Batting in South Africa has never been easy. The way balls shoot up from a length or how both swing and bounce marry each other to laugh at you hysterically - and all you can do is pray.
But then, imagine everything coming together as a package and bamboozling you on your way to 55-all-out. Or losing six wickets for null.
Welcome to Newlands, Baby! It’s where things happen.
But the question is - what if you can do both?
Oh, then you must be Aiden Markram.
For Markram, there has never been a shortage of talent or appreciation of his skills. But he has majorly failed to replicate the same promise to scores of substance in Tests. He had his moments in whites, like the 143 against Australia in Durban or 152 in the same series at the Wanderers.
But when it came to India, Markram failed to put his hands up - averaging a basic 15.58 in nine Tests, the promise never coming to fruition - and has walked into this innings here with an average of 3.5, only facing 27 balls.
But throw your preconceptions into the dustbin today.
Because what we just witnessed in Cape Town was nothing but the ingenuity of pure talent. It is what you can do when you are blessed with the ability to take down bowlers at their prime. Viciousness is one thing, but life-threatening balls chasing you is another. And how did he respond to it? With a blistering 106 off 103 balls.
There is no justification. It doesn’t make sense.
If you’re still looking to understand the magnificence of Markram’s innings, just remember that he scored 60.8% of the team’s total - the highest by a South African in a completed Test innings.
He batted with a control rate of 79.8% - an incredible feat even when Jasprit Bumrah was firing on all cylinders. Out of the 30 wickets that have fallen so far in the match, 16 dismissals have come on a good length, with batters averaging just a shade over 8. But Makram rode on the bounce to manage 54 runs in total from the good length spot. That required pure application, holding an 85.7% control rate on such balls.
You can’t just play this innings by pure luck.
Markram’s innings has ensured that South Africa are still alive in the game. A target of 79 runs is not as easy to chase down as it might seem on paper. This is a game of chance, and Indian batters will not find it easy.
But if anyone is looking for a template, then Aiden Markram has served one right in front of your eyes.
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