CWC: Markram ... now a million reasons!

2019-04-01 09:36
Aiden Markram (Gallo)
Aiden Markram (Gallo)

Cape Town - His inviting flexibility in the batting order.

If enough justification hadn’t yet surfaced to some - and wow, aren’t they hard taskmasters? - for Aiden Markram to be on the plane for the Proteas to the World Cup in May, it should finally have done so with proof of that extremely useful attribute on Sunday.

Another blazing century for the Titans by the powerful, elegant right-hander, this time batting at slightly unorthodox number four, characterised the one-sided Momentum One-Day Cup showpiece against the Dolphins as the men in blue prevailed by 135 runs.

A series of stinkers in decision-making by the officials happened to overwhelmingly impede the visitors from KwaZulu-Natal, though perhaps not by quite enough to influence the result; the margin might simply have been considerably narrower.

Nevertheless, the enthralling Markram Show largely sidestepped the gremlins, his 127 at strike rate of 144 making him an obvious recipient of the player-of-the-match award at Centurion as he hoisted three figures for the third time in the competition this season.

He began in reasonably temperate fashion, but gradually erupted into a typhoon of clear-the-ropes (and then some, often enough) stroke-playing glory, especially in front of the wicket where he is so enviably strong and decisive.

When he is on song, Markram tends to match or even eclipse in sixes what he manages in fours, something borne out again in this match as he notched eight “maximums” (48 runs) to go with his five boundaries in slightly lesser mathematical value (20).

That six-hitting relish had certainly been prevalent, too, in his most talked-about knock of 169 against the Cobras at Newlands precisely a month ago on March 1 - that time from No 5 and after a severe top-order collapse - when he managed seven of them at the coastal venue where the ball doesn’t tend to travel as far.

Quite obviously, the habit is also a signal of a genuine “take the game away” customer, and a reminder that the 24-year-old shouldn’t just be compartmentalised as a top-of-the-order contender at CWC 2019, from which it now seems altogether too unfathomable to leave him at home.

While he is generally more familiar with responsibility up front, his finishing skills, if you like, aren’t perhaps as appreciated as they should be: it is not too much of a stretch to suggest that he could serve the national cause in 50-overs cricket virtually as effectively anywhere in the top six if need be.

That’s worth bearing in mind when you consider the possibility that the Proteas could be well-stocked in, for example, opening batsmen if the national selectors - convenor Linda Zondi was at SuperSport Park for Markram’s latest domestic carnage - somehow find a way to facilitate the squad presence of both Hashim Amla and Reeza Hendricks for the UK-staged event.

One opening berth, of course, is already the virtually guaranteed property of Quinton de Kock, who will be one of the most dangerous and prolific figures by reputation in that capacity at the World Cup.

Assuming that Markram is not going to be cold-shouldered for a presence in the 15-strong party to be revealed in mid-April, he looks increasingly like comforting cover - even if not chosen as De Kock’s partner at the front - for any berth from three to six if, for instance, an anticipated occupier of those roles is not available or encounters a significant nosedive in form in England.

He is just too clean a striker of the ball, and a fine picker of length, not to be able to blossom beyond the top three, even if he will command plenty of support for duty within that specific terrain.

But the domestic final on Sunday also confirmed that the Markram package of tricks isn’t confined to what he does from the crease.

If someone like veteran JP Duminy experienced an injury or loss of mojo at the World Cup, the young Highveld-born star is also the next best prospect from the frontline batting ranks to be able to offer three or four overs of passable off-spin.

Assuming he gets his ticket to the World Cup, too, Markram automatically becomes one of the most reliable, mobile and skilful fielders in the group - a balancing asset when you consider that not every SA player there will look noticeably like a gazelle around the park or muscle-man with his throw-ins.

At both international level and at important moments of the One-Day Cup campaign for his franchise this summer, the player has been virtually unerring as a catcher, whether in the cordon or the outfield, including a penchant - again evident on Sunday - for making tricky pouches look relatively simple.

STILL have your reservations about Markram going?

Sorry, it’s close to craziness if so.

*Follow our chief writer on Twitter: @RobHouwing


Read more on:    titans  |  proteas  |  cwc 2019  |  aiden markram  |  cricket


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