Theunis de Bruyn might’ve gained most of the praise from an improved Proteas batting effort in the defeat in the second Test against Sri Lanka but it’s possible he wouldn’t have been able to reach a maiden Test century were it not for Temba Bavuma.
The pair seemed to work brilliantly together in compiling a 123-run partnership for the sixth wicket, comfortably the best alliance between any South African batting duo in the series.
However, the more important factor was that Bavuma was at the crease for 133 minutes, a stay long enough for De Bruyn to have reached 84.
Given how the rest of the Proteas’ batting crumbled, he wouldn’t have remotely come close to even that score.
While De Bruyn was undoubtedly grateful, what caught his eye – and a lot of other observers – was the rate at which Bavuma scored.
63 off 98 balls on a turning pitch is good going.
“Temba actually came in and played quite comfortably,” said De Bruyn, following his 232-ball 101.
“He scored runs all the way through his innings and could start ticking over the strike. I think we almost had the same game plan – to sweep a lot and reverse sweep, and hit your ones over the legside.”
The Titans star, who was still captain of the Knights last season, took in a lot from his partner’s knock.
“I think we both learned a lot over the last few hours, playing against the Sri Lankan spinners on this wicket,” he said.
De Bruyn’s patient, skillful knock is by all means a breakthrough.
He’d been hailed as an exciting prospect in 2015 already when he pasted England A’s attack for South Africa A.
But Test cricket has been tough to him.
After making his debut in Hamilton against New Zealand last year, he was run out after colliding with Hashim Amla.
There was a solid 48 at Lord’s in 2017 and a gutsy 36 against the Aussies in Durban earlier this year but his only other score over double figures was a 15 in PE.
Thrown at the deep end in Colombo, he came good.
“It’s been quite a journey – it’s been tough. My international career didn’t start the way I wanted it to,” said De Bruyn.
“But I just had a bit of calmness landing in the airport here in Sri Lanka. As we drove to the hotel, I looked at the ocean and said to myself: ‘Yep, there could be something special.’ As a team, it wasn’t special, but for me it was special.”