Being elevated up the Proteas batting lineup to fill AB’s shoes is no easy task, writes SIMON LEWIS.
For Temba Bavuma, the chance to cement his position as South Africa’s No 4 batsman is upon him in Sri Lanka.
Bavuma’s record against India (ave 28.00) and Sri Lanka (ave after first Test 5.71) is poor, and the social media chatter around him is constantly hot to the touch, but most arguments seem to be based along socio-political rather than statistical lines. This is surprising, as he’s done well against the better sides such as England (ave 38.84) and Australia (ave 42.57), so there really cannot be an argument against his ability at this early stage of his career.
If anything, what it boils down to is faith in his future, firstly from the selectors but, equally, from the fans. Remember Jacques Kallis, AB de Villiers and Hashim Amla’s Test starts? We’ll come back to those later.
In the first innings against Sri Lanka, Bavuma went to the wicket with the Proteas on 13-3, with the in-form Dean Elgar and Aiden Markram back in the hut. This was Bavuma’s moment to shine and things started well as he added 27 with Amla before ‘the great one’ got a faint edge to a big turner from Dilruwan Perera.
Test cricket is all about patience, so it surprised me how, with the score on 40-4, Bavuma and captain Faf du Plessis seemed intent on hitting across the line and pushing the score along briskly.
Bavuma was sweeping well and looked every bit the class Test batsman he already is… but then he threw his wicket away with a poor hoik across the line and was bowled. Don’t throw the book at him, though, as AB, JK, HA, FdP, BL, ST and others have all done the same. I think even KW once played a rash stroke to lose his wicket.
After their first innings fiasco, South Africa needed a mammoth effort to win that first Test as, with three days left to play, there would be no draw. That required the Proteas’ five specialist batsmen to pull their weight. They didn’t and again Bavuma was cast in a match-saving role, which proved too much, as it did for all the batsmen.
Bavuma has form on his side, having scored 463 runs (ave 42.0) in his last 14 Test innings before this match. That’s just a breath away from ‘big-scoring’ Aiden Markram (615 at 43.9) and Dean Elgar (548 at 45.7), while Faf has scored just 345 (ave 26.5) and Hash 411 (ave 29.4).
There’s simply no reason to brand Bavuma with the Q-stamp.
Bavuma also has form on his side, having scored 463 runs (ave 42.0) in his last 14 Test innings. There’s simply no reason to brand him with the Q-stamp.
Want to compare apples with Proteas? Hashim’s first 47 Test innings brought him 1,706 runs at an average of 38.7, Jacques Kallis scored 1,694 at 40.3, and AB 1,713 runs at 37.2.
After 47 Test innings, Bavuma is on 1,412 Test runs (ave 34.43), but he has batted mostly at No 6, which is not conducive to building big innings on a regular basis. He has his chance now, so it’s time for him to bat with greater patience in order to fulfil his potential.
Hopefully, the public can support him with the same patience they reserved for Jacques, Hashim and AB.
Recent form of South Africa’s Test batsmen (as at end of first innings of first Test v Sri Lanka)
|Faf du Plessis||Temba Bavuma||Aiden Markram||Hashim Amla||Dean Elgar|
|345 runs||463 runs||615 runs||411 runs||548 runs|
|Ave 26.5||Ave 42.0||Ave 43.9||Ave 29.4||Ave 45.7|
Photos: Lakruwan Wanniarachchi/AFP/Getty Images