Wednesday 21 March 2018

Momentous day for South Africa on and off the pitch

South Africa's Temba Bavuma celebrates scoring a century against England in Cape Town, South Africa. Photo: Reutres/Mike Hutchings
South Africa's Temba Bavuma celebrates scoring a century against England in Cape Town, South Africa. Photo: Reutres/Mike Hutchings

Scyld Berry

It's going to be bore-draw, as England go into the last day only 18 runs ahead with all their second-innings wickets left.

But it was a momentous day for South African society, engulfed as it is in a social media storm because the country's first non-white captain, Hashim Amla, made a double hundred and their first indigenous African Test batsman, Temba Bavuma, scored his maiden century.

Last weekend a former estate agent called Penny Stewart tweeted that black South Africans should not be allowed on beaches. Blacks were banned from beaches during apartheid.

Stewart's call was supported by a Standard Bank economist called Chris Hart, who tweeted a reference to "monkeys". Hart has been suspended.

By yesterday morning this story was front-page news and the hashtag #RacismMustFall was trending.

The 'Cape Times' editorial said: "We live in a country forged on the anvil of hatred but redeemed in the soothing balm of forgiveness. That was almost 22 years ago and the balm is fast running out, while the fires beneath the cauldron are daily being stoked by unmitigated intolerance and downright bigotry."


What Amla and Bavuma achieved was therefore more than a drop in the stormy ocean of South Africa's race relations in an economic crisis.

Amla came first. He walked in on Sunday afternoon when South Africa were seven for one wicket, and 1-0 down in the series after Durban. He had not scored a Test 50 for a year.

After 707 minutes at the crease, was Amla dismissed for 201.

Can the social impact of such an innings be quantified? For certain at the lunch interval, when Amla was 200 not out, white South African boys were buying and wearing fake Amla-like beards.

It was not the first double century that Amla had made as Test captain, but the first had been against West Indies "only", and his captaincy was being questioned on every side.

The pitch was still true when Bavuma went in, with enough bounce for strokeplay.

But South Africa quickly lost three wickets against the third - not second - new ball: Amla was bowled off the inside edge, Faf du Plessis was caught at gully when James Anderson went round the wicket, and Quinton de Kock hooked to square leg when South Africa were still 180 behind.

As soon as he had settled, Bavuma was sledged by the England players, notably after he had inside-edged Ben Stokes for four.

England have always greeted young opponents the same way: do not bother sledging if they are not any good, but start giving them heaps if they are. (© Daily Telegraph, London)

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