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Bavuma returns to lead South Africa to West Indies in rare Test series

Temba Bavuma made a career-best 172 at Johannesburg in the last Test he played against the West Indies in May 2023 (PHILL MAGAKOE)
Temba Bavuma made a career-best 172 at Johannesburg in the last Test he played against the West Indies in May 2023 (PHILL MAGAKOE)

Temba Bavuma will return to international cricket for the first time this year when he captains South Africa in a two-match Test series in the West Indies next month.

His lengthy absence from South African teams illustrates what coach Shukri Conrad says is the reality of a modern cricketing world dominated by white-ball cricket.

“It is what it is and we just have to make it work,” Conrad said at a press conference announcing a 16-man squad for the tour.

White-ball and English county commitments mean that Conrad will only have eight of his 16-man squad available for a pre-tour camp in Durban next week.

Bavuma was injured during South Africa’s first Test against India last December and missed the second Test in which South Africa were beaten in one-and-a-half days on a sub-standard pitch.

He then missed a two-Test series in New Zealand when South Africa sent a weakened squad to defeat in both matches because contracted players were compelled to play in the SA20, a local franchise competition.

Bavuma was not involved in the T20 World Cup in which South Africa were beaten finalists.

Most of the country’s T20 stars are playing in the Major League Cricket tournament in the United States, which ends on July 28. Those players selected for the West Indies tour will fly directly to the Caribbean in time for a warm-up match ahead of the first Test.

Conrad said he chose to take a positive view of the situation.

“We’ve got the luxury of a warm-up game, so we’ve got 10 days in Trinidad before the first Test match,” he said.

“I mentioned to Temba that it’s the first time as a Test unit that we’re going to spend some extended time together.

“My first series was against the West Indies (in February and March 2023) when we got together three days before the first game and we got together two days before the India series because there were Monday matches going on.

“You just have to roll with the punches. It is the modern day world. Players can easily move from T20 and Test match cricket.

"I’m very comfortable that guys will be in America. They’ll take a short flight across and then we’ll have a week’s preparation before the first Test.”

The squad for the Tests in Trinidad and Guyana includes one uncapped player, batsman Matthew Breetzke, 25, who has played six T20 internationals and has been playing for English county Northamptonshire.

Having played only four Tests in the past year, the West Indies tour will be the start of a run of eight Tests for the Proteas through to January.

Squad: Temba Bavuma (captain), David Bedingham, Matthew Breetzke, Nandre Burger, Gerald Coetzee, Tony de Zorzi, Keshav Maharaj, Aiden Markram, Wiaan Mulder, Lungi Ngidi, Dane Paterson, Dane Piedt, Kagiso Rabada, Ryan Rickelton (wkt), Tristan Stubbs, Kyle Verreynne (wkt)

Fixtures:

July 31-August 3 - West Indies Invitation XI, Tarouba, Trinidad

August 7-11 - First Test, Port of Spain, Trinidad

August 15-19 - Second Test, Providence, Guyana

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