Injured Temba Bavuma ruled out of the second Test against India in Cape Town

Temba Bavuma has been ruled out of the New Year’s Test against India, after suffering a hamstring strain that kept him out of most of the Boxing Day match. Dean Elgar, fresh off a match-winning 185 in Centurion, will lead South Africa in what will be his final Test. Meanwhile, Zubayr Hamza has been added to the squad.

Bavuma hurt himself on the first morning of the match, in the 20th over, when he chased a ball towards long-off and got to it as it stopped before the boundary. He left the field immediately and was sent for a scan, which revealed a strain, but not a tear, and Cricket South Africa said he would be monitored daily to determine his further participation in the match.

He was seen briefly at the morning warm-ups, but not at all after that and over the next two days, there was no communication from team management, particularly on whether Bavuma would bat. Since it was an internal injury, he could bat only after he had served the time he was off for, or after the fall of the fifth wicket, whichever was earlier. But repeated questions to the changeroom went unanswered and speculation over the severity of his injury grew.

South Africa’s Test coach Shukri Conrad confirmed Bavuma was “not in a great physical state” but that the situation was “fluid” and the team did not want to make any public comments before they knew if Bavuma would be needed to bat. Ultimately, Conrad decided not to risk Bavuma because he deemed South Africa’s lead comfortable enough, at 163.

“Temba is not in a great physical state,” Conrad said afterwards. “He was ready to bat at every turn, and we kept monitoring it. When we reached where we reached, not because we felt that was enough, we felt that if we sent him out then there was a potential risk that he could aggravate the risk even further. We were constantly giving ourselves maximum time so we could give out the right information. If we lost wickets early, he would have walked on. With 150 runs ahead, I felt it wasn’t necessary to risk Temba.”

Bavuma will be assessed to determine his availability for his next assignment, with the Sunrisers Eastern Cape at the SA20. He will not play in South Africa’s two-Test series against New Zealand early next year because of his SA20 commitments.

This was Bavuma’s first outing since South Africa’s semi-final at the ODI World Cup against Australia on November 16, where he was carrying a right hamstring strain. Bavuma picked up that injury while fielding in their final group match against Afghanistan in Ahmedabad on November 10 but did not leave the field at any stage and batted for 49 minutes as South Africa successfully chased down 245. He did not have a scan in India but progressed with a rehabilitation program at training and was cleared to play the semi-final, even though he conceded that he was not 100% fit. South Africa lost that match by three wickets.

Bavuma was rested from South Africa’s next assignment of three T20Is and three ODIs against India, which started on December 10, and was due to play a four-day first-class match between December 14 and 17 to prepare for the Test series. He missed the practice game because of a family bereavement. On the eve of the Test, Bavuma declared himself “mentally as fresh as ever” and he was a strong presence in the field for the first 90 minutes of play.

In his absence, Elgar took over the leadership duties and will do so again next week when he signs off from South African cricket. Conrad put to bed conversations that his relationship with Elgar had turned sour after Elgar was removed as captain when Conrad took over and has since decided to retire. “If there was this frosty relationship, then he wouldn’t have captained [now],” Conrad said.

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