TELFORD VICE at the Basin Reserve
BATSMEN who get themselves out within sight of a test century shouldn’t expect unmitigated praise – what happened to those last few runs?
But Quinton de Kock and Temba Bavuma, who scored 91 and 89 for South Africa on day two of the second test against New Zealand in Wellington on Friday, don’t deserve to be held to that measure.
For one thing, it’s simplistic: the only real difference between 90 and 100 is a marginal 10 runs; nothing more, nothing less.
For another, it doesn’t take into account the wider context of a day’s play that ended with South Africa on 349/9 in reply to New Zealand’s first innings of 268 – a lead of 81.
De Kock’s and Bavuma’s runs were realised after South Africa had dwindled to 94/6, and the recovery they started made this only the 10th time in 946 innings that a team who have lost six wickets for fewer than 100 have reached 300.
Those vital runs were scored by batsmen who have been glancing over their shoulder at an advancing dark cloud of pressure.
De Kock’s last four innings in New Zealand – two of them in the one-day series – have been ended cheaply by Jeetan Patel, a garrulous, 36-year-old off-spinner with a shaved head and the beginnings of a boep.
Bavuma scored 64 in the first innings in Dunedin last week. But that was his only half-century in nine test innings.
Both, then, needed to issue reminders of why they are playing at the highest level.
They delivered them in a partnership that swelled to 160 and that began after a mad hour in which South Africa lost JP Duminy, Hashim Amla and Faf du Plessis to the fired up Colin de Grandhomme and Neil Wagner, and for the addition of only 35 runs.
Kane Williamson brought Patel on to bowl in the over after De Kock took guard, and his first delivery to the left-hander was rapped through the off side for two.
De Kock was noticeably more positive in his approach and his footwork, and his reward was 37 runs off the 43 balls he faced from Patel.
The kid’s confidence is back, as evidenced by him smashing consecutive deliveries not only from Patel but also from Tim Southee Wagner and Patel for six and four.
With his fourth test ton looming De Kock hung out a lazy bat to Jimmy Neesham and was caught behind.
Bavuma alternated audacity with crystal clear sensibility.
First he leapt high to try to uppercut a steepler from Wagner that he would have needed a stepladder to reach.
Then, to Wagner’s next ball, he played a crisp, copybook drive into the covers and scurried to and fro for three.
And so on and so forth until, his second test century beckoning, Bavuma tried to hook another Wagner bouncer that was above his shoulder – and outside off – and was caught at midwicket.
With that South Africa slipped to 290/8, and Keshav Maharaj’s slap into extra cover’s hands off Wagner, by then armed with the second new ball, made it 302/9.
The end of the innings, surely, was nigh.
Vernon Philander can hold his own as well as a bat, but he can’t do it all on his own.
And the only South African left in the shed was Morne Morkel, he of the 17 ducks in 83 innings and 34 other single-figure scores.
Clearly, Morkel doesn’t pay the stats much mind.
He survived being smacked on the badge of his helmet by Southee to reach 31 not out at stumps.
Philander was 36 not out, and the stand was worth 47 golden runs.