Bavuma reminds of understated Proteas worth

Temba Bavuma (Gallo)
Temba Bavuma (Gallo)

Cape Town - It is likely to prove a match-winning knock, and Temba Bavuma's 53 in South Africa's first innings of the Boxing Day Test was a timely reminder of how valuable he is in this new-look Proteas top order. 

With AB de Villiers now retired, Hashim Amla grossly out of form and Theunis de Bruyn still trying to find his feet on the international stage, there is an unmistakable frailty about the Proteas batting right now. 

That much was evident on Boxing Day when, after rolling Pakistan for 181, the hosts found themselves in a world of trouble at 43/4

That was when Bavuma confidently strode to the wicket. 

The 28-year-old very nearly missed the match with a hamstring strain, but skipper Faf du Plessis would have been relieved that it didn't come to that. 

Bavuma's absence would have meant a Test debut for young Zubayr Hamza and even more uncertainty. 

Instead, Bavuma set about compiling a 69-run partnership with De Bruyn for the fifth wicket that got South African heads above water once more and eventually to 223 all out.

Bavuma perished to a superb delivery from Shaheen Afrida on the second morning, out for a half-century that is unlikely to be spoken of too many times in the months and years to come. 

It was, however, a contribution that must be considered just as important as Duanne Olivier's match return of 11/96 should the Proteas get over the line. 

Bavuma was gutsy throughout.

He has unmovable balance, he defends intelligently and he has no problem putting away a poor delivery whether it is full, short, wide or too straight. 

It was a pity that Bavuma couldn't go on for longer, because the value of that innings was growing with each passing over. 

A look at Bavuma's Test career makes it easy to see why he polarises opinion to an extent.

This is his 32nd Test, and in that time he has scored one century that came back in 2016 in what was one of South African cricket's most memorable moments.

Thursday saw him reach his 12th Test 50, while he went into the match averaging 33.81.

Those numbers might suggest that Bavuma has struggled to kick on.

The knocks in Australia, Sri Lanka and at home against England and the Aussies, however, where Bavuma came in at difficult times and steadied the ship with a knock of 40, 50 or 60, are easily forgotten.

This 53 will fall into that category.

Over the last two days, Dale Steyn has become the greatest ever South African bowler in the format while Olivier has blasted his way onto the Test arena.

There is enough of an enthralling contest on the go to ensure that Bavuma's gritty effort will not dominate headlines anywhere.

The wicket has not made life easy for the batsmen in Pretoria. It is an issue that may rise up in the post-mortem of the Test.

But Bavuma showed that with a little bit of a head-up, shoulders-wide attitude, runs can be scored.

Hopefully, on Friday, he walks to the middle with a few more behind him.

*Follow @LloydBurnard on Twitter ...

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