Bavuma the bowler waiting in the wings

Sri Lanka in South Africa 2016-17 December 31, 2016

Batsman Temba Bavuma has been busy practising his seamers this season. And that might come in handy given the quick turnaround between South Africa’s Boxing Day and New Year Tests

Temba Bavuma could have had a wicket with his first ball in Test cricket but for a no-ball © Cricket Australia/Getty Images

Temba Bavuma made history at the last New Year’s Test when he became the first black African batsman to score a century for South Africa, and he will reach another landmark at the venue this time around when he plays his 100th first-class match there. But this time he might have more to contribute than just runs.

The No. 6 batsman has been working on his seamers and could help South Africa to increase their bowling options. “Temba is ready to go. He is in the back pocket, ready to cut loose at some stage,” Kyle Abbott said.

Bavuma’s bowling made its debut in international cricket in November in Perth, when he sent down an entertaining seven overs that could have started with a wicket. His first delivery hit a crack and struck Usman Khawaja on the front pad. Khawaja would have been out, but Bavuma, whose delivery stride spans the crease, had overstepped. He then had a catch dropped at slip before picking up his maiden wicket – Josh Hazlewood – who sent a leading edge to cover.

Novelty value aside, Bavuma bowled an impressive skiddy ball and even tossed in a beamer (surprise!) to prove himself handy as an alternative to the three quicks who Abbott described has previously described as being “fairly similar but with enough variation”.

South Africa’s current attack consists of Vernon Philander, Abbott, Kagiso Rabada and a spinner in Keshav Maharaj, and they carried almost all the load at St George’s Park. JP Duminy was only used for three overs while waiting for the second new ball and Dean Elgar was not called on at all. While they worked well to different plans and took 20 wickets among them on a pitch that offered no pace, bounce or turn and movement only early in the match, on stubborn surfaces, South Africa might want to have a secret weapon in hand and that could be Bavuma.

He does not have vast experience bowling on the first-class scene, with only 248 balls under his belt, but he has been honing his skills. In Australia, he was spotted several times working with bowling coach Charl Langeveldt and in the lead up to the Port Elizabeth Test he also did some bowling. All that practise may be put into play at Newlands where Abbott expects a “fairly similar” strip to what the teams got at St George’s Park, in that it will require toil. But he hopes it will deteriorate a little more.

“I know Evan [Flint, the Newlands groundsman] is reluctant to leave a lot of grass out there. Hopefully reverse swing will come into play. We have seen it come in there over the last few Test matches and it’s crucial,” Abbott said. “We struggled to get it going this [Port Elizabeth] Test match, mainly because of the pitch. There was a lot of grass on the pitch and it wasn’t really allowing for the ball to get scuffed up. But we’re probably going to have to work as hard as we did over these five days.”

The work will only feel harder on top of the 96.3 overs South Africa bowled in Sri Lanka’s second innings, which ended three days before the second Test starts on Monday. The early finish on the final morning gave them the afternoon off and what Faf du Plessis considered “enough time to get fresh legs” for the next match, but the quick turnaround could also mean Bavuma is also used to give the seamers breaks – although Abbott insisted they don’t need too many.

“There’s 90 overs in the day and that’s our job. Between the four bowlers, we are going to cover those. The spinner is probably going to bowl a little more than the three of us but even when you start playing first-class cricket as a bowler, you know that your job is to bowl 20 overs a day, that’s it. There are no shortcuts,” he said. “It’s just our job at the end of the day. It would be nice to get a bit of a rest here or there but at the end of the day you know what you’re in for and you’re not waking up surprised that you bowled 20 overs yesterday.”

Firdose Moonda is ESPNcricinfo’s South Africa correspondent

© ESPN Sports Media Ltd.

Source: ESPN Crickinfo

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