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Ken Borland

Bavuma adds another seminal moment to join his Newlands ton

Posted on March 10, 2023 by Ken

STICKING IT TO THEM: Temba Bavuma celebrates his masterful, inspirational century at the Wanderers.

Temba Bavuma on Friday added another seminal moment in South African cricket history, to join with his memorable maiden Test century at Newlands in 2016, as his masterful 171 not out first rescued the Proteas and then put them in firm control of the second Test against the West Indies at the Wanderers.

When the long-awaited moment of his second Test century came, one that will hopefully silence the critics who constantly bring up that statistical quirk and ignore the fact he has been South Africa’s best Test batsman for the last couple of years, it came with a flourish as he lashed fast bowler Alzarri Joseph over the covers for his 12th four. It’s a bit like refusing to rate Jacques Kallis as a great batsman before he scored a Test double-hundred.

Even though the third-day crowd at the Wanderers was small, the joy was obvious, especially in the commentary boxes where former Black African players like Makhaya Ntini, Mfuneko Ngam and Nono Pongolo celebrated with a passion that showed just how special and important Bavuma is for the majority of this country.

Those commentary boxes are in the Charles Fortune Media Centre, and one wonders how the doyen of South African radio commentary would have described the moment as Bavuma went to 100 in 254 minutes, off 192 balls. Perhaps the great John Arlott would have been better suited to capture the moment, given that he once wrote “human” on a South African customs form asking him what race he belonged to back in the dark days of Apartheid.

As usual, after he had led the Proteas from a parlous eight for two to 287 for seven at stumps, leading by 356, Bavuma had to field questions both about what happened on the field on Friday and the wider significance his exploits will have for society as a whole.

“It’s been a long journey with a lot more downs than ups,” he stated. “But I keep learning about myself, the type of person and cricketer that I am. I try and keep my chin up and always stay true to myself.

“That Temba who scored the hundred at Newlands was very young and naïve, I was ignorant to what was going on around me and the pressures and challenges of playing international cricket.

“Making it against the West Indies is sentimental and makes it even more special because I used to support them as a child. It’s also important because it’s about inspiring the next generation, allowing much more Black African batters to dream and come through and etch their name in the record books.

“There’s always that angle and perspective to everything I do. I’m sure young Temba would be very proud of this Temba today,” Bavuma said.

But the 32-year-old Bavuma made it clear that his motivation and satisfaction on Friday night had more to do with rescuing his team than reaching individual milestones, no matter how sought after they have been.

This was the sort of Wanderers pitch on which anyone who dares to chase runs is likely to come short and many of Bavuma’s team-mates were guilty of going too hard. Dean Elgar (5) and Tony de Zorzi (1) both fell looking to score off deliveries they would have been better off leaving.

Aiden Markram (18) hung around with Bavuma and tried to steady the ship, but Kemar Roach had Markram caught behind with a superb delivery.

Ryan Rickelton (10) and Heinrich Klaasen (14) were then both lured into loose strokes and South Africa were 103 for five, leading by just 172.

Even with the hot sun beating down on the pitch, there were still plenty of embers of life in the surface, but Bavuma, diminutive but standing tall as a giant, doused the West Indian attack. Staying compact and not chasing after deliveries outside the stumps, leaving well and putting away anything on his pads, Bavuma played one of the great pressure knocks in a Proteas second innings in recent times.

Wiaan Mulder dug deep and scored an invaluable 42 as he added 103 for the sixth wicket with Bavuma; Simon Harmer then contributed 19 runs, but more usefully, added another 71 with his captain.

Bavuma made it to stumps having batted for more than six hours and faced 275 deliveries, stroking 20 fours.

“It’s a key point that the team was in trouble. I always seem to find myself in these situations when I really have to try and soak up pressure, absorb and release,” Bavuma said. “I’ve done it well in the past, but without getting really big scores, and my game kinda leans towards that.

“It was a very important partnership with Wiaan, I tried to calm him down by saying he had nothing to prove because he’s done it before for the Lions and in county cricket.

“We had good synergy and the partnership with Simon was also important. It’s about the team and we are in a lot stronger position now.

“My mindset was just to stick to what I was doing. Getting a hundred was not the objective, it was getting to the end of the day’s play. It was more mentally tiring than physically, but the adrenaline kept me going,” Bavuma said.

The new South African Test captain is far too polite to publicly rub his many critics’ faces in his success, but he did say there was one monkey he now has off his back.

“I’ve never scored a first-class hundred at the Wanderers before and the guys always tease me about that, my name not being up on the honours board. I’m pleased I can stick it to them now,” a satisfied Bavuma said with a glint in his eye.

The skipper, a hero to so many in this country, produced a truly heroic performance of which he can be most proud. What a pity that with so many good things happening around this Proteas Test team, their next outing is only in December.

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