Temba Bavuma on Thursday responded to him being dropped from the Proteas Test side in the best way possible – by making the highest score of his first-class career.
The diminutive, silky stroke-maker stayed at the crease for 453 minutes – almost eight hours – in strolling to a brilliant 180 off 282 deliveries, which included 24 fours, in the Highveld Lions’ 130-run four-day series defeat to the Dolphins in Pietermaritzburg.
His strike-rate of 64 was, importantly, very fluent.
A polarised debate has raged over the past week or so over the national hierarchy’s decision to send him back to franchise cricket in order to score runs, with supporters of transformation noting that South Africa was undermining the efforts of black players, particularly batsmen.
Defenders of the decision pointed to Bavuma’s string of low scores in the Test arena recently, though that argument has been countered with criticism of Protea skipper Faf du Plessis not being under the same microscope as he hasn’t scored over 30 in his past seven innings.
He started his innings under increased pressure, having only made 9 and 17 in his previous innings since being sent back.
But the Lions’ precarious position brought the best out of him as he surely comes into contention again for the fourth Test against England at the Wanderers, which starts next week.
For his part, Du Plessis – in the build-up to the third Test currently underway in Port Elizabeth – said he wasn’t going to get into a debate about Bavuma.
“I am not getting in a battle with myself and Temba over who plays and who doesn’t. My performances also need to go up in terms of scoring. Temba has been put in a position where he needs to score runs to get back into the team and if he does that, he will,” he said.