Johannesburg witnessed rare scenes on the first day of the third Test against Pakistan as three South African youngsters – Aiden Markram, debutant Zubayr Hamza and Theunis de Bruyn – challenged Pakistan and overshadowed some senior veterans. Pakistan came back strongly but not before a spectacular 90 from just 124 deliveries from Markram, which included 16 boundaries.Markram has made a rousing start to his Test career with big runs against Australia and Pakistan and is the third-highest Test run-scorer behind Virat Kohli and Cheteshwar Pujara since his debut in 2017 with 1220 runs at an average of 46.92 including four tons.
The youngster has been outstanding in recent times for South Africa and has taken ownership at the top of the order in testing times for the side in Test cricket. However, nearly all of his runs – have come at home. The only other nation he has played in – Sri Lanka – has been a challenge with him struggling against spin.
Most of Markram’s runs have come on the fast tracks and quick outfields in South Africa where his technique hasn’t really been tested against spin. Of his 25 dismissals in Test cricket, only five have been to spin but that is because he has not had much exposure to the slow bowling – he has just played a total of two Tests out of 15 outside home.
The average against spin, though, belies his weakness. As against an average of 49.45 against pace, his average against spin is a woeful 26.8. Dig in further and you see that his primary weakness has been left-arm spin which has accounted for four of his five dismissals.
His average against right-arm spin is a whopping 94 but it drops to 10 against left-arm spin. On the other hand, his average against pace – both left and right – is nearly equal – 49.44 to 49.5.
Another interesting fact is that while Markram, once set, is difficult to dislodge and goes on to score the big runs, he has a tendency to get out early in his innings too – which is a worrisome.
In his 26 innings’ in Tests so far, as many as 13 (ie, half his career innings) have been in the range of 0-19 runs. 9 have been over 50.
With fellow-opener, Dean Elgar struggling and the big 3 (Du Plessis, Amla and De Kock) also not in prime form, Markram has been the pivot around which the South African batting has revolved.
There are still some areas where he can improve but Markram has given enough proof of his talent and his ability to overcome any shortcomings.
First Published: January 14, 2019, 4:21 PM IST