Temba Bavuma has been the talk of social media, with his detractors claiming he offers no value to the Proteas, while his supporters say he’s the man for a challenge. With South Africa 2-1 down in the series against England, Bavuma looks set for a return.
Temba Bavuma has been through the ringer. Constantly under pressure with the public to justify his place in the Proteas side, over the past two years he hasn’t scored enough runs to make his selection for the Proteas universally accepted.
Add to this the fact that the Proteas have suffered an horrific batting slump following the retirement of AB de Villiers and the slow march to retirement of the legendary Hashim Amla.
Bavuma missed the 1st Test against England in Centurion through injury and was then left out for the 2nd Test at Newlands despite Aiden Markram missing the Test through injury.
The selectors rightly brought in another opener, Pieter Malan, which was a wise move… but they kept faith with a five-man bowling attack, which left the Proteas with just five specialist batters ahead of the dynamic keeper-batter, Quinton de Kock.
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The Proteas lost the 2nd Test by 189 runs, highlighting not only the fact that their batters have been struggling, but also the handicap of having just five specialist batters in the side. That is not to detract from De Kock’s value with the bat, but rather highlights the importance of having six specialist batters in any side. Whatever your keeper adds is a bonus – for the Proteas, De Kock is a winning Lotto ticket… but only if they have six other specialist batters in the side.
With the series level 1-1, astoundingly, the selectors didn’t call up Bavuma but instead dropped bowling all-rounder Dwaine Pretorius, who scored a promising 33 in the 1st Test and who has a first-class batting average of 37.50. In his place they brought in Dane Paterson, a spritely fast-medium bowler with plenty of first-class experience… but a man who offered little of value with the bat.
It’s short-sighted to select bowlers based on their batting ability… but in the context of the Test the Proteas were a batter light. The Proteas have struggled to get past 250 in their past 7 Tests, so being light in the batting didn’t seem to make sense.
Averages never tell a full story and can never predict the results of any match, but it was interesting that England’s selection reflected a combined average of 35 runs more per innings than the Proteas. As it turned out, the English played way above their averages and the Proteas played well below. England entered the final day needing just 4 wickets to clinch the Test and ensure a 2-1 series win with one Test to play.
It was definitely not the position Proteas fans would have expected their side to be in having gone 1-0 up in the 1st Test at Centurion.
Bavuma’s Test average is 31.24 after 39 Tests… but he has recorded just one century, a failing which has resulted in a lot of public debate on social media. Bavuma was vice-captain before missing out on the 1st Test through injury… but although he was fit for the 2nd Test, the selectors didn’t pick him, instead suggesting that he score runs in franchise cricket in order to earn his place back in the side.
Bavuma answered in the best way anyone can when dropped or left out of a side… he produced a brave career best second innings score of 180 for the Lions in a 130-run loss to the Dolphins. His innings came off 282 balls with 24 fours… and he contributed more than 70% of the runs scored while he was at the crease.
Undoubtedly Bavuma has answered the call to make runs… but should he be brought back into the side for the final Test at the Wanderers?
The doubters said “no”, highlighting that there is a lot of young talent coming through and that he should wrack up a lot more runs before sliding back into the side. While there is a bunch of terrific young (and older) batters proving their worth in domestic cricket, the fact remains that Bavuma has already made superb contributions to the Proteas to prove his credentials. He deserves the chance to be “next man in”.
Bavuma does the Jonty Rhodes role in this side. Rhodes’ batting average was decent, but he tended to make important contributions when it mattered. The same is true of Bavuma… however, unlike Rhodes, Bavuma is in a weak Proteas batting lineup. Like it or not, he no longer has the luxury of the Rhodes role: Bavuma needs to start making big scores to own his place in the side.
Bavuma has tended to bat lower down the order, which has reduced his chances of making big scores, although it should also offer him the chance to beef up his average with more not outs. He has been shuffled around the order and dropped twice despite having made valuable contributions for the Proteas.
The fact that he makes runs in difficult situations is important, as a 50 in a low-scoring match should be viewed as the same as 120 in a high-scoring match on a flat track. It should… but right now many Proteas fans are demanding big runs from him to earn their thumbs up. The fact that his team-mates have been batting terribly makes no difference. If he gets back in the side he needs BIG runs. It’s an added challenge, but they don’t call it Test cricket because it’s easy.
The only way to get a clear picture of his Test value is to dive deep into the stats. So here goes…
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