SOUTH AFRICA TOUR OF SRI LANKA 2018
With de Villiers’ retirement, a middle order of Bavuma-du Plessis-de Bruyn now looks likely as South Africa head to Sri Lanka for two Tests. © Getty
Temba Bavuma is making no bones about his ambition to take over the No. 4 slot in South Africa’s Test side in the wake of AB de Villiers’ retirement, saying that the position could help him to take his game to the next level.
De Villiers announced last month that he had played his final game for South Africa, leaving the pivotal No. 4 spot open once more. “I’ll be opportunistic,” Bavuma said at a Proteas training camp in Pretoria this week. “There is a role for someone to come in at No. 4 and I’ll put up my hand to bat in that position. Hopefully the selectors are looking towards me.”
The 28-year-old has filled the position before with some success. While JP Duminy became South Africa’s regular No. 4 during de Villiers’ absence in 2016 and 2017, the left-hander’s poor form and subsequent retirement from the longer format led to a two-Test experiment with Quinton de Kock before Bavuma was handed the role for the final Test in England last year.
In challenging conditions at Old Trafford, Bavuma’s 46 was the top score as South Africa’s batsmen struggled in the first innings. He retained the role for Bangladesh’s visit two months later, and made 71 in the first Test, before de Villiers returned to the fold at the end of the year.
Now that de Villiers has moved on, Bavuma is the most likely of three potential candidates to replace him. Captain Faf du Plessis has shown a reluctance to move up from his preferred position of No. 5, while Theunis de Bruyn sits behind Bavuma in the pecking order as he tries to establish himself at international level. A middle order of Bavuma-du Plessis-de Bruyn now looks likely.
Bavuma believes that batting higher up will serve his own game as he looks to make a greater impact. Although he has reached fifty 11 times in 29 Tests, only one of those innings has been turned into a hundred. “Maybe it is something that could help my game because I haven’t been able to convert my starts,” he said. “Coming in at No. 4, the opportunity will be there to score those big runs, and you have to score big runs actually. With what I am trying to achieve, it could work hand in hand.”
Bavuma’s request for greater responsibility comes at a good time – his last Test brought scores of 95 not out and 35 not out as South Africa sealed the series against Australia at the Wanderers. Unlike most of his colleagues, he has not been involved in either the IPL or county cricket. But he was one of six batsmen who travelled to India as part of Cricket South Africa’s spin camp in April, an exercise that should stand him in good stead as the Proteas prepare to return to the subcontinent for the first time since 2015.
Bavuma played the final Test of that 2015 tour and looked more comfortable than most of his teammates, who endured a wretched series that India won 3-0 on turning wickets. “From a team point of view we didn’t do as well as we wanted to so there will be those gremlins in our heads, but I guess we got the opportunity to face the extreme of spin,” said Bavuma. “Hopefully in Sri Lanka it’s not like that, but we will try to prepare for the worst and hopefully the good comes.”