Aiden Markram last ODI for the Proteas was during the 2019 World Cup. Picture: Gavin Barker/BackpagePix
Aiden Markram last ODI for the Proteas was during the 2019 World Cup. Picture: Gavin Barker/BackpagePix

Where will Aiden Markram fit in Proteas ODI batting puzzle?

By Stuart Hess Time of article published Mar 31, 2021

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JOHANNESBURG - Aiden Markram admitted Wednesday that despite his incredible run of form in first class cricket this season, he was still surprised to get called up to the South African One-Day squad for the series against Pakistan.

Markram, has made six centuries this season, five for the Titans in the domestic Four-Day series tournament, and one for the Proteas, in a gutsy fourth innings showing in the second Test against Pakistan in Rawalpindi in February.

“I’m glad that from the selectors and coaches point of view that they see me in the white ball plans,” said Markram.

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It’s been just under two years since Markram last played an ODI. That match was South Africa’s last in what was a bitterly disappointing World Cup campaign in England, in which the Proteas won just three out of nine matches, one of which was that final match Markram played against Australia.

Markram was a last minute addition to that squad, but like the rest of the side, had a disappointing tournament, scoring just 140 runs in six innings.

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He opened the innings twice, played at No 3 twice and at No 4 on two occasions as well. There hasn’t been a fixed position for Markram in the batting order in the 24 ODI innings’ he’s played, with the majority of his knocks coming in the No 3 position.

Listening to Markram on Wednesday, it seems there’s still no final stamp on where he will bat as the Proteas One-Day side takes to the field for the first time in a year, for the first of three matches against Pakistan on Friday.

“The few discussions I’ve had with the coach (Mark Boucher) and Temba (Bavuma) I’ve been told to try and be quite versatile. I see myself playing anywhere in the top four, I’m comfortable in any spot there, but more comfortable right up top.”

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Quinton de Kock won’t be relinquishing his opening berth right now and it would be extremely harsh on Janneman Malan, who scored a century in SA’s last ODI series against Australia, if he were to step aside.

Bavuma occupies the No 3 spot, which leaves No 4, a position in which Markram has batted on four occasions internationally, although his record there is not much to write home about.

Boucher has seen him achieve success there, when he was Titans coach and Markram was dishing out punishment to bowlers in the 2018/19 Momentum One-Day Cup.

Boucher had demanded versatility then as well, and Markram responded by making hundreds as an opener, a No 5 and then in the final of the competition, batting at four. It was that particular innings that earned him a call up for the 2019 World Cup.

Wherever he bats in the series against Pakistan, Markram will know that he is in form. He was prodigious in first class cricket this summer falling just shy of scoring 1 000 runs in the Four-day competition, although he knows a shift in mindset will be needed to replicate that kind of success in the shorter format.

“Initially at training this week, it did feel a bit foreign to me, obviously I’ve been playing loads of red ball cricket since returning from injury and not too much white ball stuff.”

“It’s more about addressing plans from a mental side, technically not too much changes.”

@shockerhess

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