Could Bavuma be the fan­tas­tic four Proteas are look­ing for?

The Star Early Edition - - SPORT -

The Jaguares ar­rived in Joburg con­fi­dent of an­other up­set, as they’d done in Buenos Aires – beat­ing a weak­ened Lions 36-24. In the re­turn match it looked as if they were again go­ing to top­ple the Lions; they led 21-14 with 10 min­utes to play. But a Ruan Ack­er­mann, try and a touch­line con­ver­sion and 77th minute penalty by El­ton Jan­tjies saw the Lions home, 24-21. “WE LET our­selves down with the bat,” claimed a more re­freshed look­ing Ver­non Phi­lan­der at Old Traf­ford yes­ter­day after­noon, em­pha­sis­ing that the South Africans be­lieve that is the area that needs to be fixed ur­gently if the se­ries with Eng­land is to be saved.

The bat­ting was def­i­nitely poor at The Oval. In the first in­nings there was a ter­ri­ble top or­der col­lapse that left the Proteas 61/7 and in the sec­ond in­nings they kept los­ing wick­ets in clus­ters.

It won’t be a sim­ple prob­lem to re­solve ei­ther. Heino Kuhn needs a ma­jor score at Old Traf­ford, or his Test ca­reer will be lim­ited to just this se­ries, while Hashim Amla needs to rekin­dle one more piece of magic to help re­vi­talise his re­cent form.

Faf du Plessis just needs to use his bat.

One in­ter­est­ing thought that Rus­sell Domingo ad­mit­ted had crossed his mind, was to shift Temba Bavuma up to No 4.

“It’s some­thing we’ve spo­ken about, even be­fore the sec­ond match,” Domingo said this week.

“I wasn’t there to get the gist of how guys were feel­ing at that stage but it’s some­thing we’re speak­ing about.”

There are vari­ables that needed to be con­sid­ered here.

The mes­sage it would send to the Eng­land team is that South Africa is a team in a state of chaos. Bavuma, if No 4, will be the third per­son to oc­cupy that pre­mier spot in the or­der in this se­ries.

Then there is the de­mands it places on Bavuma, him­self. Cur­rently in the No 6 spot, he is find­ing him­self more of­ten than not hav­ing to sal­vage the in­nings be­cause of the top or­der’s short­com­ings.

He’s do­ing his job very well in those tough sit­u­a­tions – av­er­ag­ing above 40 when he comes to the crease with the South African to­tal less than 100. But it’s also not giv­ing his tal­ents the best op­por­tu­nity to thrive ei­ther. A move to four gives him time. That, in fact, was the thought process that drove Faf du Plessis to ask Quin­ton de Kock to play there at Trent Bridge.

It worked fine in the first in­nings, not so much in the sec­ond while at The Oval, he con­trib­uted only 22.

How much of that was down to the fact that in both in­nings’ he came to the crease rea­son­ably early af­ter two lengthy stints be­hind the stumps, is per­haps pre­ma­ture to judge at this stage.

But it is a risk that the Proteas are tak­ing as the end­less tin­ker­ing with the bat­ting or­der con­tin­ues. It cer­tainly doesn’t seem to be a fair, long term op­tion for De Kock. For all of De Kock’s won­der­ful flair, what Bavuma will bring is some so­lid­ity and that must be given more than just a pass­ing thought by the se­lec­tors when they dis­cuss the op­tions for the Old Traf­ford Test. Dean El­gar spoke strongly about Bavuma af­ter The Oval say­ing: “His gameplan looks the best out of all our bat­ters.”

“He showed a mas­sive amount of fight, his abil­ity to adapt in the dif­fer­ent sce­nar­ios and sit­u­a­tions though the game has been a mas­sive pos­i­tive for him.”

So, how about get­ting him to adapt to a dif­fer­ent sce­nario by play­ing him higher up in the or­der at No 4?

It’s a po­si­tion he wants to play in.

“Per­son­ally, if the op­por­tu­nity is there, I’d like to bat higher up the or­der,” he said in an in­ter­view in April.

As this se­ries has shown, Bavuma is ca­pa­ble of in­creas­ing his scor­ing rate when the sit­u­a­tion de­mands.

It may in fact be the first of the long-term moves the se­lec­tors make with the bat­ting or­der that is cer­tainly in need of much tin­ker­ing

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