Temba Bavuma is not among the 12 South Africa players who have assembled in Port Elizabeth to prepare for the third Test against England, but he remains close to the conversation. So close, that assistant coach Enoch Nkwe has indicated that if Bavuma finds form, he could be candidate for the national captaincy in future.
That may seem like a long way away for a player with 39 Tests to his name and only one century, scored more than four years ago, who averaged 19.84 in 2019 and has scored 9 and 17 in his last two domestic first-class innings but Bavuma is no ordinary player. He is South Africa’s only only black African Test batsman and has accepted the pressures of being a flagbearer and leader for millions.
Bavuma has chosen not to engage in the debate at the moment, posting on social media that his silence is “full of answers”. Instead it was Nkwe, himself a black African batsman, who spoke extensively on the expectations and challenges Bavuma faces and the reasons why the South African administration believes he will be back in a big way.
Are you comfortable with where South Africa is in terms of transformation targets and how things are progressing?
“There’s been a different approach, but that will come over time. We’re keeping very close with Temba Bavuma, for example. I strongly believe he’s a good player, and he’s in the process of making sure that — from a mental, emotional and skills point of view — when he gets an opportunity to come back, whether it’s in the next Test match or in a different format, he takes ownership of his position and does 10 times more than what he has done. We’re confident and believe in him. [Mark] Boucher is the same, and the rest of the team. All I’m going to ask is that we are more patient. We’re trying to put a few things in place so that we can shape things in the right direction.”
Do you think the weight expectation on Temba, being the first black African Test batsman in South Africa, has been detrimental to him?
“Knowing Temba, no. There is always going to be pressure in this environment but if you look at it, he has been unlucky. Let’s be honest. There’s been times where he got 95 not out and he was probably one big hit to get over the line and he was unfortunate. There’s been times where he got 70, 80. But also sometimes people tend to forget that the situations he has come in for South Africa have been challenging and he has been able to take the team from that position and put them in a much healthier position. Sometimes he gets out for 60, sometimes he gets out for 50 and if you look at the batting positions over the last couple of years – Nos. 4, 5 and 6 – he has been able to make those massive contributions. They might look small in terms of numbers but his contribution has been very powerful for the team and put them in a winning position. He has had good partnerships with Quinny [Quinton de Kock] and obviously Quinny has been more explosive. If maybe a bit of luck had gone his way, he would have got two or three more hundreds but those things we’ve put behind us.
“I know that having spoken to him recently, he is someone that actually looks forward to getting an opportunity. He is going to do everything in his power to make sure that when the next opportunity comes he is ready for it. He wants to be in this environment and hopefully in the future he performs well enough and he can lead the team because I know having worked with him, he is a strong leader, very smart and he is able to lead a massive group to greater heights.”
Do you see him as a future captain?
“In my mind, yes. I can see that happening. But he does understand that he needs to put in some performances. The future could be in a year’s time, it could be in two years’ time, we don’t know. Having worked with him in the last year-and-a-half, he has got the qualities, there’s no question around that. I wouldn’t be surprised if, after Faf, he takes over. That will be great for South African cricket.”
Was it the right decision to send Temba back to franchise cricket?
“From a coach’s hat and a high-performance point of view, it’s not healthy just to sit around and not play. If you are not playing, you really need to go and find some game time and fortunately, we have some franchise cricket taking place at the moment and we saw that opportunity for him to go there and stay in the game. Some of the challenges we have when we go on tours, is we have a 15-man squad and only 11 can play and the challenge of those individuals to try and get some game time is massive. It’s not only him; it’s a couple of other guys we have released as well.”
Hitting ‘thousands’ of balls helps Josh Philippe find form for BBL finals
Josh Philippe has followed the lead of his idol Steven Smith and is reaping the rewards for hitting “thousands” of balls over the last few weeks, as he battled a mid-tournament dip in form which he has turned around with the Sydney Sixers preparing for the Big Bash finals
The Sixers’ route may yet be tougher if the Adelaide Strikers take second place, and the double chance at qualifying for the final, but they are comfortably in the mix. Three wins on the bounce to finish the group stage has been an impressive way to overcome a stretch where they suffered at the hands of Marcus Stoinis’ 147* and were on the wrong end of some rain.
Philippe has made half-centuries in the last two of those outings against the Brisbane Heat and the Melbourne Renegades which came after a run of five matches where he managed 8, 6, 7, 1 and 10 following his unbeaten 83 against the Strikers in Coffs Harbour. He is the Sixers’ highest run-scorer from the regular season with 401 runs at 36.45, and a strike-rate of 126.10.
“To be honest I’ve hit thousands and thousands of balls, I’ve hit so many balls in the last few weeks. The thing with T20 cricket is when you miss out a few times it feels like it all happens so quickly,” Philippe told ESPNcricinfo. “We’ve had so many games close together, just the last few weeks where I didn’t get too many it felt like it all happened at once and I just kept backing myself, hitting a lot of balls, and hoping it would work out which it kind of did, which is nice.
“In the last couple of games I’ve just taken a few more balls to get myself in then starting to go, but sometimes you are chasing massive scores and don’t have time to do that. It’s all about reading the game, reading the situation, and the more you play the better you get at that.”
Hitting masses of deliveries at training is something associated with Smith, and the pair have had the chance to bat together for the first time in their careers in the last two games. Smith was instrumental in getting Philippe to sign for the Sixers in 2018 and is never shy of saying how far he believes the younger man can go.
“Geez, he was striking some balls very cleanly again,” Smith said after his unbeaten 66 completed the chase against the Renegades. “I’ve said it so much that kid has got some serious talent and he showed that again today. He just let me get into my innings before I could start getting a bit more expansive. That really helped.”
When asked about direct comparisons, Smith joked before lauding his striking: “He’s got a tiny head like me, so the boys give him a bit of stick about that. He’s got a pretty unique swing, the way he hits so clean, that six he hit to the on side early on against [Dan Christian] was an amazing shot, the way he check-drove it and gained so much power just shows the talent he’s got. He’ll enjoy playing in those pressure situations, he’ll learn. He’s so young, he’s got so much time on his hands.”
What is it like to hear Smith so often praise your game? “It’s amazing, really nice to hear so sorts of things. He’s a massive idol of mine and I look up to him,” Philippe said. “I’d love to one day get half as many runs as he’s got at the next level. It’s really cool to have that, and fingers crossed, I can keep making runs.”
And if someone had told Philippe a few years ago that he would be batting alongside Smith he wouldn’t have believed them. “I would have said ‘you’re dreaming’ but it’s pretty amazing. I’m stoked to be here and be in a really cool set-up with the Sixers. It’s such a bonus that we get Smith, [Josh] Hazlewood and [Nathan] Lyon back playing and it’s really cool to mix with those guys.”
As Philippe noted, the Sixers have their Australia players back and there remains some hope that Sean Abbott may yet be able to return from the side injury that ruled him out of the ODI squad to tour India. That would be a boost because the one issue the Sixers have to ponder is how to fill to the hole left by their leading wicket-taker Tom Curran, who departs for England duty now the regular season has finished, having claimed 22 wickets capped off with 3 for 27 against the Renegades.
“[He has] some great skills, he has been magnificent with the ball and under pressure with the bat,” Smith said. “Watching on TV that game that got to the Super Over [against Sydney Thunder] that was one of the best knocks I’ve seen at this Big Bash. He’ll be a big loss. He’s done his job as an overseas player, helped get us to the finals, now it’s our job to get it done for him.”
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Match Preview New Zealand vs India, 2nd T20I 2020
New Zealand actually had a fairly decent game with the ball – their plans were good, execution not always but spot on but more on than off – but they still lost comfortably to India in the series opener. This tells you two things: when India are chasing, you need to put on an above-par score, and Jasprit Bumrah always stands in the way of such an endeavour. In an innings that New Zealand kept nudging at 10 an over, looking for a final kick to push them past 220, Bumrah conceded just 16 runs in overs 18 and 20, three overthrows included.
New Zealand can match India’s accomplished batting line-up over 20 overs with power and innovation, but it is in the bowling that India continue to be a superior side. In the second of the double-header at Eden Park, the hosts will have to find a way to hurt India’s bowling to give their bowlers a chance. Expect Shivam Dube and Yuzvendra Chahal to be put under more pressure and not be allowed to go at eight an over on such a small ground.
India’s batting remains good as gold in chases, but if they lose the toss, their newfound intent – and they have shown it when batting first against West Indies and Australia in both T20Is and ODIs recently – will be tested when setting a target on the small ground.
New Zealand LLLWW (last five completed matches, most recent first)
In the spotlight
New Zealand openers gave them a start in the first T20I, but they ended up with strike rates of 140 and 158. They will want at least one of Martin Guptill and Colin Munro to score at near two runs a ball to get a score big enough for this venue.
Five overs for 42 runs and two wickets, Ravindra Jadeja and Shivam Dube will have pleased India no end with their performance in the first match. That there are two allrounders eases the pressure on both of them. If they can keep delivering similar results, India will be closer to finding a plan for the T20 World Cup.
New Zealand might think of the odd change but they will know it was not in the choice of the personnel that they lost the first game.
New Zealand (probable): 1 Martin Guptill, 2 Colin Munro, 3 Kane Williamson (capt.),4 Colin de Grandhomme, 5 Ross Taylor, 6 Tim Seifert (wk) 7 Mitchell Santner/ Daryl Mitchell, 8 Ish Sodhi, 9 Tim Southee, 10 Blair Tickner, 11 Hamish Bennett
Now that they have preferred Manish Pandey to Rishabh Pant in the middle order, India are expected to give him a decent run. Expect only one change in the Indian XI: Navdeep Saini in for Shardul Thakur.
India (probable): 1 Rohit Sharma, 2 KL Rahul (wk), 3 Virat Kohli (capt.), 4 Shreyas Iyer, 5 Manish Pandey, 6 Shivam Dube 7 Ravindra Jadeja, 8 Yuzvendra Chahal, 9 Mohammed Shami, 10 Navdeep Saini, 11 Jasprit Bumrah
Pitch and conditions
The first T20I featured some dew, which will be on the minds of captains at the toss. Other than that, expect a lot of runs and no stoppages.
Stats and trivia
Ish Sodhi needs one wicket to become the fourth New Zealand bowler to take 50. Mitchell Santner had reached the landmark on Friday.
Only one of the last six matches at Eden Park has resulted in a win for the side batting first.
“We had great support. We had 80% India fans here, and the atmosphere was great. You need that in a 200-plus chase, they help us go further, be braver.”
Virat Kohli is thankful for the fans turning it into a home game
“Every time we play India, whether it is a home game, away game or a neutral venue, they’re always very well supported. I am not sure what the numbers were today. There’s probably 20,000, and probably 12,000 were Indian supporters.”
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