JOHANNESBURG – Aiden Markram stepped on a plane last night headed for England.
He’ll be there for just over a month, to play a couple of four-day matches and host of one-day games for county side Hampshire. He, and great many others from this country would like to see Markram headed back to England in late May for the World Cup, but that is a decision that is very much out of his hands.
Getting selected for the World Cup is something Markram has tried very hard to put out of his mind these past few weeks. It’s been a helpful exercise, in order to relieve pressure and expectation.
“I invested all my time and energy into the Titans, and I found once I did that it helped me forget a lot about selection,” Markram said after his man of the match display in the final of Momentum One-Day Cup in Centurion on Sunday.
Markram scored 127 off only 88 balls. The 77 runs he scored after getting to 50 came off only 40 balls showing a penchant for acceleration that few had associated with him given he’s played mostly as an opener.
Markram’s statistics in this season’s domestic One-Day competition are stunning.
He scored 542 runs, the most in the competition, playing in only half the number of matches. His three hundreds were all scored in different positions; the 169 against the Cape Cobras from the no.5 spot, he made 139 as an opener against the Warriors, while Sunday’s performance saw Markram batting at no.4
Faf du Plessis spoke often about the need for the back-up batsman in the World Cup squad being versatile and able to cover positions 1 to 6, and Markram certainly proved that this season.
“In terms of selection there are a limited amount of things you can control as a player, one of them is scoring big runs,” Markram said
He had to play like a proper no.4 too on Sunday, coming into bat in the 22nd over, facing the Dolphins’ left-arm spinner Keshav Maharaj, who bowled a crafty 10-over spell. Getting through that period gave Markram a great deal of pleasure.
“Generally in white ball cricket it’s nice to bat in the power plays but it was nice to bat against quality spinners, really fight to get in,” he said. “Their spinners bowled very well which made getting in quite hard, and run-scoring initially was quite tough. I’m glad it turned out the way it did.”
It was an important part of Markram’s innings. He struggled last year in Sri Lanka against spin and there’s no doubt that opponents will be targeting that area were he to be picked for England.
His fielding is in the top bracket too as he showed when taking four catches in last Wednesday’s semi-final against the Cobras, in Sunday’s final he also produced a superb piece of athleticism to run out Sibonelo Makhanya and of course he can deliver a handful of useful overs of off-spin if required.
If it were up to his teammates and his franchise coach, Markram would be in England for the World Cup. “I’ll pay for his flight,” chirped Mark Boucher.
“There is no discussion,” said Dean Elgar, “just take the boy. He’s scored over 500 runs in four games. If he doesn’t go South Africa is shooting itself in the foot.”
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National selection convenor, Linda Zondi, who was in the audience on Sunday and stood to applaud when he reached 100, will name the 15-man World Cup on April 18. Markram will most likely be back in Southampton that day.
“It’s something I’m really looking forward to. (Former Proteas assistant coach) Adrian Birrell is there, Abbo (Kyle Abbott) also, so the guys will make it really comfortable. I’m looking forward to learning, especially in those conditions, especially how last year went at Durham. I’m looking forward to the challenge. Hopefully we don’t make the same mistakes this year.”
Markram will undoubtedly be paying attention on the day Zondi reads out the squad for the World Cup, but he remains philosophical about the whole thing.
“If I’m in the squad, superb, but if not, then we keep trying to get better and hope for next time.”
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