Johannesburg — Nineteen times Temba Bavuma has passed 50. On seven of those occasions he’s been out before reaching 60, there’ve been three scores in the 60s, five in the 70s, one score of 89, two in the 90s and just once has he reached a three figure score.
That lack of hundreds is often used to bash Bavuma. After fifty Tests as a middle order batter that is not a good enough return. He knows it. But there are a number innings amongst those 18 times he went passed 50 and didn’t reach a hundred, which were of far greater value to the Proteas than many other hundreds made for the national team.
There was a first innings 51 in Perth in 2016 that helped the team reach 242 - SA won that match.
The 89 came at the Basin Reserve in Wellington, with Bavuma arriving at the crease with score 79/5, and his efforts helped them reach 359 - SA won that match.
Or Hobart, also on that 2016 tour, when the Proteas were in danger of not taking advantage of bowling Australia out for 85, and had slumped to 76/4 when Bavuma started batting. He scored 74, in a first innings total of 326 - SA won that match (and the series with it).
While Bavuma’s hundred against England at Newlands is understandably celebrated for its social impact, he’s actually batted better for the Proteas on a number of other occasions making scores of far greater value to the team. The lack of centuries does rankle - and that too is understandable.
It’s the traditional measurement of a batter’s supposed worth. Bavuma’s reaction after Mehidy Hasan got one to grip and spin, with the ball deflecting off the batter’s pad onto the leg-stump, spoke to his anguish.
None of the millions of his compatriots willing him to a hundred on Friday, wanted it more than Bavuma.
Again his 93, was an innings of high quality, with elegant stroke play, particularly when he drove through the midwicket area. Again it was an innings of enormous value, as he marshalled some tricky periods, when Bangladesh applied pressure.
He arrived at the crease, when the Proteas’ two opening batters were dismissed within five balls of each other; on Friday morning, Kyle Verreynne and Wiaan Mulder fell to consecutive deliveries from Khaled Ahmed and were it not for Bavuma, the home team would not have reached 300.
𝐒𝐓𝐔𝐌𝐏𝐒 - 𝐃𝐀𝐘 𝟐:— SuperSport 🏆 (@SuperSportTV) April 1, 2022
Bavuma and Harmer star for the Proteas on a gloomy day 2 in Durban. Temba top-scored with 93 while Harmer took 4-42 to have Bangladesh on 98-4, still trailing by 269.#SAvBAN scorecard 👇
His average in his last eight Tests - dating back to the series in Pakistan last year - is 52.36, a period in which he’s made four 50s including Friday’s effort.
South Africa’s other hero on the second day was Simon Harmer, who is playing in his first Test in six and half years. Having flirted with selection for England at one stage during his lengthy Kolpak stint with Essex, he was able to return once that trade avenue was made defunct by ‘Brexit.’
After finishing as the leading wicket-taker for the Four-Day series champions, the Titans, it was always going to be an obvious choice that both he and Keshav Maharaj would start at Kingsmead, which is now very much a spinners paradise.
Harmer had already added an important 38 not out with the bat, sharing partnerships of 34 for the ninth wicket with Lizaad Williams and then 35 for the tenth with Duanne Olivier, before he got stuck into a lengthy spell of bowling.
🏏 DAY 2 | STUMPS#Proteas take control of the match thanks to figures of 4️⃣/ 4️⃣ 2️⃣ from Simon Harmer as @BCBtigers trail by 2️⃣ 6️⃣ 9️⃣ runs with 6️⃣ wickets remaining in their first innings. #SAvBAN #BetwayTestSeries #BePartOfIt | @Betway_za pic.twitter.com/Yct4cRLAPm— Cricket South Africa (@OfficialCSA) April 1, 2022
While the two spinners were always going to do a lot of work, the fact that overhead conditions were so gloomy meant they were introduced earlier than expected.
That worked out perfectly for the hosts - they got in a full session of play and Harmer and Maharaj were threatening all the time.
It was the off-spinner who got all the wickets, with Harmer delivering a superb spell picking up four wickets, using flight and changes of pace to keep the Bangladeshis tied down and then as a result of that pressure picking up the wickets.
There was help from Keegan Petersen who took an outstanding catch to dismiss the touring side’s captain Mominul Haque as Harmer finished with 4/42 from 20 overs. Maharaj may have gone wicketless, but his 19 overs cost just 24 runs, indicating the crucial role he played in what was a dominant final session for the hosts.
Day 2 of 5:
South Africa 367