“Aiden Markram smashed another ton in this series. The bloke has a great future ahead.”
Following the series of controversies on the aftermath of Cape Town Test, Aiden Markram’s career-best 152 at Wanderers has come as a breath of a fresh air for the cricket fraternity around the world. His calm nature of batsmanship has some kind of a soothing effect and it was evident on Friday, the Day 1 of the series-deciding fourth Test. While playing those crispy cover drives or a forward defensive stroke or even when leaving balls outside off-stump, Markram seemed to be in a different zone. Batting is much like meditation for him and probably that’s why the youngster often talks about batting in a ‘bubble’.
In a Test career which is just nine matches an one innings old, opening the batting Markram now has four hundreds, two 90s and one 84. Remember, he is just 23.
Well, maturity beyond his age has always been Markram’s USP.
Earlier, his fighting 143 in the fourth innings of Durban Test, was the start of South Africa’s resurgence in this series. Yes, the host lost that game, but, that particular knock which came during a run-chase of 417, lifted the spirits of the entire dressing room. And following that, the Proteas have been unstoppable.
Meanwhile, the ‘Sandpapergate’ hurt the Aussie pride terribly. So, without a doubt, the depleted side came to Wanderers with a point to prove. But unfortunately for them, there was a patient, languid and determined Markram, who piled on the agony of the visitors.
The pitch at the Wanderers was a complete contrast to the one which we had seen during the India Test. Though this particular strip was more in favour of the batsmen, but often we have seen batting first at this venue can be a tricky task. Hence, in the morning session, Markram took his own time. There was swing on offer for both the Australian new ball bowlers — Josh Hazlewood Chadd Sayers. In fact, Markram did have a few uncomfortable moments against Hazlewood. But whenever the ball was pitched short, he punished it with disdain, mostly through point.
Interestingly, throughout his innings, the Aussies did try to bowl straight, but Markram countered that plan by scoring heavily through square on the leg side. In fact, 80% of his runs came from the square on both sides of the pitch.
In the second session, when Nathan Lyon managed to extract a lot of turn from the wicket Markram presented his straight bat, which includes a lofted drive over mid-on, for six.
By his own admission, during the afternoon session, the Australian bowlers had a little bit of wood over him and his partner at the other end, AB De Villiers, who scored 20 in his first 70 balls. The duo then decided to play out that period and did it successfully.
“When a guy like AB strolls down the wicket and says, ‘This is tough, I don’t feel like I am batting too well…’ You kind of have to take a step back yourself,” said Markram in the post-day press meet. “We decided we were going to try and absorb it as much as we could. It was a tricky period and we knew if we could drag it on for a while it could become easier. We saw that with AB – he kicked on from 30 to 60 fairly easily. It paid off for him.”
Eventually, it took 152 balls for Makram to reach his fourth Test ton and 62 more to reach his maiden 150. And when Pat Cummings finally claimed his priced scalp, it seemed the right-handed opener had already laid the foundation of South Africa’s first ever series win against Australia at home since readmission.
The Proteas should thank Ray Jennings, the coach of their under-19 team, which won the 2014 World Cup (Markram led the side) and Titans’ head-coach Mark Boucher for nurturing this talent through the age-group and domestic level. It is their trust which shaped Markram’s career and most importantly kept him in the country, as till a few years back, he had offers from overseas to play and settle there.
What a loss that would have been for South African cricket!
However, thankfully for them, he stayed back and now blossoming, as the next big product of Protea cricket.
Well, Virat Kohli has rightly mentioned in his tweet, Markram is indeed a “delight to watch”.