Cape Town — This has been Aiden Markram and Sisanda Magala’s summer.
Markram’s 50th one-day international for South Africa in the final match of an unforgettable season was simply an extension of the time of his life he has been having these past couple of months. After leading the Sunrisers Eastern Cape to the inaugural SA20 title, to rubber-stamping his return to the Test squad with a century, and then being elevated to the national T20 captaincy, Markram added the one last missing element to his golden season.
He had never struck an ODI century before Sunday’s “Pink ODI” against the Netherlands. He now has a sublime career-best 175 - equalling Herschelle Gibbs’ legendary score at the same venue in the magical “438” game. It required just 111 balls, of which he muscled 17 boundaries and seven sixes.
It put the match out of the Netherlands’ reach, and allowed the home team to collect the maximum 10 ICC Super League points on offer that propels the Proteas into the all-important eighth position with 98 points. The top eight teams qualify for the 50-over World Cup in India later this year and only Ireland can now topple the Proteas through a 3-0 cleansweep of Bangladesh next month.
It will be an anxious wait, but it would have been a lot more tense were it not for Sunday’s 146-run resounding victory at the Wanderers.
The close to 15 000 people who had pitched up at “The Bullring” were certainly treated to some royal entertainment, especially when Markram and David Miller (91) were in rampant mood in the early afternoon.
The right-left combination struck a sweet chord as the boundaries flowed freely. They came in abundance, both aerially and across the Wanderers turf, with Markram drilling an exquisite cover drive to raise the roof at The Bullring when he reached his first ODI century.
Even the spectators in the bleachers were even under fire as the Proteas pair belted the ball into the stands with regularity. Two fans felt the full brunt of the duo’s power as they were both hit on the arm and knee respectively.
Their 199-run partnership off just 118 balls offset a timid start when the Proteas lost Temba Bavuma (8), Quinton de Kock (6), Rassie van der Dussen (25) and Heinrich Klaasen (28), and provided the bulk of the eventual 370/8.
But much like it’s been Markram’s golden time in the sun, this is a season Magala will not forget in a hurry.
A fellow SA20 winner, Magala can simply do no wrong at the moment. His fitness issues are long forgotten and he can simply steam in and knock over the stumps.
He did just that on Sunday. Just like they did in Benoni in the previous match, the Dutch put up a solid fight upfront to move to 118/1 after 18 overs.
Enter Magala. Exactly 21 overs later and the Dutch had lost their remaining nine wickets for just 106 runs to be dismissed for 224 and Magala had his first-ever international five-wicket haul.
Magala’s plan is simplistic, but highly effective. He runs in and hits hard lengths that batters find uncomfortable. Max O’Dowd (47) was his first victim, when the right-hander played on, before running through the Dutch tail to finish with 5/43.
Musa Ahmed (61) and captain Scott Edwards (42) tried valiantly for the visitors, but the rest of the batting line-up crumbled under the scoreboard pressure.
The Proteas’ home summer has now concluded, and the IPL contingent jet off to the subcontinent today, but they will do so knowing they have restored some faith in the national team over the past few months. And that has plenty to do with Markram and Magala.
South Africa: 370/8 (Aiden Markram 175, David Miller 91, Fred Klaasen 2/43, Paul van Meekeren 2/79)
Netherlands: 224 all out (Max O'Dowd 47, Scott Edwards 42, Sisanda Magala 5/43, Aiden Markram 2/40)
South Africa won by 146 runs
South Africa win the series 2-0