For a small man, Temba Bavuma has had some big expectations thrust on him. The biggest, in fact.

At his franchise team, the Lions, he is nicknamed Sachin. You can probably figure out why. Bavuma stands a shave under 5'3"; Tendulkar is 5'4". When the two actually met in late October, that inch appeared as tiny as it really is and as massive as the 196 Tests and 15,786 runs that separate them.

Whether Bavuma will even come close to narrowing that gap seems too much to contemplate right now but his domestic team-mates will tell you that he has the temperament to try. He dished up a small sample of that in this match where, opening the batting for the first time, he showed the head and the heart, if not always the technique, to do the job.

Bavuma's performance stood out because of the backdrop it has come against. While most of his team-mates have looked completely out of their depth on this tour, Bavuma has managed to hold his own. He accepted the challenge of batting out of position - Bavuma is a regular No.5 - but would only get the chance to slot in there for South Africa if AB de Villiers has another child, as was the case in Bangladesh - and also adjusted his game to suit the circumstance of the second innings.

In the first dig, Bavuma could still bat like he usually does. He had to be cautious but could still look for runs and his signature shot - the elegant flick off the hip - that had many praising his panache. Against bowling that cramped him for room and fielders who closed down all the angles, he eventually scored only 22, but it was a relatively assured knock. It was also more than anyone else except de Villiers.

But the instructions in the second innings were entirely different: stone-wall like you are Russia at the United Nations Security Council, do not run, do not try to run, do not look for runs, just dead-bat everything and don't get out. For a player whose role is very seldom about that kind of staunch defence, Bavuma had to apply himself in a way he had not done before.

"That was the toughest piece of batting I've had to do in my life. I always try to be positive but with the runs not being the priority, time was the key and that was tough for me," said Bavuma. "The toughest part is when I have to against my natural instinct, which is to score runs. Here, the main thing is time. It's not the runs and batting time is quite tough."

The first shot Bavuma played was that leg side clip for a single before he remembered it was not necessary to rotate strike. For the next 17 deliveries, he left the ball go outside the off stump or blocked. His next run came almost by accident, when he got on the back foot to defend one that leapt up on him and it took off form high on the bat to leave enough time and room to amble one. Hashim Amla allowed Bavuma through then, but wouldn't as the inning progressed.

Bavuma awareness of the offstump, especially against the seamers upfront, was sound but not as sternly examined as it may have been because they did not force him into playing. Ishant Sharma seemed more interested in using Bavuma as a dartboard as he tried to the attack the body. On every occasion, Bavuma managed to get out of the way. It was only when Ishant pitched it further up and brought it closer in that Bavuma had to tighten up, even though there were times when he did not get behind the line of the ball as much as he should have.

Against the spinners, Bavuma needed to be even more aware of that. He routinely exposed his off stump while staying back in the crease and R Ashwin snuck through. But the other aspects of Bavuma's response to spin - the coming forward when its tossed up and attention to watching for the turn - were signs of someone who is well-versed in playing slower-bowling and the bells and whistles that come with it, including the verbals.

In frustration, the Indian fielders even tried to intimidate Bavuma out but was able to shut that out too. "They make quite a lot of noise. They are known for their theatre. They are always trying to get you to play out of character," he said.

What Bavuma showed was that he has got the character of a Test opener, even though that is not what he was just four days ago. He has given South Africa an option they did not previously have and he has let them know it. "I've certainly been taken out of my comfort zone. I have been asked to fulfill a job that is very hard fulfilling but hopefully I can just grow here on."

As a result, he has earned the right to keep the spot for the upcoming series against England where the expectations will be big but the man himself, has now become a little bigger.

Firdose Moonda is ESPNcricinfo's South Africa correspondent