Home Sport Cricket Bavuma firmly in the spotlight ahead of Australia Tests

Bavuma firmly in the spotlight ahead of Australia Tests

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While David Warner is firmly in the spotlight in Australia, it’s the same for the Proteas vice-captain, although in Temba Bavuma’s case he’s not had to concern himself with his wife or manager sprouting stuff on radio.

Proteas batsman Temba Bavuma plays shot onto the offside during a Test match
Proteas batsman Temba Bavuma will be firmly in the spotlight during the first Test against Australia starting at the Gabba on Saturday. Picture: Gerhard Duraan/BackpagePix

Johannesburg – You wouldn’t begrudge Temba Bavuma if he donned one of those Mario Balotelli ‘Why always me’ T-shirts, at warm-ups on the opening morning of the first Test with Australia at the Gabba.

While David Warner is firmly in the spotlight in Australia, it’s the same for the Proteas vice-captain, although in Bavuma’s case he’s not had to concern himself with his wife or manager sprouting stuff on radio.

Instead Bavuma has hogged the headlines in South African cricket for everything from form, to his absence from the SA 20 League, his leadership of the SA T20 team at the World Cup, and in the build up to the first Test, his fitness – both physical and mental.

Bavuma, who missed both of the Lions’ two Four-Day series matches ahead of the tour, to rest after the disappointment of the T20 World Cup, then batted in just the second innings of the Proteas’ sole warm-up match against a Cricket Australia XI last week.

Proteas captain Dean Elgar said Bavuma had “jarred” his elbow in training, causing discomfort to an old injury, picked up in India earlier this year, which caused him to miss the tour to England.

When Bavuma did bat in the second innings, he faced 92 balls and scored 28, a display which was beneficial from the perspective of time spent at the crease. That was Bavuma’s only innings against a red ball in the last eight months and given that his form in the white ball formats has been poor of late, it’s hardly the most ideal preparation ahead of facing Mitchell Starc, Pat Cummins et al.

However, the Proteas’ interim coach, Malibongwe Maketa said on Wednesday morning that he was happy with how Bavuma was shaping up.

“It would have been nice for him to have two innings. But he’s had a lot of volume with the bat (at training) since we got here. In that sense, in terms of volume, in terms of the work, I’m very happy with his progress.”

“He spent a lot of time in the middle (in the warm up game) and hit the ball quite nicely. Even today in our first practice at the Gabba, he was one of our best batters on show there. And where he is mentally, smiling and confident again, that bodes very well in terms of being one of our best batters going into this series,” said Maketa.

Bavuma’s presence in the middle order was missed in that England series. He has averaged 47.93 in his last 11 Tests and has stood out in a fragile batting line-up.

If, as seems likely, Bavuma starts on Saturday, what will be of further interest is the composition of the Proteas starting XI. Maketa and Elgar are still mulling over whether to go into the match with a 6-5 batter/bowler split or utilise seven batters. They were told by the Gabba curator to give it a couple more days before assessing conditions further.

“If there is a lot of grass and it’s really assisting bowlers, we are going to need to carry an extra batter to get us to the magical 400-450 total. If it’s a tough wicket where you will have to work hard to get 20 wickets, you are going to need the extra bowler and trust the top order to get the 450,” said Maketa.

“We are aware that we are not here to protect anyone, if we are going out there and have to knuckle down and bat we will go with six batters, if we feel we’ve got enough in the wicket for us to go through them with three bowlers and a spinner then we will make the decision that is best for the team.”

The Proteas have only played at the Gabba once in the post-isolation era. In that 2012 Test, which ended in a draw and saw a day lost to rain, Jacques Kallis and Hashim Amla made hundreds as the Proteas posted 450 in the first innings. Australia replied with 565/5 decl. with Michael Clarke scoring 259* alongside hundreds from Ed Cowan and Michael Hussey.

South Africa had a 7-4 split for that match, although they did have Kallis, which balanced that line-up even though he didn’t bowl many overs.

Whatever direction they choose to go, it will be Bavuma in the spotlight as much as anyone for the visitors. The Proteas need him to make runs, and he needs it for his own well-being after what has been an extremely challenging few months.

The first ball will be bowled at 2.20am on Saturday.

SQUADS

Australia: Pat Cummins (capt), Scott Boland, Alex Carey, Cameron Green, Marcus Harris, Travis Head, Usman Khawaja, Marnus Labuschagne, Nathan Lyon, Lance Morris, Michael Neser, Steve Smith, Mitchell Starc, David Warner

South Africa: Dean Elgar (capt), Temba Bavuma, Gerald Coetzee, Theunis de Bruyn, Sarel Eree, Simon Harmer, Marco Jansen, Keshav Maharaj, Heinrich Klaasen, Lungi Ngidi, Anrich Nortje, Kagiso Rabada, Rassie van der Dussen, Kyle Verreynne, Lizaad Williams, Khaya Zondo

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