The debate about the dropping of Temba Bavuma from South Africa's Test team took another twist on Thursday when Bavuma made a career-best 180 for his franchise team.
Bavuma, the only black African specialist batsman to have played Test cricket for South Africa, was injured before the first Test of the current series against England – but was then left out of the team for the second Test despite having recovered.
Head coach Mark Boucher said it would not have been fair to drop Rassie van der Dussen, Bavuma's replacement, who made a half-century on debut.
Bavuma was then released to play for the Lions franchise in a domestic four-day competition. The decision was criticised by advocates of racial transformation despite the fact that Bavuma had an extended run of mediocre form, averaging below 20 for the calendar year of 2019. He was told that he could play his way back into the Test side through weight of runs.
South Africa's team for the first two Tests included seven white players, with Kagiso Rabada the only black African among four players of colour. The country's official target is six players of colour, including at least two black Africans.
After scores of nine and 17 in his first two innings for the Lions, Bavuma came close to saving his team from defeat against the Dolphins before being last man out after batting for more than seven hours, facing 282 balls and scoring 180 in a total of 299.
"From a personal point of view it is awesome to contribute to the team," Bavuma said. "I have been trying to rack up those big scores. Today was that opportunity and I was able to grab it with both hands."
Bavuma remains a member of South Africa's Test squad for the last two Tests against England and his success will likely reignite the debate about his selection leading up to the fourth Test starting in Johannesburg, his home town, on January 24.