What was turning into a rather one-sided Test match zoomed back to life on day 4 with South Africa staunchly resisting the Aussie juggernaut on a sluggish, yet flattened out, Durban wicket. Two enterprising stands aside, South Africa had little to write home about in terms of batting and eventually Mitchell Starc and his thunderbolts were too strong for the Proteas.
Lots of positives from this 1st #SAvAUS Test: @keshavmaharaj16 outbowled Lyon, @AidzMarkram proved to all his doubters he deserves his place, youngster @Theunis88 fought like hell to survive & @QuinnyDeKock69 regained his magical touch. #NotAllBad #sscricket #ProteaFireWillRise
— ThePoppingCrease (@PoppingCreaseSA) March 5, 2018
Even as the Warner – de Kock incident left ever-lasting impressions and hogged headlines on day 5, South Africa succumbed to a 118 run loss in the first Test. Ideally, the loss should paint a bleak picture but for a side that has had few positives to talk about in the past few weeks, the Durban Test was a twist in the tale. Here we enlist the positives South Africa will take away from the Test, something which would stand them in a better position to come back in the series.
Aiden Markram’s coming-of-age
The South African youngster showcased his mettle in a mind-blowing innings of 143 in the second innings, taunting the Aussies, surviving a verbal barrage after he ran out AB de Villiers and playing some authentic, quality cricket shots. On a day when South Africa’s senior pros – AB de Villiers, Hashim Amla and Faf du Plessis – deserted them, Markram stood up and resisted anything and everything thrown at him.
Aiden Markram reaches his century from 171 balls against Australia.
It's his third hundred in Test matches.
— ICC (@ICC) March 4, 2018
Not only did he appear solid in technique and temperament, he also rallied together two others – Theunis de Bruyn and Quinton de Kock – to fight with him. Though the effort eventually went in vain, South Africa will breathe a huge sigh of relief as their younger brigade have joined the party.
Theunis de Bruyn offering a solid backup option
Temba Bavuma had done quite a lot for South Africa in recent times. Alongside Quinton de Kock, Bavuma had knocked off valuable 40s and 50s from no.6 a d his electrifying fielding was another bonus. That said, he wasn’t quite getting the bigger scores and was rather unchallenged despite an average record.
Aiden Markram and Theunis de Bruyn are leading a fightback for South Africa with a good partnership.
Can they keep it going in Durban?
— ICC (@ICC) March 4, 2018
Theunis de Bruyn’s entry changes the complexion of South Africa’s Test side. The South Africa A player made it to the Test side after some impressive performances and showed his temperament when he grits it out with Markram in a solid 87 run partnership.
Importantly, Mitchell Starc had a real go at the youngster in an over where verbal volleys were fired relentlessly. De Bruyn, to his credit, came out of it all unscathed and is the biggest positive South Africa will carry into Port Elizabeth.
Keshav Maharaj and a spinner to bank on
Quite often South Africa have yearned for a spinner who could hold one end up when the chips were down or attack when the surface e offered something for the spinners. Keshav Maharaj’s entry was rather celebrated for he found success against Aussies and England on foreign soil.
Keshav Maharaj. What a top class performer. Beautiful. Marsh umpire turn-down not too costly Whoop whoop! #SAvAUS
— Thato (@ThatoMamathuba) March 1, 2018
That said Paul Adams, Paul Harris, Imran Tahir etc had also promised much at the onset of their careers. The ability to do the job consistently, even on unhelpful South African wickets, was what the Proteas needed from their spinner and Keshav Maharaj proves to be an answer to all those questions.
He picked up a five-for in the first innings and followed it up with four more in the second innings to hassle Australia on a sluggish Durban wicket. That they resorted to preparing slow wickets in itself was a testimony to the confidence they had in Maharaj. He backed it up with a strong show with the ball, in particular, tying down Steven Smith with his immaculate lines.
A return to form for Quinton de Kock
The Warner saga aside, Quinton de Kock’s welcome return to form is a huge boost for South Africa who had struggled with his indifferent returns in the India series. The swashbuckling no.7 formed a nearly game-changing partnership with Aiden Markram, a stand of 147 that had Australia scratching their heads in irritation.
— Cricket South Africa (@OfficialCSA) March 4, 2018
The half-century was de Kock’s first in sixteen innings’. With his commitment questioned and the emergence of Heinrich Klaasen putting him in the line of fire, de Kock had his back against the wall. It apparently brought the best out of him and he stood up against some fiery Australian bowling. He was the last man out on day 5, falling agonisingly short of a deserved Test hundred. The knock should seal his place for the entire series but de Kock should be wary of getting complacent particularly with Klaasen close on his heels. An in-form Quinton de Kock boosts South Africa’s chances quite a bit as his Durban knock proved.