Temba Bavuma’s performances in the Test series against Pakistan prove why he is a crucial cog in the Proteas’ batting unit, writes KHALID MOHDIN.
Bavuma is the perfect example of a selection driven by the cliche statement ‘stats are just numbers’. The 28-year-old averages only 35.41 in Test cricket, with 13 half-centuries and only one ton to his name, but he still remains a favourite among selectors, his peers and his coach.
This was revealed in his captain Faf du Plessis’ comments about him after their 156-run partnership helped the Proteas take a solid lead on day two of the second Test.
‘Temba will be the first guy to tell you over his career he has got a few opportunities where he could have gone on to score 100s where the wickets were good enough to cash in‚’ said Du Plessis. ‘He’s a very motivated cricketer. That is the progress he wants to make to become a better player.’
The series against Pakistan proved why. Bavuma continuously shows character, fight and grit, all of which are invaluable traits to have as a Test cricketer. These are attributes that can’t be measured, and they prove why he is so essential to the Proteas’ batting unit.
This was reiterated in the first two Tests of the Pakistan series. The pitches in the series were favourably prepared for seam bowlers, and with both the Proteas and Pakistan boasting dangerous seam attacks, the ball clearly dominated in both the first and second Test.
Heavy bounce, inconsistent trajectories and deviations off cracks were a constant, and as a result, many batsmen on both sides received hefty blows and struggled to score freely.
Bavuma, however, took the body blows and continued to battle for every run. He scored two crucial half-centuries and proved to be a stalwart for his side, twice dragging the Proteas out of potentially troublesome situations in the first two Tests. This is something that he has become known for in Test cricket.
Critics will climb in and say that he doesn’t score enough centuries or that he doesn’t score consistently enough, but cricket is not only about individual milestones, it’s also about sacrifice and fighting for the benefit of the team, especially when it comes to playing a supporting role in crucial partnerships that have saved the Proteas from humiliation.
Aside from his match-defining 156-run partnership with Du Plessis, Bavuma has been a part of nine-century partnerships and 11 half-century partnerships during his 33-match Test career.
Quinton de Kock and Bavuma have strung together 790 runs in 18 partnerships. These include three half-centuries and two big century partnerships, 144 against Australia and 166 against New Zealand. Both times, these partnerships dragged the Proteas out of a hole.
However, no one knows him better than his skipper, who has shared 24 innings with him and racked up 793 runs, two centuries and three half-centuries. His analysis of Bavuma proves that there is no doubt about his benefit to the side.
‘In terms of the value of the runs he has scored for us as a team over the last two years‚ there’s a lot of important innings where Temba got runs where we were in deep trouble. He’s got us 60‚ 70s and won us the game.’
The doubters will still have their say, but for me, these reasons (and the captain’s endorsement of him) are all the proof I need to acknowledge that Bavuma is a vital cog in the Proteas’ batting order.
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