Cape Town - It is just beginning to look as though Aiden Markram will be the unfortunate, top-order odd man out when it comes to South Africa's squad for CWC 2019.
There has been justifiable sentiment for some time now that only two of Reeza Hendricks, eye-opening newcomer Rassie van der Dussen and Markram will make the cut for the 15-strong squad, especially as veteran JP Duminy, if fit in time, should reclaim one of the stroke-playing berths even if a little lower in the order.
In Friday's inconveniently rain-affected (it robbed us all of a fuller, potentially more fascinating pre-World Cup "trial" viewing) third one-day international against Pakistan at Centurion, which the Proteas won on the Duckworth-Lewis method to take a 2-1 lead with two to play, Hendricks grabbed the opportunity fulsomely to demonstrate his worth again for the major jamboree from late May.
By the time it had become clear that no further play would be possible in the high-scoring encounter, the firm-striking but still elegant right-hander had advanced to a commanding, unbeaten 83 off 90 deliveries in a Proteas score of 187 for two; the initial requirement had been a pretty stiff 318 and it was a shame in many ways that a few players deeper in the home team's order did not earn the chance to show their mettle under pressure.
But the "two-thirds" Proteas innings (33 overs before the heavens opened again, decisively) was nevertheless enough for No 3 Hendricks to stiffen his quest for a plane ticket to England.
There was something of a Daryll Cullinan type of assuredness and aesthetically-pleasing textbook style in the way the Kimberley-born player went about his business against the Pakistani seamers and spinners alike, and he looked dead set for a century before the early end to the fixture.
He picked up length with lightning speed, enabling him to play some quite blistering front-of-wicket strokes for boundaries.
For sheer, overall dominance of the attack, his innings was not dissimilar to his sizzling debut century (102 off 89 balls) against Sri Lanka in Pallekele back in August.
Following that performance, Hendricks subsided rather violently with successive scores of 2, 0, 5 and 1, but more recently a better degree of consistency has taken root and he now sports 377 ODI runs from a dozen appearances at an average of almost 35.
Van der Dussen, shifted down the order on Friday in what would have been another interesting experiment, would probably have taken guard next, but instead didn't get the chance to add another meaningful score to his 93 and 80 not out from the earliest portion of this series.
So the more dormant figure of late, and possibly to his detriment when it comes to making the World Cup cut, has really been Markram, an emerging wunderkind of the Test landscape but yet to set alight the 50-overs arena at the highest level.
He has been "marooned" on 16 caps - and 407 runs at a lesser 25.43 - since his last outing against Australia at Hobart in early season, and must be desperate for a gig in what remains of the Pakistan series: Wanderers on Sunday (daytime) and Newlands in midweek.
Maybe Markram's best hope is that the brains trust decide they know what they have - as they surely do? - in long-serving maestro Hashim Amla and opt to rest him at the Bullring, giving each of the more youthful trio a gallop together on "Pink Day".
Bear in mind that if Markram doesn't feature at all in the remainder of the ODI series, he also has the drawback of not being part of the three-match Twenty20 series, where both Van der Dussen and Hendricks can further enhance their reputations in white-ball cricket.
Once that is out of the way, the Titans-based favourite would have to wait anxiously to see whether he is given a role in the squad for the last bilateral ODI series before the World Cup, against Sri Lanka.
Right now, Hendricks and Van der Dussen have their noses in front, even if Markram - remember, also a fine fielder, and South Africa were strangely sloppy in that department on Friday - can hardly be ruled out entirely yet from a CWC 2019 berth.
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