De Bruyn, Bavuma build lead over England Lions
South Africa A 389 for 7 (de Bruyn 161, Bavuma 102) lead England Lions 260 by 129 runs
Two batsmen who are expected to represent South Africa against England later this year were to the fore after the shine went off the new ball and the Lions' bowling, impressive in the first hour's play, was largely spent. Temba Bavuma and Theunis de Bruyn, of contrasting height, styles and backgrounds, one of whom has already played Test cricket, made 102 and 161 respectively, dismissively at times.
De Bruyn's innings, which included 26 fours and two sixes, took his first-class average to 59.72. This is only his 11th first-class match and this hundred followed a double-century in Paarl, so we are talking about a notable talent. His difficulty in terms of playing Test cricket is that the South African selectors tend to be loyal to the incumbents in the batting order and hence he will have to wait his turn. But not for long, at this rate. Bavuma, a much smaller man, already has two Test caps and another century for South Africa A against Australia A to his name from last year.
As on the opening day, it was apparent that the bowlers would have to take their wickets in the first hour's play. On Sunday, the pitch was a little damp; now, the Lions had to capitalise when the ball was still hard. Indeed they did: Gihahn Cloete went to the first ball, leaving alone one from Mark Wood, who had changed ends, and which hit his off stump. Reeza Hendricks, dropped on 20 at second slip by Adam Lyth off Boyd Rankin, was promptly caught there two balls later. That was 29 for 3. Wood, excelling through his short, springy run to the wicket, will stay on for the limited-overs matches as Craig Overton is to return to England for treatment to his right ankle.
It was an altogether different picture after the first hour. Rankin, who had bowled throughout it on another hot day, was beautifully driven to the extra cover boundary by Bavuma, the ball running down a slope that exists all around the ground. There was one chance offered in this period before lunch when de Bruyn, driving at Adam Riley, was missed at slip by Jonathan Trott. In fairness, only the pick of specialist slip fielders would have held it, for the ball came markedly swiftly off the edge.
Riley bowled again after lunch, as did Adil Rashid, whose length was unimpressive. Bavuma and de Bruyn put on 100 off 145 balls and 200 from 282 balls, the former reaching his century with 15 fours before he made to pull his next ball, from James Vince, and was held at second slip off a glove. Vince, who bowls only on occasion for Hampshire, looks to be a yard quicker now, which would suggest the Lions want to supplement his established game.
De Bruyn reached 1000 first-class career runs, becoming the third quickest South African batsman to do so after Jean Symes and Jimmy Christy. Note that this was better than Graeme Pollock and Barry Richards, although comparisons with those two luminaries are best avoided. He had made 161 off 176 balls when he aimed to square drive and was taken by Jonny Bairstow. There are two county coaches here: Mark Robinson of Sussex and Mick Newell of Nottinghamshire, and although visa requirements for South Africans have been tightened up, word will get around.
Justin Ontong contributed 54 off 91 balls with six fours before he was caught at first slip, top edging an attempted cut off Liam Plunkett. Newell also likes the look of Chris Morris, but as a medium pacer, not a batsman, and he also went before the close, Rankin gaining a third wicket.
South Africa A will look to their remaining three wickets to make 60 more runs on the third morning. Their lead is healthy thanks to the 210-run fourth-wicket stand between de Bruyn and Bavuma, who said he drew energy from batting with his partner.
"At 29 for three, I had to graft and we helped each other," he said. "I thought Mark Wood was the best of the bowlers as he kept to fuller lengths and was getting the ball to nibble away. And sometimes Boyd Rankin's arm was coming out of the black area above the sightscreen - but I made a conscious decision to try to take him on. The pitch has quickened up a bit and the odd ball jumped in the morning."
Boyd Rankin, who is six foot eight inches compared to Bavuma's five foot three inches, said that some of the Lions' fielders had overheard Bavuma saying he was having difficulty sighting the ball. "There are some grounds on which my arm does come from over the sightscreen and I use that to my advantage. I knew he was struggling so I kept the ball well up to the bat. It was a tough day but the pitch is still a good one and we have confidence in our batsmen."