Mature Bavuma making most of limited-overs chance
Cape Town - A man who has been the subject of so much speculation in Test cricket, Temba Bavuma is quietly going about carving a niche for himself as a vital member of South Africa's limited-overs top order.
While he has amassed 40 Test matches since making his debut in 2014, Bavuma has had to be patient in waiting for his opportunities in both ODI and T20 cricket.
Now that those chances are here, Bavuma looks determined to cash in and ensure that he doesn't let his place go.
Not the longest hitter, Bavuma has relied more on an ability to rotate strike while being more than capable of finding the fence when the right ball presents itself. He is innovative, quick between the wickets and, technically, in some serious touch right now.
It is all reflecting in his numbers.
Bavuma averages 61.80 at a strike rate 92.79 after five ODIs and 59.50 at 127.95 from his three T20Is so far. It is obviously naive to read too much into those numbers given that Bavuma is still in the early stages of his international limited-overs career, but the signs are certainly encouraging.
Under the new leadership of coach Mark Boucher, this South African side is starting fresh on all fronts and with that comes a lot of untested, young talent being exposed at this level.
Bavuma, though, is a player that brings experience, maturity and confidence, offering a stability to a side that is largely green.
In the first T20 against England in East London on Wednesday, Bavuma timed his innings to perfection, easily knocking the ball around the Buffalo Park turf until Quinton de Kock's blistering 31 (15) had come to an end.
After De Kock's departure, Bavuma was able to shift up a gear and take the attack to the English bowlers. By the time he was out, Bavuma had scored 43 (27), hitting just four boundaries along the way in an innings indicative of his ability to keep the scoreboard moving effortlessly.
South Africa's middle-order misfired and their 177/8 from 20 overs should have been closer to 200, but Bavuma's efforts were one of the pleasing highlights of an innings that fell a bit flat in the middle overs.
De Kock and Bavuma are becoming a more than useful pairing in limited overs cricket, complementing each other with their different, yet effective approaches, while their understanding between the wickets keeps the fielders under relentless pressure.
"It's always nice to contribute to the team," Bavuma said on Thursday, looking back on his knock the day before.
"I'm enjoying my time in white ball cricket and I feel I'm hitting the ball quite nicely.
"For me it's just about looking to suck up this little patch that I'm going through and hopefully it continues for as long as possible.
"Quinny got off to a flyer, as per usual, and I think I also got going from my side.
"In T20 you don't really have too much time to ponder the conditions. You're always looking to put the bowlers under pressure."
With the T20 World Cup set for October this year, places are up for grabs in the Proteas set-up and with the likes of Faf du Plessis, Aiden Markram and potentially even AB de Villiers set to return, there are no guarantees for anyone other than De Kock in the current top order.
It may only be one victory, but everything the Proteas do in T20 cricket presently contributes in some way towards the World Cup.
"For a young team like us, a lot of our guys are trying to stake a claim for future T20 games and we can take a lot of confidence from our efforts yesterday," Bavuma added.
"We know at the back of our minds that with these types of wins, we want to be able to scrape them when it really matters in the big events.
"We know that it's going to be called upon for us to do that and the best time to start it is against top teams like England."
Victory in Durban on Friday night, where there are expected to be clear skies, would give the Proteas a series victory.
The third and final T20 takes place at Centurion on Sunday.