Bavuma shines with 2nd Test ton as Proteas take control against West Indies

10 March 2023 - 18:00
By Stuart Hess at the Wanderers
Proteas captain Temba Bavuma celebrates his century during day 3 of the 2nd Betway Test match against the West Indies at DP World Wanderers Stadium on March 10, 2023 in Johannesburg, South Africa.
Image: Lee Warren/Gallo Images Proteas captain Temba Bavuma celebrates his century during day 3 of the 2nd Betway Test match against the West Indies at DP World Wanderers Stadium on March 10, 2023 in Johannesburg, South Africa.

Temba Bavuma waited, watched the ball hit the boundary triangle and then removed his helmet and did the bat-swinging skip celebration that was last seen in the Proteas Test shirt in January 2016.  

It’s been 88 innings and 2,619 days in between celebrations.  

There Bavuma stood at what is now his home ground, bat pointed first at the dressingroom where his ecstatic teammates stood to applaud him and then towards the President’s Suite where his dad Vuyo stood too, acknowledging his son’s achievement.  

 In terms of its social significance, nothing will top that hundred at Newlands, but Friday’s was definitely a more valuable contribution from the team’s perspective, because of the circumstances that faced Bavuma when he arrived at the crease.  

He walked into a crisis at 8/2, in the fifth over of the morning, 45 minutes later it was 32/3, with the Proteas’ best batter, Aiden Markram, nicking off to Kemar Roach.  

The lead at that stage was a paltry 101 runs.  

The West Indies were sniffing an upset.  

Throughout his Test career Bavuma has shown himself to be a player who thrives in difficult situations.  

For all the chatter about why he’d never added to his sole century, people forgot just how important many other knocks were; the 89 in Wellington against New Zealand in 2017 when the Proteas had slumped to 79/5, or the 74 against Australia in Hobart when he came in to bat at 78/4 and there was a 52 in the first innings of the Test against India here last year, which gave the Proteas a crucial first innings lead.  

In both matches that South Africa won — to claim that series against Virat Kohli’s side — it was Bavuma who was not out in those epic fourth innings run chases.  

 The public may measure success by hundreds, but inside the Proteas' dressing room, Bavuma was never undermined. He was too damn valuable as a batter — and teammates recognise that.  

 In these past three years in which the Proteas’ batting has plunged to new depths of despair, Bavuma averages 43.76. When the going gets tough ... 

Nevertheless, it’s not as if Bavuma’s confidence would have been sky high coming into Friday’s play.  

Having notched ‘a pair’ in the first Test, he shouldered arms in the first innings and was trapped lbw by Jason Holder, which sparked another batting collapse.  

Though South Africa’s scoring rate was slow, understandably given the need to rebuild, when the opportunity to score was offered by what for two sessions was a very disciplined West Indies attack, Bavuma took it.  

He drove well, but also played beautifully off his legs when the bowlers’ were too straight.  

The new brand which the Proteas want to play had to be parked, but this was also situationally smart play. Having lost Ryan Rickelton on the stroke of lunch, Bavuma sought to revert some pressure by taking quick singles after the interval.  

The West Indies cut off those options, so Bavuma got to grinding. Heinrich Klaasen lost patience and made a mistake. Bavuma wasn’t going to let himself make any.  

 Finally he found in Wiaan Mulder a partner able to absorb the pressure from the West Indies, and he was able to flourish.  

The duo shared a stand of 103 for the sixth wicket.  

The West Indies, energy sapped, gave Bavuma a helping hand with overthrows that turned one run into five, moving him from 91 to 96.  

 A few more singles took him to within one run. There was a waft at wide, a delivery from Alzarri Joseph that may have caused a few heart attacks, but it was adjudged a no ball. The cricketing gods were with Bavuma.  

 Then another wide half volley, a flashing lofted cover drive, the skip, the bat swing and he soaked in the applause of 2,378 spectators.  

From so precarious a position after the first hour, by the time stumps were drawn, Bavuma, who batted for just over six hours, stood tall, on 171 not out having hit 20 fours with the Proteas’ lead standing at 356 runs. 

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