South Africa’s captain Temba Bavuma could be a doubt for their semi-final against Australia – more than likely to be in Kolkata on Thursday – after sustaining a hamstring injury during their final league match against Afghanistan in Ahmedabad.
Bavuma left the field after nine balls of the first innings, and returned four overs later but limped as he fielded – mostly at mid-off. He chased balls gingerly and hobbled as he jogged to talk to his bowlers but did not go off again, with his role as opening batter in mind. Had Bavuma spent significant time off the field, he would have only been allowed to bat after the same amount of time had elapsed or until at least five batters had been dismissed.
“Obviously my leg is sore – don’t know to what extent – but it’s going be have to be fine [for the semi-final],” Bavuma said* during the post-match presentation after South Africa beat Afghanistan. “Obviously I had that option of coming off, but I think as much as it was our last group-stage game, probably it didn’t have a big bearing in terms of the play-off.
“But I still wanted to be out there with the guys. It was an opportunity for me to get some time in the middle [batting], so I didn’t want to let that go. But also to keep leading the guys, keep marshalling out in the field, [and] keep strengthening those relationships with the bowlers. It was a bit risky, staying on the field – but that’s what I felt was right at that time.”
With a top score of 35 in the World Cup before this game, Bavuma was desperate for runs. He came out to open the batting alongside Quinton de Kock, and ran 11 singles in his time at the crease – all at a leisurely pace, though there was one moment where things got dicey. Bavuma played Mohammad Nabi to square leg, and there was hesitation between the batters on whether to take the run or not. By the time they did, Noor Ahmed completed a quick pick up but threw to de Kock’s end, and he was able to sprint and slide his bat in. Bavuma, on the other side, was safe.
Bavuma and de Kock put on 57 in the powerplay and celebrated their half-century stand with an unusually long hug before Bavuma geared up to face the 11th over. He inside-edged Mujeeb Ur Rahman for four off the second ball, but then top-edged a pull straight to Rahmanullah Gurbaz at deep square leg.
Should Bavuma be unable to play in the semi-final, Aiden Markram should captain South Africa – as he did when Bavuma missed the England and Bangladesh games with illness – while Reeza Hendricks should open the batting.
South Africa eventually ended up successfully chasing down 245 against Afghanistan, in what was their second win while chasing during this World Cup. Although the victory – with five wickets and 15 balls in the bank – seemed comfortable enough in the end, there was a stage when they needed the remaining 31 from 27 balls.
Bavuma felt confident after the win as South Africa barely crossed the line during a one-wicket against Pakistan, either side of a loss against Netherlands and a hammering against India while batting second.
“They say winning is a habit, so we want to take that momentum forward,” Bavuma said. “We take a lot of confidence. Also, today we did something a bit differently. Normally the preference is to bat first; [but today] we batted second. Well, we were sent in to bowl first, and to get over the line in that manner is going to put a lot of confidence in us.
“[There was a] lot of understanding as to how we can go about that chase. Fantastic knock by Rassie, who took ownership of that innings, and guys batted around him.”
*5.30pm GMT – The story was updated with Bavuma’s quotes after South Africa beat Afghanistan