A cricketer grinds through the domestic circuit, makes his presence count with some incredible performances and if the requirement exists, he is then selected for the national side. He has to be one of the bests to earn a national call, which is no less than a dream come true for any cricketer. Even after making it to the squad, he has to wait for his chances to get a Test cap and when he eventually does, no words can describe the feeling of achieving it.
Aiden Markram’s dream came true when he was included in the squad for the first Test against England recently, but didn’t get a game. He was then picked for the series against Bangladesh and expected to debut at Potchefstroom. Markram has been in the race for a while now and has been a consistent performer in the domestic arena.
South Africa were without the services of three prominent players – AB de Villiers, Dale Steyn and Vernon Philander. They lost their latest Test assignment against England and are need of a win to lift the team’s morale. They have a well-balanced side and couldn’t have asked for a better start on Day 1.
The opening woes for South Africa has been there for a while now. And this series is certainly a massive opportunity for Markram to seal the spot. He has commenced his journey emphatically and looks a perfect candidate for the said position. He has the temperament to succeed and can attack if needed. South Africa have experimented a lot at the top, in fact, their highest opening stand in last 14 innings (excluding the ongoing game) is just 21.
Bangladesh made a baffling decision by opting to field first. Markram and Dean Elgar walked out to bat on a Thursday morning. Markram looked determined and so did Elgar. By Lunch, they had provided South Africa a rare solid opening start while Markram remained unbeaten on 43. When Markram ran a single in the second over after lunch off Mehidy Hasan Miraz, South African openers had put 100-run stand, which was the first in 18 innings.
In the very next over, Markram brought up his fifty on debut. Slow and steadily, Markram started catching up with Elgar. He was astute enough to pounce on deliveries pitched in his zone and the joy of watching the two openers inch closer to their respective landmark was just simply fascinating. They made the Bangladeshi bowlers toil and milked runs at a brisk pace.
Both, Elgar and Markram were on the brink of reaching the 100-run mark when a horrible mix-up while running between the wicket denied the latter a much deserved maiden ton. He did everything right to have a century under his belt, but looked satisfied with 97 as well. Elgar sunk to his knees and the disappointment on his face said it all. Markram took the long walk back to the pavilion and was applauded by teammates for this valiant outing on debut.
Markram realised there was a chance to score big and grabbed it with both the hands. He showed what he is made of and looks a promising investment for South Africa. Further, he demonstrated sportsman spirit and asked Elgar to carry on his journey and keep scoring after the run-out.
Markram was quoted by citizen.co.za saying, “I’m more than happy to take 97 if you’d offered me that last night I would have grabbed it with open arms because I barely got any sleep. I never look at my batting from a selfish perspective and I really badly wanted Dean to get his hundred and I got myself in no-man’s land. Dean was very distraught, but I just told him he must bat through the day and do it for the team. I have massive respect for Dean, it’s never easy to bat a full day so you have to take your hat off to him. I’m incredibly happy for him and I know he really wants to kick on tomorrow. He’s very hard and a proper fighter and that’s reflected in his cricket.”
The young and promising Markram is believed to scale newer heights in South African cricket and many believe that this series is just a start. South Africa’s National Academy coach Shukri Conrad was quoted by ESPNCricinfo saying, “There is absolutely no doubt that he is the future. None at all. He is the complete package. It’s not a case of if, it’s about when he takes over. Aiden has had the apprenticeship. Leaders are just born and he is a leader.”
At stumps on Day 1, South Africa were well placed at 298 for 1 with Elgar and Hashim Amla unbeaten. As of now, Markram has announced himself at the grandest stage of cricket and has attracted enormous attention. He has a long way to go and the road looks promising.