​Bavuma stops clock in sizzling style

It is entirely disproportionate to lead the review of a Test match with a single catch or solitary moment of fielding, but Temba Bavuma’s runout of David Warner in the second innings of the first Test against Australia in Perth on Monday may be the greatest exception in modern times, or any times.

Occasionally in sport the clock stops for certain players, usually the very best but not exclusively and not literally.

But “stopped-clock illusion” is a real thing. Great athletes have described a feeling of moving into a different time zone to the one inhabited by their opponents, one in which they see the ball or the finish line so much earlier than usual and are able to react with so much more time on their hands than ordinarily would be the case.

They describe how the noise of thousands of spectators that had previously been in their heads as a distraction suddenly disappears, and how they can hear the sound of their own breathing, like being underwater wearing a scuba mask. They often describe, too, not understanding how they reached that state of being or how they were able to perform so brilliantly.

When Warner, the danger man for the Proteas, pushed the ball into the covers and set off for what appeared to be a quick but not dangerous single, Bavuma had already taken three paces at full speed towards where his brain anticipated the ball was going to be.

Only when Warner had taken three paces of his own did he become aware of the danger.

Bavuma sprinted another six and, on the seventh, launched himself forwards in a dive towards the ball, which seemed impossibly fast to control. By then, Warner had kicked into a panicky sprint himself.

Right from the start everybody’s instincts, including Bavuma’s, said the batsman was safe — even when the throw hit and the bails fell off. But it all happened too quickly for anyone to digest. The commentators agreed it was “amazing” but concluded that Warner was safe.

Umpire Aleem Dar only referred it because he was still back-pedalling to get into position and had missed the critical moment.

From the moment Bavuma set off to the moment the bails fell, the time elapsed was a fraction over three seconds. His dive, gather and throw took three-tenths of a second. So it was understandable that the disbelieving awe took a while to set in as the replays began.

“I don’t really know what happened,” Bavuma said shortly after leaving the field following South Africa’s famous 177-run victory. “I just saw a replay and I can’t explain how I got my body into that position. It seemed to last a bit longer for me than it looked on the screen.”

Stopped-clock illusion at its best, the reward for years of practise and buckets of blood, sweat and tears, literally.

If Australia had saved the game the Bavuma moment would still have made highlights packages for years to come, but because it removed Australia’s best batsman and put the Proteas on course for victory it will be revered and cherished with the historical status it deserves.

The attention focused on the runout is also, ironically, one of the greatest back-handed compliments in the history of South African cricket because man-of-the-match Kagiso Rabada has made such an astonishing start to his Test career that a match-winning performance was all but expected.

Like Allan Donald and Dale Steyn in their prime, Rabada has already earned a reputation for delivering most when the requirement is greatest.

The over he bowled to dismiss 37-year-old veteran Adam Voges has already become an internet sensation and will, no doubt, be used by coaches and aspirant fast bowlers around the world as a classic example of “how to do it”.

Bowlers speak of setting up a batsman for his dismissal. Rabada made Voges, who averages 70 in Test cricket, look like a novice. He loves to deflect credit and praise, but he couldn’t escape this time.

“Sometimes you work a plan against a batsman and it works, sometimes it doesn’t. This was one of those times when it worked perfectly. I was pleased with that over; it was very satisfying.”

Speed and stamina are prerequisites for a 21-year-old but they are usually in the infancy stage at mastering the skills required to forge a career.

Rabada’s thirst for knowledge, and his willingness to learn and practise, flies in the face of the convention that has testosterone-fuelled youngsters believing they know best — which usually leads them trying to intimidate batsmen rather than get them out.

“He asks great questions,” said fast bowling coach Charl Langeveldt after the Perth Test. Such as? “I told him Australia would be like nothing else he has experienced. That he would encounter challenges, on and off the field, that he had never experienced before. And he said: ‘Okay, so what do I need to do to succeed?’ He’s such a pleasure to work with,” Langeveldt said.

The challenge for the team now is to win the series and make it three in a row in Australia, an unprecedented achievement for any nation.

The second Test begins at the Bellerive Oval in Hobart on Saturday, where summer arrives last in this country.

Temperatures peaked at 37°C in Perth but have not topped 17 in Hobart so far, and there is heavy rain forecast for the first day and showers on the second.

Provided the tourists are not caught “cold” on the field over the next five days whenever play is possible, their hosts could be left desperately chasing victory in the day-night Test in Adelaide at the end of the month to salvage some much-needed pride.

Varied but vital centuries from JP Duminy and Dean Elgar, incisive and controlled bowling respectively from Vernon Philander, and Quinton de Kock’s pair of critical half-centuries were also vital to victory in the first Test, as was Bavuma’s first-innings 50 after walking to the wicket at a heart-trembling 32-4.

But it is the low-flying Bavuma and the high-flying Rabada who have dominated Australia’s painful introspection this week. 

Neil Manthorp
Neil Manthorp works from Cape Town. Talk and write about cricket,golf and most sports. Executive Coach. Cook for the family when at home. Neil Manthorp has over 27405 followers on Twitter.

Hlophe complaint is an eerie echo

But the new complaint against the Western Cape judge president is also unprecedented

Mabuza contract grows by R10m

Eskom’s negotiators in a R100-million maintenance contract came back with a proposal to push up the costs

‘There were no marks on his neck’, Neil Aggett inquest...

The trade unionist’s partner at the time he was detained at John Vorster Square says she now believes his death was not a suicide

Study unpacks the ‘hidden racism’ at Stellenbosch

Students say they feel unseen and unheard at the university because of their skin colour

Press Releases

Gender-based violence is an affront to our humanity

Gender-based violence is an affront to our humanity

UK-Africa investment summit 2020: Think Africa Invest SA

UK-Africa investment summit 2020: Think Africa Invest SA

MTN unveils TikTok bundles

Customised MTN TikTok data bundles are available to all prepaid customers on *136*2#.

Marketers need to reinvent themselves

Marketing is an exciting discipline, offering the perfect fit for individuals who are equally interested in business, human dynamics and strategic thinking. But the...

Upskill yourself to land your dream job in 2020

If you received admission to an IIE Higher Certificate qualification, once you have graduated, you can articulate to an IIE Diploma and then IIE Bachelor's degree at IIE Rosebank College.

South Africans unsure of what to expect in 2020

Almost half (49%) of South Africans, 15 years and older, agree or strongly agree that they view 2020 with optimism.

KZN teacher educators jet off to Columbia University

A group of academics were selected as participants of the programme focused on PhD completion, mobility, supervision capacity development and the generation of high-impact research.

New-style star accretion bursts dazzle astronomers

Associate Professor James O Chibueze and Dr SP van den Heever are part of an international team of astronomers studying the G358-MM1 high-mass protostar.