MANCHESTER – South Africa’s batting failed yet again here on Saturday.
It’s been a series where with the exception of the Trent Bridge Test, the Proteas batting has trended towards failure.
There’s an opener in Heino Kuhn for whom this looks like being his one and only Test series, a No 3 in Hashim Amla who’s not lived up to his very high standards.
Then, three different players have batted in the No 4 spot, the captain at No 5 has looked good enough but left balls he should have played, and on Saturday he played a ball he should have left.
Quinton de Kock’s batted at No 4, No 5, No 6 and No 8 in this series, while injury has forced Theunis de Bruyn to occupy the No 7 position in this Test. The batting looks a mess.
The most consistent players in this series have been Dean Elgar – dismissed to the third ball he faced on Saturday – and Temba Bavuma, the latest occupant of the No 4 position.
Ever the diplomat, Amla, when asked who of De Kock or Bavuma was better suited to that crucial spot in the order, said: “They could both fit that position well equally.”
Bavuma’s sound technique has won him the day for this Test in that spot, but for how much longer? What happens when the new coach comes along for the Bangladesh series next month?
Amla sought back to recent history as a place where South Africa’s troubles with their No 4 spot started.
“Once Jacques (Kallis) left the No 4 position, those were big shoes to fill,” he said.
Kallis retired from Test cricket four years ago. Sure he was an all-time great, but at what point are the Proteas going to leave behind his retirement as being an excuse for their shortcomings?
Of course, the one player who probably could occupy that spot is instead tweeting his opinions on the Tests, in between visits to a luxury spa.
And that’s left the current selection panel with the present conundrum.
To look at the SA A side announced on Saturday for two four-day games against India A, it seems that David Miller will be provided with a chance to display his wares as a candidate for that No 4 spot.
Miller has held discussions with the selectors about his desire to play Test cricket, and has foregone a contract in the Caribbean Premier League to state his case in the SA A team.
For now, Bavuma is the incumbent at No 4 and he certainly has the technical expertise to make that position his own.
The concerns expressed about the tempo at which he bats are worthwhile, but Bavuma has shown in his short Test career that he adapts well to the circumstances of the match.
A very thoughtful, hardworking player, if he’s allowed the time to establish himself there, he may turn into a long-term occupant.
“You are going to go through that transition period in a batting line-up where you are trying to find the right combinations,” Amla said.
“(Playing three different players at No 4 in this series) does say you are looking for the right combination.
“I’d like to think (Bavuma) is a guy for the future, he’s a wonderful player, and with more time and more responsibility, he will thrive in it.”
SA A Squad
Aiden Markram (captain), Stephen Cook, Junior Dala, Beuran Hendricks, Heinrich Klaasen, David Miller, Duanne Olivier, Dane Paterson, Andile Phehlukwayo, Dane Piedt, Omphile Ramela, Rudi Second, Jason Smith, Shaun von Berg, Khaya Zondo.