Temba Bavuma says he tried to “stay in the moment” as he approached a long-awaited second Test century.
But he admitted that he could not entirely quell his emotions.
The Proteas captain’s 171* put his team in a strong position on the third day of the second Test against the West Indies at the Wanderers in Johannesburg on Friday.
A second innings total of 287-7 gave them an overall lead of 356.
Bavuma had to wait more than seven years to reach three figures for the second time.
“I tried to stay in the moment as much as I could,” he said. “But when I got to 96 or so the crowd’s energy started picking up in anticipation. My emotions also started picking up.”
He scored three singles to get to 99. Then came a delivery from Alzarri Joseph.
“I got a ball outside my stumps and went for it.”
The shot flew off the middle of his bat over cover and raced to the boundary.
A small crowd rose to give him a standing ovation.
After reaching three figures off 192 balls, Bavuma went on to 171 off another 83 deliveries. He hit 20 fours.
HIGHLIGHTS: Proteas vs West Indies (2nd Test, Day 3)
“It has been a long journey,” Bavuma told journalists. “There have been a lot more downs than ups. I keep learning about myself and try to take everything in my stride, to keep my chin up and stay true to myself.
“I’ve got a lot better understanding of myself and the pressures and challenges that come with international cricket.”
The 32-year-old made his first hundred in his seventh Test and his eighth innings in a high-scoring draw against England at Newlands in Cape Town in January 2016.
He played in another 48 Tests and batted in 88 more innings without repeating the feat despite hitting 19 half-centuries.
South Africa’s most reliable batsman over the past two years, Bavuma was appointed captain before the first Test against the West Indies – and was out for a ‘pair’.
He came in on Friday with his team in trouble at 8-2. He accumulated a 107-ball half-century while partners struggled and succumbed against good West Indian bowling.
Bavuma said the situation helped him take his mind off personal milestones.
“I have become accustomed to situations where I have to absorb the pressure, although I haven’t made the big scores. A hundred wasn’t the target. It came along the way. It helped a lot coming in in that position.”