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Temba Bavuma will want his bat to do the talking in the second Test against the Kiwis

FILE - Temba Bavuma and Dean Elgar in action during the second Test cricket match between South Africa and India at The Wanderers Stadium in January. Photo: Phill Magakoe/AFP

FILE - Temba Bavuma and Dean Elgar in action during the second Test cricket match between South Africa and India at The Wanderers Stadium in January. Photo: Phill Magakoe/AFP

Published Feb 22, 2022


Johannesburg — The only approach to getting over last week’s crushing defeat against New Zealand was for the Proteas to confront it head on.

The national side is fortunate that in Dean Elgar and Temba Bavuma there are two leaders, who prefer that method of solving problems. Bavuma showed it last year at the T20 World Cup when tackling the Quinton de Kock kneeling episode, and Elgar when he ‘served’ Kagiso Rabada ‘a rocket’ at a crucial point in the recent Test series with India. Those two have been central in South Africa making the transition from seven session thrashing last week, to ensuring minds are clear and preparation can commence properly for Friday’s start of the second Test.

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“(Dean and my) relationship is built on honesty. There’s not any bullshit,” said Bavuma. “Dean’s a very blunt type of performer, if you’re straying he will call you out, if you are good he will let you know as well.”

ALSO READ: WATCH: Proteas have the character to bounce back in second Test, says Temba Bavuma

There really wasn’t any point in the Proteas beating about the bush after last week’s result. They used the couple of enforced days off for some reflection, refreshing of minds and to re-set.

Coming into view is a Test against a New Zealand team, high confidence and motivation — chasing a historic first Test series win against South Africa.

The size of the defeat was obviously shocking for the players and public, but within the squad as part of those candid reflections there would also have been the understanding that it didn’t mean they were suddenly a bad team.

ALSO READ: Proteas take much needed break after nightmare Test in Christchurch

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“Over the last while, we have overcome a lot and we need to remind the guys (that dealing with adversity) is not foreign to us. We know how it is to come back, how it is to come from behind when our backs are against the wall. We do have what it takes from a character perspective to do what we need to do,” said Bavuma.

The mental shift is critical, but its effectiveness can only be measured by tangible outcomes on the field. All three departments of the game were dreadful last week. It would be hard to think the Proteas could be that bad again. They’ve had the extra few days to acclimatise better to the conditions and the onus is very much on the batting unit to provide a better show than was the case in the first match.

It was interesting that both head coach Mark Boucher and the batting consultant, Justin Sammons, alluded to the fact that batting in New Zealand was preferable to doing so in South Africa. There are the tricky periods against the new ball, and especially when there are clouds overhead, but the surface at Hagley Oval contained far fewer demons than was the case for any of the surfaces used in the recent Test series with India.

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ALSO READ: Proteas need to prove India series win wasn’t a fluke and bounce back against New Zealand

Bavuma as one of the senior batters will see his role with the willow for the second match as being just as important as that leadership role he has. “The team is in space where we need someone to put up their hand and do it for the team. As much as my form has been decent for the last while, until that happens, it is still a concern for the team, so I won’t be happy with myself.”

There was an interesting comparison drawn by the New Zealand television commentators during last week’s first Test between Bavuma and Henry Nicholls, who made a century for the Black Caps. Both have played a similar number of Tests — 48 for Bavuma, 45 for Nicholls — with the New Zealander making eight centuries to Bavuma’s one and doing so in 14 fewer innings’.

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Obviously the left-hander Nicholls has taken advantage of the easier batting conditions in New Zealand — seven of those hundreds came on home soil — but it illustrates a crucial difference between the two sides. The former New Zealand captain, Stephen Fleming also highlighted that New Zealand’s top six is better, certainly statistically, than South Africa’s.

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That is the one major area South Africa needs to close the gap later this week, if the side is going to prevent New Zealand making history.


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