The little man proves his worth yet again….
Temba Bavuma nudges the ball to square leg, takes a single and moves to 95.
The camera immediately pans on his father and head coach Ottis Gibson, both seem nervous at the same time excited.
Pat Cummins to Keshav Maharaj – short and wide delivery, Maharaj tried to smash it but only got a faint edge before Tim Paine behind the wickets did the rest.
While Maharaj received a standing ovation for the entertainment he provided the Newlands crowd with his knock of 45 of 51 balls, there was also the fear of watching Bavuma stranded on the 90s if the next batsman did not play along. It was the final wicket and it was Morne Morkel, who was playing his final international match. He entered the field as all the Australians stood at one side and applauded the cricketer who has served South Africa for 12 long years playing 246 matches for South Africa.
If you have to pick a current South African player who just struggles to bat, it will undoubtedly be Morkel. Which is why he being on strike was scary for Bavuma, who was on 95, on the other end, and all he wanted from Morkel was a single. Sadly, the destiny had other plans.
Morkel in an attempt to defend the ball from Pat Cummins got a thick edge and a diving Peter Handscomb at the second slip took a great catch.
While it was a relief for Australia, bundling South Africa out for 488, Bavuma was left stranded on 95. But, the man who was the most disappointed was Morkel. He slammed his bat on the ground and yelled a few words out of frustration. Thankfully, those words didn’t come out looking at an opposition player or else, Morkel would have found himself being charged with violation of code of conduct on his final match.
By watching that, Bavuma, admitted, “Morne is very disappointed. He did throw some profanities. I kind of felt for him and it took away the disappointment that I had. You almost had to give him the shoulder to cry on.”
Regardless, it was a great chance for Bavuma to register his second Test hundred. But, he knew that more than anyone else, he had to blame himself for missing out on the golden chance. “I can only look at myself and look back at my innings and maybe there were opportunities that I let go that I could have turned into a 100.” At stumps of Day 1, Bavuma was unbeaten on 25. Going into the second day, Bavuma scored only one run in the first hour and spent 34 balls on 26.
That had two angles to it; one, it was a great sight to watch a young Bavuma absorb pressure at tricky situations. In Port Elizabeth, the likes of Dean Elgar and Hashim Amla scored only 46 runs in 23 overs. It is a known thing about Wanderers is that early in the morning session, it is difficult for the batsman to score runs easily more because the ball swings a lot. Hence, Bavuma wanted to settle down a bit, tire the bowlers and then wanted to go after them and that’s exactly what he did. Bavuma scored 35 runs in the second hour and it got better with every over. Although, he should have been out when he was on 61, but Joe Burns dropped him at short leg.
With the second life, Bavuma should have converted those double figures into triple and more than that, he was desperate to do so. “Everyone wants to get a hundred, especially me.” Bavuma has not managed to secure his place in the Test side mostly because he has struggled to convert his starts into something big. From 29 Tests, he has only one Test hundred to his name. He played every Test until AB de Villiers was away. But, ever since the veteran has returned, Bavuma has been on and off the playing XI. Whenever South Africa have decided to go with just five specialist batsmen, Bavuma has found himself on the bench.
The four-day Test against Zimbabwe last December was Bavuma’s last appearance in the whites before his return last month. This year, he has played only one franchise game – a List A match for the Cobras – where he opened the batting, scored 65 and then broke his hand, making himself unavailable for the India series. Even when he returned for the selection, he was ignored for Theunis de Bruyn, for the first two Tests against Australia. However, de Bruyn, who has a good First-Class average of 40-plus, failed to replicate the same performance on the highest level. He batted at No. 6 in the first two Tests, the place where batsmen face a bulk of reverse-swing and the batsman was undone by it three out of the four times he batted.
So, that forced the selectors to go with Bavuma, who had more experience than de Bruyn. However, Bavuma had played only one List A game and no First-Class matches before his return. And that was reflected at Cape Town. He was dismissed for 1 and 5, on both the occasions he was caught at second slip showing he was clearly out of practice. Despite the fear of Bavuma would be exposed further at the Wanderers, he still was picked for the final Test. However, the little man turned tables around in Johannesburg and how.
His first innings at Wanderers showed most of his runs were scored on the offside, mostly through his elegant drives. But, South Africa will need the 27-year-old batsman to widen his game more by increasing his scoring options. He might not be the best batsman in the team but he has always stepped up at tricky situations and all they need from his right now is consistency and better his knack of converting his starts into big knocks.