Reblooming Proteas: Bavuma exposes selection bungle

Temba Bavuma (Gallo Images)
Temba Bavuma (Gallo Images)

Cape Town – So … would it be too much to expect a prolonged run for Temba Bavuma now in South Africa’s white-ball international plans? 

It is the very, very least he deserves. 

The preoccupation with his struggle to amass major, consistent Test runs – a concern not without validity, it is true – has been allowed for way too long to divert attention from his almost continual upward trajectory as a busy, resourceful top-order limited-overs batsman. 

That had been happening for some time at franchise level, seemingly with an apathetic response from national selection panels … yet on the rare occasions that he has been recognised for activity in the Proteas’ “greens” over a period of some three and a half years, statistics show that he has quite ceaselessly delivered for the cause. 

Bavuma’s mere third – inexplicably so – match for the ODI side against World Cup holders England at baking Newlands on Tuesday also marked almost undoubtedly his most commanding, polished innings in the format yet. 

His withering, always majestically entertaining second-wicket partnership of 173 in fewer than 30 overs with new captain Quinton de Kock was the cornerstone of the Proteas’ hugely welcome, unexpected thrashing of the tourists in the first of three clashes by seven wickets. 

While Bavuma fell an agonising two runs short of emulating his left-handed skipper’s century (De Kock’s 15th in ODIs, aiding his rise to 5,000 runs) the bigger picture by far was just how masterly they were virtually throughout the alliance against highly-touted foes on a challengingly slow, gripping surface. 

No more can you say (and it is an argument that had extremely dubious merit anyway) that the 29-year-old only gets runs against “rats and mice”. 

That theory is on the unfair grounds that his only two prior matches had seen him notch 113 on debut against Ireland at Benoni in September 2016 and then, after a wait of 13 months, 48 against Bangladesh in East London – both times as an opener, and in each instance at a healthy strike rate. 

Of course had he failed against either relative minnow nation, detractors would have chortled: “See? He can’t even get runs against them …” 

But the fact remains that he duly did everything that could have been expected of him – and criminally, it has taken a further two years and four months for Bavuma to get another crack in the ODI set-up. 

He currently sports 259 runs from those three knocks at an average of 86.33 and strike rate of a touch under 95. 

End of argument about the nippy little athlete’s credentials in the 50-overs landscape for his country? 

It should be, at least for a solid period ahead in which justice prevails and he is granted extended status somewhere within the top three in the order. 

Bavuma, his sharp fielding an additional asset in a group of SA shorter-format cricketers not all blessed with notable stealth about the park, must also be considered a shoe-in for the Twenty20 series that follows hot on the ODIs’ heels, and then on toward the ICC T20 World Cup later in the year in Australia. 

He made his T20 international debuts in successive matches in India a few months ago – not the easiest place to step up immediately – making 49 in Mohali and then an unbeaten 27 in Bengaluru. 

Really, then, we are still waiting for Bavuma’s first failure at the crease in white-ball combat for the Proteas. 

It is crazy that he has only played five SA fixtures to this point across the two formats. 

The eyes of the national team’s supposed masterminds, you might say, have been wide shut. 

Hopefully not anymore? 

*Follow our chief writer on Twitter: @RobHouwing 

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