Temba Bavuma pitched his case for Test selection with a career-best first-class score of 180 on Thursday, before suggesting that he had grabbed his opportunity to spend time in the middle “with both hands”.
Faced with an improbable fourth-innings target of 430, Bavuma resumed his innings on 41 after Lions were reduced to 98 for 4 overnight in their four-day game against Dolphins. He reached a fluent 50 soon before lunch, and celebrated with a punch of the air after bringing up his 15th first-class hundred from 153 balls.
Wickets continued to fall around him, and he was eventually the last man out, miscuing Senuran Muthusamy’s left-arm spin to Andile Phehlukwayo at cover, who took a sharp catch. His 180 was the second-highest score in the fourth innings of a franchise match in South Africa, beaten only by Dean Elgar’s 189 not out in 2009.
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“From a personal point of view, it’s always awesome to contribute to the team,” Bavuma told GamePlan Media. “I have been someone who has been trying to rack up those big scores, fortunately today was that opportunity and I was able to grab it with both hands.
“It was massive [to get time in the middle]. It feels like I hadn’t played cricket for ages to be honest, the last game I played was last week, but before that it was a T20 game [on December 1].
“It was nice to be out in the middle, in the middle is where you can practice and practice and practice. You can set your goals and that stuff, but what matters is what you do in the middle, where you’re able to get your mind in the right space.
Bavuma suggested that he had felt in good form even in the first innings, when he was caught at silly mid-on via the inside edge.
“Not to be arrogant or anything, but I felt good even in the first innings,” he said. “It was a good wicket – yes the wicket deteriorated quite quickly, but I felt it was a good wicket. You had to have good plans against the spinners, and they were lucky in that they had guys that turn in away and guys that turn it in, that always kept you on your toes as a batter.
“If you had your plans, stuck to your plans, there were definitely runs out there. I felt good from the first innings – soft dismissal from me, getting out to the right-arm offie [Prenelan Subrayen] – second innings, I tried to make things right.”
Bavuma’s timing could hardly have been better, having been told publicly by Faf du Plessis that the only way to force his way back into the Test team was through “weight of runs”. It comes at the end of a long lean run with the bat: while he made two first-class hundreds for Northamptonshire in the County Championship last summer, his most recent ton on home soil came in the Cape Town Test of 2016, more than four years ago.
Bavuma’s absence from the ongoing series against England has been a major talking point, with South Africa again missing their transformation targets in the Port Elizabeth Test. Du Plessis said on the eve of the game that he was “not getting in a battle with myself and Temba over who plays and who doesn’t”, while assistant coach Enoch Nkwe described him as a possible replacement for du Plessis as captain in the long term.
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