Temba Bavuma's disappointment was not just his own. After he was left stranded on 95, and before Bavuma could show any frustration, Morne Morkel, who had fended the first ball he faced to second slip to end South Africa's innings, let off enough steam for the both of them.

Morkel slammed his bat into the ground and yelled a few words that, if directed at anyone else, might have gone down as a code of conduct violation. "Morne is very disappointed," Bavuma said. "He did throw some profanities. I kind of felt for him and it took away the disappointment that I had. You almost had to give him the shoulder to cry on."

A ball before that Keshav Maharaj had trooped off with a hangdog expression, after slashing at a wide ball to end a career-best knock with a career-worst dismissal. None of the tail - not even Vernon Philander, usually so stoic - stayed with Bavuma for long enough to get him to three figures. Sure, given the way Bavuma plays, it could have taken a long time, but it has been more than two years since his maiden hundred against England, so it would have been worth the wait.

But at the end of it, Bavuma only blamed himself. "I would never be cross at Morne or the other batter. I can only look at myself and look back at my innings and maybe there were opportunities that I let go that I could have turned into a 100."

If you ask those who watched the first hour, there were several opportunities in that time alone. Bavuma scored only one run in the first hour and spent 34 balls on 26 but, like Dean Elgar and Hashim Amla who scored 46 runs in 23 overs in Port Elizabeth, he was merely absorbing pressure, waiting for the bowlers to tire, and conditions to become easier to bat in.

"I know that generally at the Wanderers in the morning it's quite hard for the batters to score. The wicket is still soft so the ball generally nips and swings a bit more. I was just moving with the belief that later on it would get easier and the bowlers would get tired and I would get opportunities to score," Bavuma said. "I think they bowled very well in the morning and I had to respect that. My confidence and comfort came from knowing that I'd be able to score my runs later on."

And that he did. Bavuma scored 35 runs in the second hour and that might have been as good as it got. He should have been out the over after lunch, when he was on 61, when Joe Burns juggled and then put down a simple chance at short leg. At that stage, 27 of Bavuma's runs had come through the off side, indicative of his reliance on the cover drive.

As things stood then, perhaps the next 34 runs could have been considered a bonus. But as the bonus crept towards the three-figure mark, it became a bonus that could have paid dividends for years to come. "Everyone wants to get a hundred," Bavuma said, "especially me."

With only one to his name, it's obvious why. Bavuma, rightly or wrongly, will be under pressure for his place for as long as his century count remains at one, and he knows it. "As a batter, first and foremost, you like to score centuries," he said. And with immense competition in the line-up, batsmen need to score centuries to stand out. It was ultimately a contributor to what cost Bavuma his spot earlier this summer, along with the return of AB de Villiers, and an injury. Combined, those three factors have resulted in several questions over Bavuma's place in the Test team, questions that he has finally answered.

Yes, he is still good enough and, more importantly, yes, he is ready enough.

Bavuma played only one franchise game this year, a List A match for the Cobras, in which he opened the batting, scored 65, and broke his hand, thereby ruling himself out of the India series. He was unlikely to play in the series anyway, because of South Africa's team combination of five specialist batsmen, the keeper, and five bowlers, but it also meant he was unable to get any game time ahead of the Australia series, where the strategy changed and an extra batsman was needed. And so Theunis de Bruyn got another chance ahead of Bavuma.

It's unfortunate that de Bruyn, who carries a magnificent first-class record with an average of 46.27, has yet to show his quality at this level. It is also unfortunate that he was picked to bat at No.6 in this series, where he would have to come up against a reverse-swinging ball, and that he was undone by it in three out of four innings. De Bruyn managed a steely 36 in the second innings in Durban but with little else to show, when Bavuma returned to full fitness, the selectors decided to give the "senior" batsman - in international experience terms - his place back, even though he had not had any significant game time.

Bavuma had only played a club game in the lead-up to his comeback, having been unavailable for franchise first-class matches. With all the noise around the need for Dale Steyn to prove his fitness on the domestic stage before being reconsidered, it seemed like a double standard was being applied. But Faf du Plessis, who returned from 10 weeks of inaction after a back injury and subsequent shoulder surgery late last year to play in the New Year's Test against India, maintained that the situation is different for batsmen.

Du Plessis said mental preparation was more important than time in the middle and he provided some support for his own theory. Du Plessis scored two half-centuries on tough pitches in two Tests against India but has since only crossed 20 once in 10 innings, and has been injured again. A broken finger from the first ODI against India in early February ruled du Plessis out of the rest of the six-match series and the three T20Is, which left him sidelined for a month before this Australia series, in which he has struggled most.

Bavuma seemed similarly rusty on his comeback in Cape Town last week. He scored 1 and 5, was squared up by Pat Cummins in the first innings and drawn forward by Josh Hazlewood in the second. Both times his edge was caught at second slip. The evidence suggested Bavuma was out of practice and the Wanderers would only expose that further. But this is a ground he knows, having started his first-class career at the Bullring, and a ground he knows how to navigate.

"I had to exercise a lot of discipline," Bavuma said. "I've been in situations like that before - it was similar in England at the Oval, where the ball was moving around and you had to stay out there, keep calm and understand there will be a point were you can score runs. Then you need to be in the right mental state to dominate. That's what I tried to do today and thankfully it came off."

Bavuma may never dominate in the same way Aiden Markram or AB de Villiers and he doesn't have to. He does need to develop his game to the point where is more comfortable looking for leg-side scoring options earlier in his innings and he has a lot of time to do that. Bavuma is only 27 and with the likes of Hashim Amla and de Villiers and even du Plesiss closer to the end of their careers than the beginning, he will have many years to score runs for South Africa. As will de Bruyn, who must resist a Kolpak offer, if one comes knocking, because even though he has been sidelined now, it will not be for long. And then, the disappointments will become fewer and the satisfaction greater, something Bavuma already seems to know.

"This is probably one of the innings that I'll savour in my career. It wasn't easy for me, especially having come from having not much cricket," Bavuma said. "Looking at my career and what I have done for the team, there's other areas I can take comfort and confidence from. It's not like I second-guess my position. I know that I have done enough to push for a position. In a selfish way, I want to have more hundreds, but I will take my career as it has panned out."

Firdose Moonda is ESPNcricinfo's South Africa correspondent