Test rookie’s 54 gets SA out of dwang
TEMBA Bavuma is a serious young man. And a good thing, too, because he needed all the reserves of that admirable quality to dig South Africa out of the dwang in Chittagong yesterday.
Not that being dismissed for 248 inside the first day of a test series is what cricket’s top team would consider a respectable performance – especially as Bangladesh are second from bottom in the rankings, and considering South Africa were 104-1 at lunch.
But without Bavuma and his 54, a maiden half-century in his third test innings, South Africa would have veered far closer to ignominy than they did. Instead, they were merely mediocre.
“When we had the opportunity to get more momentum into our game, we lost it,” Bavuma said. “Mentally we were a bit weak.”
South Africa began to lose their way in a second session in which just two wickets went down, but only 61 runs were scored.
Eleven of the 29 overs bowled were maidens, six of them consecutively by Mohammad Shahid – who conceded nine runs in his first over, but hit the showers with 0-34 off 17 overs and had Vernon Philander and Bavuma dropped at slip after tea.
The pressure told in the third over of the third session, when Hashim Amla pushed forward with hard hands and edged to become debutant Mustafizur Rahman’s maiden test wicket.
The left-arm sensation snuck his next ball past JP Duminy’s pad to trap him in front. Two deliveries later Quinton de Kock’s bad dream continued when Mustafizur launched his off-stump into the outfield.
Three wickets for no runs in the space of four balls reduced South Africa, who had gone to tea on 165-3, to 173-6.
“That’s where the momentum swung in their favour; from that point they nailed it down,” Bavuma said. “That spell was world class.” He should know, having taken guard in the 10th over before tea and hung tough through seven partnerships before holing out in the deep to end the innings and complete Mustafizur’s haul of 4-37.
It is the way of modern cricket that the better performers are asked to explain their team’s failures, but there was no hiding Bavuma’s light under that bushel yesterday.
Wearing a beard that looked bigger than he is and wielding a blade apparently taller than his 1.61 metres, he batted with beautiful balance between front and back foot and showed attacking intent that was as sound as it was refreshing.
Bavuma played sturdily and crisply to score all around the wicket. Nobody is AB de Villiers, the absent imminent father whose place in the order Bavuma inherited.
But, yesterday, when Dean Elgar, Stiaan van Zyl and Faf du Plessis all did the hard yards to reach 30 and yet did not see 50, no player could have been more valuable to South Africa’s cause than Bavuma.
More of his approach will be needed today when Bangladesh resume on 7-0 on a pitch that will be even flatter than it was yesterday.
“We’ll be trying to keep the runrate as low as possible,” Bavuma said. “Patience is the big thing. We’re not just going to bowl them over.”