba was named the Newcomer of the Year for her promising performances during the 2019-20 season. She made her debut against India in September 2019, but her first international wicket came in the match against Thailand in the T20 World Cup in Australia, when she dismissed Sornnarin Tippoch.

Mlaba, who took three wickets at an impressive economy rate of 4.86 in the T20 World Cup, was instrumental in South Africa’s run during the tournament.

“The highlight for me I think was the T20 World Cup,” she said.

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“If I had to pick one game then maybe it was the one against Thailand where I opened the bowling and took one for four (in four overs). I also enjoyed playing against Pakistan, so those were some of my best games.”

Mlaba, who played nine T20Is so far, thanked everyone for helping her get through the period of self-doubt during the debut series in India. “The year went so quickly. It started out with me not being entirely sure if I can make it at the top level.”

“I had doubts about myself because of being so new, but then thanks to the support from everyone in the set-up my confidence grew. Mignon du Preez was especially good with me and that just helped me grow and flourish. At the end I am so happy to get here,” she added.

Laura Wolvaardt was the big winner at the Cricket South Africa awards winning Cricketer of the Year, ODI Player of the Year and Player’s Player of the Year. Other winners included Shabnim Ismail, who won the T20I Player of the Year and Mignon du Preez, who walked away with the Streetwise Award.