Temba Bavuma scored his maiden half-century in his third Test match to hold a teetering South Africa first innings together on the opening day of the series against Bangladesh at Chittagong on Tuesday. Just like his ODI career, Bangladesh pacer Mustafizur Rahman made a dream Test debut taking four wickets for 37, including three wickets in an over. Mustafizur was well supported by leg-spinner Jubair Hossain, who took 3 for 53. (Scorecard)
The Proteas, after winning the toss, looked to be in good shape at 104/1 at lunch, the only wicket being that of Stiaan van Zyl who was opening in a Test match for the first time. But there was dramatic turnaround in the remaining two sessions as the Proteas were dismissed for 248 and Bangladesh reached 7/0 in the two overs that were possible before the close.
The Proteas' troubles started in the afternoon session when their batsmen became bogged down much as had happened in the ODI series and were restricted to 61/2 in 29 overs. Of these 11 were maidens and, instead of taking control of the match, South Africa found themselves being put under ever increasing pressure.
The impressive Mustafizur then struck a succession of devastating blows in the third over of the final session as he dismissed Hashim Amla, JP Duminy and Quinton de Kock in the space of four balls. He went on to complete an outstanding four-over spell with figures of 4-2-6-3.
Bavuma was left to resurrect the innings as well as he could with the assistance of the lower-order. His innings of 54 came off 108 balls (5 fours) before he was last man out caught on the boundary at midwicket.
For a man who was making his international debut on the sub-continent Bavuma's innings was highly impressive, not to mention the mental strength he displayed in soaking up the pressure. He was a shining light in taking the attack to the Bangladesh bowlers. His game plan was good, his reading of length impeccable and his footwork both quick and assured.
One of the advantages Bavuma brings to the Proteas' batting line-up is that he is short of stature with the result that, regardless of who his batting partner is, the bowlers are always having to adjust their length provided the strike is being rotated. He was able to play back to balls that would have been a good length to his colleagues and this makes it easier for him to rotate the strike.
Bavuma has come off an excellent 12 months of cricket, having made centuries for South Africa A against both Australia and the England Lions, averaging over 100 in both unofficial Test series. In between that he made 550 (2 centuries) for the trophy-winning bizhub Highveld Lions in the Sunfoil Series at an average of almost 70.
Ironically, on a day when the Proteas failed to put together big partnerships, the fourth wicket stand of 37 by Amla and Bavuma was a South African record for the wicket against Bangladesh. The previous record had been an extremely modest 25 by Jacques Kallis and Ashwell Prince.
Mustafizur finished with figures of 4/37 to be the pick of the Bangladesh attack but equal praise should go to his new ball partner, Mohammad Shahid, who performed an excellent holding role as his 17 overs cost only 34 runs. He was unlucky in that he had two catches dropped and, in truth, the Bangladesh fielders did not give their bowlers the support they deserved.
As has been the case for most of the tour the Bangladesh seamers have caused the Proteas more problems than their spinners.
The onus is now on Dale Steyn and the rest of the attack to pull the game back for the Proteas. They also trailed Bangladesh on the first innings in their first Test match at Dhaka in 2008 and went on to win comfortably but they are now facing a much more street-wise and confident home combination.