Cape Town - There have been a few question marks hovering over Aiden Markram lately, on both the ODI and Test stages.
After a cracking start to his Test career that saw him reach 1 000 runs in just 10 matches, Markram hit somewhat of a wobble in 2018 when he averaged 33.6 in the format.
When one considers that the Proteas played the bulk of their 2018 Tests at home on difficult batting wickets and that they also toured Sri Lanka, that may not seem a terrible return.
Instead, the worry has centred around his inability to capitalise on starts, particularly in the shorter format where he still averages just 25.43.
Markram is considered the front-runner to bat at No 3 at this year's World Cup in England, so the Proteas brains trust desperately need him to find the kind of form that matches the hype that has accompanied the player since the very beginning of his international career.
At Newlands on Thursday, the 24-year-old gave a timely reminder of exactly why he is rated so highly.
His knock of 78 included 14 sweetly struck boundaries and a six, and it came off just 96 balls.
In a little more than two hours at the crease, Markram went a long way towards taking the game away from Pakistan.
He pounced on anything short, drove beautifully when the ball was overpitched and scored all around the wicket.
As the cricket gods would have it, Markram was out bowled on the final ball of the day thanks to a delivery from part-time seamer Shan Masood that stayed unkindly low.
"I'm sure he'll be gutted," Markram's team-mate Dale Steyn said after the first day's play.
"You want to get through the day and come out tomorrow and get another 100. He's done his job today. It was a pretty good knock and he can be very pleased with his performance.
"When somebody is batting like that it lifts the changeroom and you start thinking that there are a lot of runs to be had.
"Pakistan have got a good bowling line-up and some guys who can really test our techniques and when someone like Aiden bats like that it gives us the faith that we can get through it and score big."
The Proteas, thanks largely to Markram, are now just 54 runs behind Pakistan with eight first innings wickets remaining.
Hashim Amla, meanwhile, is looking steady at the other end on 24* and he is likely to be joined by Theunis de Bruyn when play gets underway again on Friday morning.