Australia v South Africa, 1st Test, Perth, 4th day November 6, 2016

Bavuma swoops to lift South Africa's spirits

Just when Australia's openers were beginning to stretch a depleted bowling attack, Temba Bavuma came up with a moment of magic that reinforced South Africa's dominance at the WACA

Temba Bavuma's anticipation and athleticism found David Warner a fraction short of his crease to begin Australia's slide on day four © Getty Images

Of the 108,000 seconds in a Test match, can 0.264 make any difference?

That was the time it took for Temba Bavuma to show South Africa what they would need to do to win this Test match. Something special.

Bavuma was responsible for taking the first wicket, not with the medium-pacers he had been practising in the warm-ups, but with a piece of fielding that will be a part of highlights reels for decades to come.

From his position at point, Bavuma was on the move a fraction before David Warner, who was on the back foot to nudge the ball into the covers, began running to the other end. By the time Warner was in stride, Bavuma swooped, picked up, and threw in one fluid motion, and was fully airborne when the ball left his hand. In this case, "one fluid motion" could be quantified - by the host broadcaster's calculations, it had taken Bavuma a mere 0.264 seconds between pick-up and release.

Had he taken any longer, Warner might have found himself home and dry. Instead, Bavuma's throw found the base of middle stump fractionally before Warner dragged his bat past the crease.

That Bavuma's brilliance came a ball after Warner had survived a chance, when he flashed at a full, wide ball and got a thick outside edge that flew over Dean Elgar at third slip, reassured South Africa of what was possible. That it came before Kagiso Rabada drew Shaun Marsh into poking at a good-length delivery that took the edge and found Faf du Plessis at second slip reminded them they still had a wicket-taker in their ranks.

South Africa cannot rely on Rabada alone, although in the last 40 minutes of day four it looked like they might be able to. He returned to rock Australia just as they seemed to be steering themselves to safety and took out two more - including the captain Steven Smith - in a spell of searing intensity. Rabada's strategy was to pepper the area outside off to force the batsmen into playing and mix it up with the odd bouncer to keep them guessing. He moved the ball both ways and continually asked the same question - are you good enough to last? He was bound to get some answers in the negative.

But Rabada's success would not have come without the careful planning of his captain. Du Plessis has a lot more to think about than just resource distribution, he also has to consider how he will execute the plans South Africa may have discussed when they thought they would have a full complement of bowlers. Plans like having a silly point but leaving the cover area open for Smith, so he would want to drive even when he should be thinking of defence. Some of those will still work - and this one did - but some of the others will have to be modified to make up for Dale Steyn's absence.

That's why Stephen Cook bowled two overs in an exploratory exercise to see if reverse-swing was on offer. It allowed Keshav Maharaj to change ends but he found the breeze too difficult to bowl into from the Lillee-Marsh end. There will much more of that on the final day.

Bavuma is one option and has been caught on camera having discussions with bowling coach Charl Langeveldt on seam movement. Elgar is another. The best word to describe his left-arm spin is "filthy", but often it's the filthiness that gets him his success. Some may wonder if du Plessis will have a bowl too, if needed. It's unlikely given how persistent back problems stopped him from fine-tuning his legspin any further, but if he feels up to it, who knows?

Whatever South Africa decide to do, they will have to do it together but without Dale Steyn. He won't even be in the change room to offer his advice. Steyn will fly back to Cape Town on Sunday night and by the time he arrives home, the match may be over. If he has had anything to say, he has said it by now. The other heavyweights, AB de Villiers and Graeme Smith, are doing the talking on social media. Mostly, they are sending messages of support but in Smith's case, he also had a dig at whether Australia have developed what South Africa were often accused of having: a soft underbelly.

That may be the case - and it's something that will be debated in the aftermath - but if South Africa buy into that too much, they may make the mistake of setting themselves up for a long day. They have to approach the final push as Vernon Philander has done in this Test match, by quietly and clinically proving they've got everything it takes. Philander has had his best game in the last two years, with bat and ball, and it's no surprise South Africa are benefitting from that, but it is not that alone that they need.

There are still 21,600 seconds left in the Test. For South Africa, every 0.264 of them counts.

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Firdose Moonda is ESPNcricinfo's South Africa correspondent