Aiden Markram ton gives Proteas hope, but demons still lurk in Rawalpindi track
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JOHANNESBURG - Aiden Markram reached a magnificent fifth Test century off the last ball before lunch in Rawalpindi on Monday as South Africa began to catch sight of what is still an unlikely win in the second Test against Pakistan.
In what is looking like a coming of age series for the 26 year, the elegant right hand opener, has found the perfect balance between defence and attack to marshall South Africa’s fourth innings on a turning track.
There is another threat in the shape of Hassan Ali, who is getting the ball to reverse swing, but Markram in the first session nullified all of those.
South Africa went to lunch on 219/3, Markram reaching 100, with a clip to the leg-side off the part-timer Fawad Alam. There was no animated celebration either - just a a gentle raising of the bat, and as he reached the boundary at the interval a few taps on the shoulder from teammates and a polite handshake from head coach Mark Boucher.
Everyone clearly aware, that as good as the innings has been, Markram still has a ton of work ahead of him.
Markram will resume after the interval in the company of Temba Bavuma, who himself is playing beautifully and is 44 not out. South Africa need another 151 runs to win.
The day didn’t start well for the tourists, who resumed on 127/1, with Pakistan’s target a massive 243 runs away.
Rassie van der Dussen was dismissed to the third ball of the day. For the second time in the match he was bowled by Hassan in-swinger, this time the ball not keeping as low as in the first innings, when the Proteas No 3 was bowled first ball, but it swung even more, zipping through the gap between bat and pad and knocking back leg stump.
Faf du Plessis lasted just 13 balls and scored 5, before he too fell victim to Hassan’s in-ducker, although the former captain should probably have been forward, with the ball striking him on the pad in front of leg-stump.
Markram was calmness personified however, digging out yorkers from the quicks, and putting aside balls from the spinners which ripped passed the bat. Again he made very good use of his feet, shuffling down the track on one occasion to lift Yasir Shah over long off for six.
In Bavuma he’s found someone who is not only staying with him, but relieving some of the pressure to score. The diminutive right hander has found the gaps cleverly, and also used the crease well against the spinners upsetting their lengths.
The pair’s partnership at lunch is worth 84 runs.
Pakistan still hold a number of cards however. The ball is reverse swinging and keeping low and their is plenty of spin for Yasir and Nauman Ali. In addition, Babar Azam has the second new ball available in six overs time.