Temba Bavuma’s 172 a reward for three years as South Africa’s best batter
Temba Bavuma received the player of the match award for his second innings 172, which led South Africa to a dominant 284-run win in the second Test against West Indies and helped to complete a series whitewash.
For Bavuma, South Africa’s newly-appointed Test captain, it was the second Test century of his career, and ended a drought of more than seven years since his first.
After a number of near misses, the innings felt like a moment of relief with Bavuma looking to get his captaincy tenure off to the best possible start.
It's been 2621 days since Temba Bavuma scored his first Test hundred and finally… he has a second. There's only about 350 people at the Wanderers, but they made it sound like 35,000. And Wiaan Mulder celebrated like crazy at the other end. #SAvWI
— Firdose Moonda (@FirdoseM) March 10, 2023
It may be the lack of centuries, but the perception of Bavuma seemed to be that he was underperforming. He has also had to face constant unwarranted criticism throughout his career which means his place has always seemed to always be under pressure.
The stats tell a very different story.
Since the start of January 2020, no South African batter averages more than the 43.88 that Bavuma does. Only Dean Elgar has more runs, but those have come in 13 more Test innings.
This is made more impressive by the fact Bavuma was dropped at the start of January 2020, only to return later that month and outperform his teammates in a side that has struggled with the bat.
Even as the best batter in the team, he will feel there were runs left out there. He had passed 30 16 times in 31 innings since the start of 2020, but his last knock was the only century.
When he was handed the captaincy at the start of this series by coach Shurki Conrad, some eyebrows were raised. This may have been because of an unsuccessful stint as T20 captain, where Bavuma constantly faced the question, ‘does the captain actually get into the best team?’.
The answer to that particular question may well be in his subsequent dropping from the squad for the series against the West Indies, following Aiden Markram’s appointment as skipper.
As has so often been the case in Bavuma’s career, those doubters reared their heads when he became the fourth player to get a pair on his captaincy debut. They would have been primed with further criticism had he been dismissed early yesterday with his team 8 for 2 and facing a characteristic collapse that could have handed the advantage to the West Indies.
Instead, he struck a commanding 171 on day three before adding just one to his overnight total. It turned out that he had already won the game, with the Proteas’ bowlers blowing away the West Indies for just 106 on day four.
The home summer has been fruitful for Bavuma, who enjoyed an excellent ODI series against world champions England, which also included a century. This was another indication that he may have won the mental battle against the seeming inability to produce those elusive three-figure scores.
The main issue for South Africa is that their captain will have to wait until December to bat again in a Test match. He will have to be patient to build on his magnificent 172, as he aims to push his career Test average up from 35.25 and lead the batting line-up by example for years to come.