Temba Bavuma became only the sixth ethnic black African to play Test cricket for South Africa ahead of the second Test against the West Indies starts at St George’s Park on Friday.
Bavuma, 24, was handed his cap by Herschelle Gibbs after a vacancy for another batsman was created by an injury to wicketkeeper-batsman Quinton de Kock, which led to AB de Villiers keeping wicket in Centurion, a role which he is set to continue.
In almost 23 years of Test cricket since a united cricket board was admitted to the International Cricket Council in 1991, cricket officials have been embarrassed by the scarcity of Test-quality players from South Africa’s largest racial group.
Fast bowler Makhaya Ntini, who took 390 wickets in 101 Tests, is the only black African to have held down a long-term place in the Test team.
Next best is Monde Zondeki, who played in six Tests, while Lonwabo Tsotsobe played in five and Mfuneko Ngam and Thami Tsolekile in three each. If Bavuma plays on Friday he will become the first black specialist batsman to make the grade.
At its annual meeting earlier this year, Cricket South Africa identified racial transformation as a high priority and all franchise teams were required to field at least two black Africans in all games.
Bavuma and fellow black African, fast bowler Kagiso Rabada, were included in the South African squad for the three-match series, largely in order to gain experience.
Neither was expected to play but while Rabada was released to play for his franchise during the first Test, Bavuma was kept on, effectively as 13th man. He fielded throughout both West Indian innings, held two catches and impressed with his liveliness around the field.
Cape Town-born Bavuma went to St Davids, a leading cricket school in Johannesburg, and played for South African Schools and South Africa Under-19 during the 2008/09 season.
He has made steady progress since making his first-class debut in the same season and has scored 3631 runs in first-class cricket at an average of 35.95.
His eight first-class centuries include a highest score of 162 for South Africa ‘A’ against Australia ‘A’ in Townsville in August this year.