• Bavuma the rock of SA’s batting lineup

    Temba Bavuma has been the subject of unfounded criticism from the public in recent months, with calls ringing around social media for him to be dropped. SACricketmag.com editor SIMON LEWIS analysed the Proteas batsman’s performances and arrived at a stunning conclusion.

    The Proteas team’s current slump is ENTIRELY as a result of their inconsistent (and complacent) batting, but what is perhaps relevant to point out is that five of the seven batsmen (including Wiaan Mulder, as he was selected as a batting all-rounder) in the Proteas batting line for the second Test against Sri Lanka at St George’s Park are players of no colour.

    I mean, ‘white’ players.

    Half of the current bowling attack is white (actually, 3/5ths, if you include batting all-rounder Wiaan Mulder) so, really, the quota discussion has no place in the narrative surrounding South Africa’s atrocious performances with the bat against Sri Lanka.

    But let’s focus on Temba Bavuma for a moment. He is copping a lot of flack for the Proteas’ failures with the bat, but anyone who is thinking about making negative comments about Bavuma should perhaps hold off on sharing those opinions (in written or oral form) until they have looked through the stats below.

    Firstly, everywhere I look I read that Bavuma ‘should be one of the first players to face the ax’. ‘His average is shocking.’ ‘He’s a quota.’ ‘Only one Test century.’ Those are the common calls on social media.

    Temba Bavuma

    His average in Tests is currently just 33.00, which isn’t great by any means. However, Jonty Rhodes’ average wasn’t great either (35.66), but he wasn’t someone who played for his average. Jonty scored runs when his side needed it, like at Sydney in 1993/94, when his 76 not out setup one of South Africa’s greatest ever victories.

    Bavuma isn’t a heavy scorer, but partly that is because he usually bats at six, so he either runs out of time because there is a declaration in mind or he is left struggling with the tail to try and scrape some final runs together. That’s who he is as a batsman, so it’s not an excuse for his lack of centuries but, hopefully, it might help to better define his role in the side.

    Like Rhodes, Bavuma’s contributions need to be looked at in the context of the match.

    1. In the second innings at Colombo in July 2018, Bavuma scored a brave 63 off 98 balls as he and Theunis de Bruyn came together with the score on 113-5, adding 123 runs for the sixth wicket in a brave bid to chase down a target of 490 runs after the Proteas top order had failed twice in the Test against Sri Lanka.
    2. In the first Test against Pakistan in Centurion, Bavuma top-scored with 53 off 87 balls to rescue the Proteas from a position of 43-4. He scored 13 not out in the second innings.
    3. In the second Test at Newlands, Bavuma scored a superb 75 off 162 balls, his only failing being not converting his great start into a century – that was his loss more than the team’s loss. He didn’t bat in the second innings.
    4. In the third Test at the Wanderers he scored 8 and 23.
    5. In the first Test against Sri Lanka at Kingsmead, he was pushed up to number four in the order as the selectors had picked five specialist bowlers, and he scored a plucky 47 off 66 balls before he was freakishly run out while backing up (no error on his part). He had helped Faf du Plessis rescue the Proteas from another top-order collapse that saw them reduced to 17-3 inside 8 overs. In the second inning he scored 3.
    6. In the second Test, he was run out for a duck in the first innings; he set off too quickly for a single after Markram hit a shot straight to mid-on, Bavuma turned quickly to make his ground but was unlucky to be beaten by a sharp, direct hit. In the second innings, he scored 6 as the Proteas were bowled out for 128.

    In his last 10 Test innings, Bavuma has played four crucial knocks, been not out on 13 once, scored a 23 and made four single-digit scores. That’s a decent return for most Test batsmen, with his only failing being not converting any scores into centuries, but he has certainly been one of the top two contributors with the bat for the Proteas.

    Temba Bavuma and Faf du Plessis

    He will need to start scoring centuries if he wants to quieten the doubters on social media, although he is doing a perfectly good job for the team as he is … and yet there is a constant buzz around him that he should be dropped.

    Temba’s technique and temperament suggest that he is best to be utilised as a number six batsman, and the stats back this up. In his last nine innings for the Proteas at number six or seven (one innings) he has scored 376 runs at an average of 62.66. Those are not the stats of a quota player.

    (in chosen batting spots)

    Temba Bavuma 376 runs 62.66 average
    Quinton de Kock 481 runs 53.44 average
    Faf du Plessis 313 runs 39.13 average
    Hashim Amla 252 runs 36.00 average
    Aiden Markram 318 runs 35.33 average
    Dean Elgar 147 runs 18.37 average

    If you add Bavuma’s last four innings against Sri Lanka (in which he batted at number four in the innings, hence not included in the table above), his runs total rises to 432 but at a lower average of 43.2. That reduced average is, however, still higher than all of his team-mates, aside from Quinton de Kock.

    Oh, and don’t forget that two of his last four innings have been run out, both very unlucky, so if you like to read between the stats then the picture of Temba Bavuma as a batsman should hopefully become a whole lot rosier.

    Photo:  Tharaka Basnayaka/NurPhoto via Getty Images

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    Simon Lewis