14/07/2024

Was Temba Bavuma really selfish at Centurion?

Temba Bavuma’s name has been dragged through the mud on social media because he didn’t come out to bat while he was suffering from a hamstring injury in the 1st test against India.

His side were nine wickets down with young Marco Jansen stuck on 84 and hoping to record his first Test century. Immediately, memories of Graeme Smith’s heroics at Sydney in 2009 were brought up to shame Bavuma. After all, Smith went out to bat with a broken hand against Australia in the second innings in a brave effort to try and avoid defeat.

Smith broke his hand at the start of South Africa’s first innings and, later in the day, South Africa were 316 for eight in response to Australia’s 445. Although Smith had retired hurt and effectively could come out to bat in the first innings, Ntini was, to all intents and purposes, the last wicket… and that’s why Boucher started hitting out and trying to score runs as quickly as possible before Ntini was dismissed.

Now… here’s the interesting part of the story. When Ntini came to the wicket, Boucher was on 78: he needed just 22 runs for his sick test century and his first against Australia. So that was a big thing for Boucher.

In the 1st test against India, when Bavuma didn’t come out to bat. Jansen was an 84 when South Africa lost their ninth wicket, which was when Bavuma could have come out to bat – just six runs more than Boucher.

So… Bavuma didn’t come out to bat with Jansen on 84… and Smith didn’t come out to bat with Boucher on 78, even though, in Smith’s case, South Africa were trailing Australia by over 100 runs, so there was actually more reason for Smith to come out to bat in South Africa’s first innings in 2009 than there was for Bavuma to come out to bat in 2023.

In the 1st Test in 2023, Bavuma’s South Africa were leading by over 100 runs. In Smith’s case, they were trailing by over 100 runs! Again, to Smith’s credit, South Africa were 2-0 ahead in the series… it was the last match of the series so they couldn’t lose the series.

With the series secured, it was the right decision for Smith NOT to come out in the first innings to give Boucher a bit more time to reach his ton. That gave Smith effectively three days for his hand to recover, or to start the healing process itself before he took the risk of going out to bat at the end of the fifth day.

Based on the report from Shukri Conrad at Proteas’ press conference, it’s pretty clear that Bavuma would have gone out to bat in the second innings if South Africa had found themselves in a position where they were trying to stave off defeat.

Perhaps it’s time for South African cricket fans to check their facts first – as well as their conscience – before they start blowing hot air all over Twitter.

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