BLOEMFONTEIN – This time, there was no painful mix up in the middle.
Aiden Markram had no need to charge down the wicket to attempt a risky single, nor did Dean Elgar later as Markram reached his landmark against Bangladesh on Friday.
This time, they smashed boundaries.
Elgar hit three in five balls to move from 89 to 101, and Markram hit back-to-back fours to go from 93 to his maiden Test century.
The youngest of the pair said later that what happened in Potchefstrooom last week when he was run out for 97 trying to take a quick single to get Elgar to a hundred never even came up as the pair approached their respective centuries on Friday. Bygones being bygones, and all of that.
Markram was focused, though, on getting through the 90s as quickly as possible, although in a sign of his maturity, he knocked out a maiden against Mahmudullah before the afternoon drinks break when he was on 93.
The century came immediately after that brief interval, he drove hard with an open face against Rubel Hossain to go to 97, and pulled the next ball to backward square leg to register what he and South African cricket will hope and believe is the first of many hundreds at this level.
Off came the helmet, up went the arms, there was a hug and word from Elgar – “he said it was a special moment to have shared with me,” – tears, of joy this time, from girlfriend Nicole and enthusiastic applause from his teammates.
“I’m extremely happy to have got there, especially after last week,” Markram mentioned. “It’s a day that will stick with me for the rest of my life.”
Markram and Elgar’s burgeoning partnership at the top of the order was one of the main themes on another domineering day for the South Africans.
The other was Mushfiqur Rahim’s decision to bowl again after winning the toss. The last five times he’s done so when Bangladesh have played away, they’ve lost, and they’re heading for another defeat here.
Markram chose to be diplomatic about Mushfiqur’s decision. “Last week (in Potchefstroom the decision to bowl) was more surprising than this week. This week, there was always going to be something in it in the morning,” said Markram.
“I wasn’t too surprised this morning, I can get the understanding behind their decision. It’s foreign (conditions) to them, a bit of trial and error, I suppose.”
While Mushfiqur himself admonished his bowlers for failing to take advantage of the conditions in the morning, Markram was again very generous towards the tourists.
“I felt they were at us quite a bit today,” he said. “The run-rate and our score says they didn’t bowl well, but I don’t think that was the case.
“It was a combination of a good batting wicket, quick outfield, Dean’s in form, Hash is in form, Faf is in form – all those factors are reflected in the score.”
The only time Bangladesh were on top was when they reverted to a bouncer plan shortly before tea, which brought them reward in the shape of Elgar and Markram’s wickets.
“They obviously had that plan to bowl short and as a batter, as comfortable as you can be on the short ball, it’s never a great thing to keep facing,” said Markram.
A bitterly disappointed Mushfiqur pulled no punches afterwards.
“I think it was my mistake to win the toss,” he said. “I have been trying to do everything honestly for the last 12 years.
“But in these last two games, it seems it’d been better had I lost the toss. I think it is my personal failure. I am not able to motivate my players or guide my bowlers.”