The Bavuma-Conrad era starts brightly for the Proteas

The Bavuma-Conrad era starts brightly for the Proteas
Kagiso Rabada of South Africa celebrates with Temba Bavuma and fellow teammates after his dismissal of Kraigg Brathwaite of the West Indies on day four of the second Test against West Indies at the Wanderers Stadium on Johannesburg on 11 March 2023. (Photo: Sydney Seshibedi / Gallo Images)

Shukri Conrad has not been afraid of making daring decisions in his short stint in charge of the Proteas. With a 2-0 series win against West Indies to start off his reign, it’s hard to argue against his approach.

The Proteas sealed a 284-run second Test victory over the West Indies, thanks to an excellent collective bowling display that bundled the guests out for 106 runs in two sessions at the Wanderers in Johannesburg on Saturday, 11 March.

The victory secured a 2-0 series win over the Caribbean nation after the Proteas’ 87-run win a week before.

It is the side’s first series win in almost a year. After beating a weary Bangladesh in 2022, South Africa convincingly lost two series to England and Australia away.

A change of leadership from those tours seems to have rerouted the team.

“It’s no secret where the side has come from. Australia was really dark,” red-ball coach Shukri Conrad said after his first series in charge.

Along with new Test captain, Temba Bavuma, he got his reign off to a brave, successful start.

bavuma conrad

Temba Bavuma of South Africa bats on day four of the second Test against West Indies at the Wanderers Stadium in Johannesburg on 11 March 2023. South Africa set the Windies 391 to win the match on the fourth day on Saturday on the back of Bavuma’s phenomenal career-best 172 before the Proteas sealed a 284-run victory. (Photo: Sydney Seshibedi / Gallo Images)

Bavuma, despite being the leading Test batter in the country over the past two years, seemed unable to turn his red-hot form into a truly meaningful knock. And then he struck a career-best 172 in the second Test against West Indies.

Read more in Daily Maverick: “Temba Bavuma scores historic second Test-match century against West Indies

Bavuma has bailed the Proteas out of trouble on many occasions with his characteristic back-against-the-wall rearguard batting, but he took it to another level in the second innings with a truly sublime knock when his team needed it most.

“He’s always under a lot of pressure. For no good reason sometimes. I think [the] knock was monumental in so many respects,” Conrad said about the Test skipper.

“The series was on a knife edge. West Indies, as they have done throughout the series, seemed to find a way of clawing themselves back into the match.

“We, on the other hand, often found ways of allowing them back into the game.

“When [Bavuma] walked in [at] eight for two, it was really [important] that someone stood up and moved the series and the momentum of the game in our favour… And it was Temba.

 “That was both match- and series-defining.”

Brave decisions

South Africa set the Windies 391 to win the match on the fourth day on Saturday on the back of Bavuma’s phenomenal knock.

And it was Gerald Coetzee, playing in his debut series, who cleaned up the tail that had wagged viciously in the first innings. Coetzee picked up three wickets for 37 runs in eight overs.

The fact that Coetzee was even playing, much less as one of only two quicks in the lineup, is one of a few brave decisions Conrad made in his maiden series – although not all turned out to be completely successful.

At Centurion in the first Test, Coetzee had bowled behind KG Rabada, Anrich Nortje and Marco Jansen, “so it was probably an easier role but the way he stepped up here was [good]”, Conrad said.

Coetzee ended the series with nine wickets, at an average of 15.88 and a strike rate of 26.6, more than justifying his inclusion in the team.


Temba Bavuma of South Africa bats on day four of the second Test against West Indies at the Wanderers Stadium on Johannesburg on 11 March 2023. (Photo: Sydney Seshibedi / Gallo Images)

Aiden Markram was another player Conrad drafted into the Test team after he missed the red-ball tour to Australia over December and January under the leadership of former coach Mark Boucher.

“There’s a lot of positives that we can take from the series. To single out a few: a guy like Aiden, coming back into the team and leading the way with the bat for us as a team. He was probably the difference between the batters in this series,” Bavuma said about his opener.

Markram was awarded the player of the series award after scoring the most runs across the two matches (276 at an average of 69).

Markram and Bavuma both scored centuries in the series, the first time two South Africans reached the milestone in the same series since Sarel Erwee and Kyle Verreynne’s knocks against New Zealand in February last year.

In fact, Markram’s century was South Africa’s first Test century since Verreynne’s 136 in the second innings of the first Test match against the Kiwis.

“It’s great that we have two centurions in this series. We passed 300 a few times which hasn’t happened in the recent past,” said Conrad about the improved batting performance.


Despite the refined performance with the bat, skipper Bavuma believes the unit is not yet the finished product.

“The bowlers, as a unit, strengthened the perception or tag that they’re quite a formidable bowling attack,” he said.

“With the batting, there is good but there are also areas where we can improve a lot.”

Among those is South Africa’s tendency for a batting collapse, displayed in both matches.

There was much talk before the series against West Indies about playing a positive brand of cricket – from both captain and coach. But Conrad has hinted that his team do not have the generational talents of a bygone era and they need to work with what is available.

“I need to make this point. We don’t have the Graeme Smiths and the Hashim Amlas and the AB de Villiers and the Jacques Kallises in this unit so we have to find different ways of skinning this cat,” said the coach.

Not all the players Conrad brought back into the red-ball fold repaid his faith to the same extent.

Heinrich Klaasen was one such example. The explosive white-ball batter never really got going in the series with a high score of 20, but it was his manner of dismissals in all four innings that was most disappointing.

The fact that 25-year-old Verryenne – who was the Proteas’ second-highest run-getter in Australia – was the one to make way for 32-year-old Klaasen might have Conrad rethinking the brave decision he made at the start of the Windies tour.

Nonetheless, South African cricket supporters will have to wait nine months to find out what Conrad’s choice will be for the wicketkeeper-batter role.

The country’s next scheduled Test is in December against India, as South Africa play only three matches in the format this year.

“Because we find ourselves in such a unique situation, we need to find novel ways of ensuring that guys get better and get accustomed to pressure situations,” said Conrad.

These methods include SA “A” series where new players such as Tony de Zorzi, who played solidly across the series, will have the opportunity to continue to improve.

The Bavuma-Conrad era has begun brightly and has the potential to continue to glow, but the International Cricket Council’s Future Tours Programme’s lack of matches for South Africa has the potential of extinguishing the flame. DM


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