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Ken Borland

So what to do about Markram?

Posted on March 31, 2022 by Ken

So what to do about Aiden Markram remains the big question for the Proteas to sort out despite the talented batsman’s return to form (almost) in scoring 42 in the first innings of the second Test against New Zealand in Christchurch.

While 42 is a big enough score to generally get one’s name in the scores in brief of leading cricket publications, it is also the sort of so-so score that does not really answer any questions, especially when it comes after your 10 previous innings have only realised 97 runs.

Markram should get one more innings at the Hagley Oval, one last chance to ram home his case, but then the Proteas return to South Africa and will begin preparations for their series against Bangladesh, which includes two Tests in April.

Keegan Petersen should be available again after his positive Covid test stopped him travelling, and he was man of the series against India so he should come straight back into the team. And Sarel Erwee made his mark in just his second Test by scoring a great century on the first day of the second Test, so he surely can’t be dropped.

Of course, if Markram goes on to score big runs in the second innings then it could become very awkward for the selectors. Or the Proteas could go back to the far-from-ideal days when they had seven batsmen and just four bowlers.

Of course having to fit too many batsmen into too few places is a very nice problem to have for any team.

After having exploded on to the international stage with 1000 runs in his first 10 Tests in 2017/18, including two centuries against Australia, very few would have predicted that by 2022 Markram would be at a crossroads in his Test career, playing for his future.

But having struggled against spin on the subcontinent, scoring just 84 runs in eight innings in India and Sri Lanka, seam bowlers now seem to have the wood on Markram as well.

Part of the problem would seem to be that the 27-year-old is a victim of his own tremendous talent. He is such a wonderful stroke-player, but one gets the impression sometimes that he is a bit too keen to feel bat on ball.

That was certainly the case in the first innings of the second Test. Having fought hard to get in on a Hagley Oval pitch that was still providing the pacemen with some assistance, Markram was looking set for the type of big score that he is desperate to get behind his name as he went from 17 off 69 deliveries shortly after tea to 42 off 103 balls.

The boundaries were coming and Markram looked to be in firm control of proceedings. And then he contrived to edge a wide half-volley from Neil Wagner into the slips.

New Zealand then managed to get through Erwee’s defences in the next over, but the left-hander’s 108 had brought some much-needed solidity to the top-order and carried the Proteas to a dominant position.

It was an innings of enormous maturity and composure by Erwee. There were shots, like the cover-drive, that he refused to visit until he had been at the crease for over an hour. New Zealand’s probing bowling also took him to some dark places, especially as he neared his maiden Test century before tea.

But the 32-year-old rode the ebbs and flows of his innings superbly. He stuck to his determined game-plan of playing as straight as possible and leaving well.

Astute shot-selection was the hallmark of Erwee’s innings. It is a quality Markram needs to revisit, post-haste, if he is to continue his Test career.

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