TELFORD VICE, Melbourne
A distance of 1.22 metres separates the bowling crease from the popping crease. A distance of 1.61 metres separates the soles of Temba Bavuma’s feet from the top of his head.
And yet, when Bavuma ran in to bowl his first delivery in test cricket at the WACA on Monday, planting his right foot on the bowling crease as he did so, he managed to overstep.
Worse yet, the ball thudded into Usman Khawaja’s pads and for a moment Bavuma looked like becoming the 21st player to take a wicket with his first test delivery.
How someone so short – the 1.91 metre Kagiso Rabada failed to see Bavuma’s frantic attempts to effect a celebratory high-five after an Australian wicket fell on Friday – could span the creases in his delivery stride beggared belief.
Also a magical mystery was how Bavuma swooped in on a wing and a prayer to run out David Warner from a horizontal airborne position on Sunday.
Not even Bavuma knew how he did it.
“I’ve always wanted to get that kind of runout but I can’t explain how it happened,” he told the Australian Broadcasting Corporation.
And all that on top of a gritty 51 in the first innings that helped repair the damage after South Africa were reduced to 32/4.
None of which surprised Rabada, Bavuma’s Lions teammate.
“He bowls now and then in the nets and everybody’s like, ‘Whoa! Temba? That’s pretty good,’,” Rabada said.
“Temba is a quality player. We’ve seen run outs like that a couple of times at franchise levels.
“For us who know him, its nothing new but that was very special.”
A week ago few Australians would not have known much about Bavuma. Now, the eyes of even the more grizzled Australian cricket writers twinkle at the mention of his name and he has been branded “a bit of a cult hero” by a television reporter.
“Everybody loves him at the moment,” South African coach Russell Domingo agreed. “He’s a good kid.
“He’s still learning and he’s disappointed he didn’t kick on after getting fifty.
“He played really beautifully in that first innings and held it together for us. He’s a guy that things seem to happen around.
“He takes great catches at short leg, he is a great bubbly personality with a very deep voice.”
That Bavuma does, and with a seriousness uncommon to 26-year-olds of any height.
As the Australians are finding out, he’s a tall order to play against.