Temba Bavuma has credited his good form in Test cricket to an improved defensive technique.
Although Bavuma’s second century remains elusive, he has been a beacon of consistency since returning to the Test team after being dropped for the start of the England series in 2020/21.
In 12 Test matches since, Bavuma has accumulated 800 runs at an average of 44.44, which includes six half-centuries. Only Proteas captain Dean Elgar has more runs with 1026 at 42.75 in 14 Tests. Bavuma missed the two-match series in the West Indies through an upper left hip injury.
During this period Bavuma’s defence has improved significantly, which is highlighted by the fact that he has only been dismissed bowled twice since 2020. And one of those occasions was when he chopped on during the first Test against Bangladesh at Kingsmead on 93.
Previously he had been bowled 10 times in 37 Tests.
“I'm more confident with my defence,” Bavuma said after the Proteas completed a 2-0 clean sweep of Bangladesh in Gqeberha. “That generally leads to doing well on the attacking front. It's important to be clear about your defensive play.”
It also seems Bavuma’s elevation to Elgar’s deputy as vice-captain of the Test side has played a significant role in the upward trajectory of his batting.
“I think I have been given the responsibility and it's beginning to show up with the bat,” he said. “I need to take it up to the next level. I want to continue doing well personally and contribute to the team's success.”
During the initial stages of Bavuma’s Test career he batted primarily at No 6 or No 7. Over the past two years he has been more of a regular at No 5, although in the absence of Rassie van der Dussen, who chose the Indian Premier League ahead of the two-Test series against Bangladesh, Bavuma moved down to No 4.
It proved a fruitful experiment with Bavuma scoring 194 runs at 48.50 in the series. In contrast, Van der Dussen has only made 318 runs, including just one half-century, in 12 innings at an average of 31.80 at No 4 since last year’s Caribbean tour.
With both Elgar and Proteas coach Mark Boucher not providing any assurances that the IPL players will walk straight back into the Test side for the next assignment in England later this year, will Bavuma be keen on a more permanent role at No 4 going forward?
“I enjoy playing wherever the team wants me,” he said. “I'm happy batting at (No) 5 and will continue to do so for the team's needs. We didn't have all our assets going into the (Bangladesh) Tests, but we found new players to do the job. It'll be nice to have competition for places when they're back for the next series.”