Temba Bavuma continues to score runs when his side needs it most.
It’s been an inconsistent start to Bavuma’s Test career, and one Test century from 29 innings isn’t particularly encouraging reading. But when he does score runs, they always come at critical times for the Proteas.
Bavuma walked to the crease at 79-5, which signalled the first time the top six of a Proteas batting lineup had failed to score more than 25 in a Test innings against New Zealand. His 160-run stand with Quinton de Kock was counterattacking cricket at its very best, and it’s certainly not the first time they’ve done that.
Their 71-run partnership in the first Test against Australia in Perth, and then their 142-run stand in the second Test in Hobart, were both central to the Proteas winning the series Down Under last year.
It says a lot about the way Bavuma plays his game. He refused to let his form, or the advantage the New Zealanders had, get in the way how he approached his game on day two at the Basin reserve.
While he didn’t need to change the way he played, it did take a mental shift to be able to get out of the precarious situation the Proteas were in, and it was an attitude that was lacking from the New Zealanders in their first innings. Henry Nicholls was the only player to shrug off the situation they were in, as the rest of the middle- and lower-order went out to needless shots.
Of the seven times Bavuma has passed fifty in Tests, his century, ironically, was the only occasion where his side didn’t ‘need’ him to perform, as a Hashim Amla double century meant he only needed to walk in at 439-4.
From batting through the innings for his maiden fifty against Bangladesh in July 2015, to helping set up victory for his side in the fourth Test against England last year, these are the scores the Proteas have been on when he’s come to the crease to get his half-centuries, as well as his two 40s against New Zealand last year:
– 136-3 vs Bangladesh
– 106-4 vs England
– 106-4 vs New Zealand
– 47-4 vs New Zealand
– 32-4 vs Australia
– 76-4 vs Australia
– 148-4 vs New Zealand
– 59-4 vs New Zealand
Quinton de Kock has more than played his part in making the Proteas one of the most effective middle-lower orders in Test match cricket. In fact, if you take a look at wicketkeepers’ batting averages in Tests since 2012, South Africa average 51.2, which is over 11 more runs than any other side.
It doesn’t say much for the top order at the moment, with Stephen Cook, Hashim Amla and JP Duminy all battling to score runs consistently. But at least the Proteas have an escape route, and it comes in the form of Bavuma and De Kock.
Of course, Bavuma went into this match with an average of 30. The more matches he plays, the more the spotlight will be on him to score big, and score consistently. But there’s no doubting the value he’s added when his side needs it most.
Photo: Marty Melville/Getty Images