Cameron Bancroft passed his first test on the Qantas Tour of South Africa after he survived a tricky final session on the opening day of Australia’s sole tour match in Benoni.
Bancroft walked off Willowmoore Park next to state teammate Shaun Marsh on Thursday evening with 24 valuable runs to his name and some invaluable time out in the middle.
After a maiden Test series that yielded 179 runs at an average of 25.57, Bancroft was the only member of Australia’s top six that finished the Magellan Ashes without scoring a century.
But despite his troubles against England, the 25-year-old was publicly backed by his captain Steve Smith and champion batsman Mike Hussey to tour South Africa.
While it might be only 24 runs, Bancroft kept his cool for more than two hours as wickets tumbled around him.
And in a series that is set to showcase two of the world’s best bowling attacks, that kind of temperament will be crucial for the tourists if they hope to keep their imperious Test record in South Africa intact when the first Test starts in Durban from March 1.
Having watched his fast-bowling teammates dismiss South Africa A for 220 in less than 59 overs, Bancroft had to negotiate the new-ball pair of Duanne Olivier and Beuran Hendricks whom boast international experience.
His first scoring shot was productive if not convincing – an edge from Olivier that fell short of the slip cordon and raced to the third-man rope.
But from there he steadied, looking resolute in defence, particularly against anything threatening his stumps or front pad.
As he watched Usman Khawaja, Peter Handscomb and Smith all depart, Bancroft’s stroke-play remained judicious as he handled the pace of the hosts with aplomb.
Only when the light faded enough to force spin from both ends did the right-hander look vulnerable.
Leg-spinner Shaun von Berg had Bancroft in all sorts in the penultimate over of the day, convinced he had the Australian leg before wicket with a ball that straightened down the line of off stump.
But Bancroft survived that ball and the next couple to see out von Berg’s over and the final over of the day bowled by left-arm orthodox spinner Senuran Muthusamy.
Watching from the dressing room and around the boundary walking laps with assistant coach David Saker was Pat Cummins, the day’s star bowler with four wickets, who was pleased to see his teammate carry his bat in the final session.
“From what I’ve been hearing he’s been working really hard back home,” Cummins told reporters after play in Benoni.
“He’s always really intense when he goes out to bat.
“Great to see him get a few runs and face plenty of balls and hopefully he can cash in tomorrow.”
Qantas Tour of South Africa
Australia squad: Steve Smith (c), David Warner (vc), Cameron Bancroft, Pat Cummins, Peter Handscomb, Josh Hazlewood, Jon Holland, Usman Khawaja, Nathan Lyon, Mitchell Marsh, Shaun Marsh, Tim Paine, Jhye Richardson, Chadd Sayers, Mitchell Starc.
Warm-up match v South Africa A, Sahara Park, Benoni, Feb 22-24
First Test Kingsmead, Durban, March 1-5
Second Test St George's Park, Port Elizabeth, March 9-13
Third Test Newlands, Cape Town, March 22-26
Fourth Test Wanderers, Johannesburg, March 30-April 3