COLOMBO (Reuters) - Theunis de Bruyn has set his sights on becoming South Africa’s permanent number three, the 25-year-old said after proving his credentials during his team’s comprehensive defeat against Sri Lanka on Monday.
The right-hander displayed exemplary focus and application, apart from his technical solidity, to register his maiden test century, also the first by a South African batsman in the two-test series.
He collaborated with Temba Bavuma to raise South Africa’s first century-stand in the series as the spin-tormented Proteas finally breached the 150-run mark in the second innings in Colombo though it was not enough to avoid a 2-0 whitewash.
“For me, it does make a difference batting at number three,” said de Bruyn whose 101 off 232 balls was also the longest innings in terms of deliveries faced in the spin-dominated series.
“I’ve batted there my whole career, even as a youngster. The waiting game when you’re batting at six and seven mentally drains you.
“I don’t know, I’m not used to it. But I wanted to do really well batting at number three. It’s a place I really cherish and I’d like to make it my own one day if I get more opportunities.”
De Bruyn debuted as an opener in New Zealand last year and batted at number six and seven in his next four tests before the match in Colombo.
“It’s been quite a journey. It’s been tough. My international career didn’t start the way I wanted it to,” said de Bruyn who made a duck on his test debut.
“But I just had a bit of calmness landing in the airport here in Sri Lanka. As we drove to the hotel, I looked at the ocean and said to myself: ‘Yep, there could be something special.’ As a team, it wasn’t special, but for me it was special.”
His century was in stark contrast to South Africa’s endless struggle against the turning ball as they lost all 20 wickets to the Sri Lankan spinners in Colombo.
While his more illustrious team mates meekly surrendered to the turning ball, de Bruyn showed how it was to be handled with his decisive footwork and unwavering focus.
The likes of Hashim Amla, South Africa’s preferred number three who batted a place lower in Colombo, struggled but de Bruyn frequently employed the sweep shot to dispel the shoal of close-in fielders around his bat and deny the spinners.
“Back home you don’t need the sweep, because we play on bouncier wickets and you can play spinners down the ground,” he said.
“But here, you know they’re bowling in good areas, and the wickets don’t bounce as much. The sweep is a better option.”
Reporting by Amlan Chakraborty in New Delhi; editing by Sudipto Ganguly