Aiden Markram: A glittering career in the making?
- Aiden Markram has maturity well beyond his age, and could well be South Africa's next great batsman.
Aiden Markram, the new South African opener, has shown tremendous class and composure for a newcomer to Test cricket. He has excellent technique coupled with strokes all around the ground, and looks tailor-made for international cricket.
Markram plays wonderful shots both off the front foot and the back foot, but the backfoot drive is his trademark shot. He stands tall and still at the crease and looks perfectly balanced. All of that was on vivid display during his century against Australia in the first innings of fourth Test today.
But this is just the latest in a series of impressive performances, that started from the word 'go'. In his debut match against Bangladesh, Markram scored a scintillating 97 before he was run out by his partner Dean Elgar. He then scored a superb 143 in the 2nd Test match against the same opponents, and also scored 125 against Zimbabwe.
It was a terrific start to his career, to say the least. But his real test would be the series against India and Australia. He was on course for a fantastic century against India in the second Test before getting out on 94. His dad, who was in the stadium, looked dejected when he got out, but his son had proven his mettle.
South Africa were reduced to 49/4 chasing a target of 417 in the 4th innings of the 1st Test match against Australia. It was then that Markram called AB de villiers for a single and sent him back a touch too late. The world's best batsman had been run out for 0, and Markram was under even greater pressure now.
All eyes were on him. A lesser batsman would have buckled under the pressure and would have give his wicket away. But Markram played a tremendous knock, scoring 143 runs against a bowling attack considered the second best in the world. He played dazzling strokes all around the ground and that too at a very good strike rate.
The pressure was clearly visible on the Aussies who were desperate to get him out. A target which had looked impossible, was suddenly very achievable as long as Markram was at the crease. He ended up getting out close to the finish line, and South Africa lost the match - but not before giving a scare to the Aussies.
It was an innings for the ages; this century will rank amongst the greatest Test innings ever. That it came in the 4th innings of the match makes it even more special.
He scored a solid 84 in 145 balls in the second innings of the third Test against Australia at Newlands, playing some beautiful shots all around the ground. More importantly, he forged important partnerships with Hashim Amla and AB De Villiers which stretched South Africa’s lead.
Markram got out in the last over before tea when he chipped a simple catch to mid-on in what was a very soft dismissal. He was livid with himself as he had done all the hard work and was looking good for plenty more runs. The Australians were not able to get him out until he gifted his wicket, and the dismissal meant he had missed out on yet another fine century.
Markram has missed out on three potential centuries already in such a short career. Each time it was a soft dismissal that cost him the ton. He needs to pay attention to this and start converting these close misses into big knocks.
In a short career of just 16 innings, Markram has scored three hundreds and four fifties, and has been out twice in the nineties. But it's not just about the runs he scores; it is at the rate at which he scores them. It is also about the composure, class and maturity that he has shown at such an early stage in his career.
Markram is a very aggressive stroke-maker and perfectly complements his partner, Dean Elgar. Markram's composure under pressure makes him a sureshot candidate to take up the captaincy of the South African cricket team in the future.
This is only the beginning of what seems to be a wonderful career ahead for the gifted young South African opener, who has maturity well beyond his age.