Wicketkeeper Tim Paine admitted to a sense of worry creeping through the Australian team as Aiden Markram’s epic century and Quinton de Kock’s great support saw South Africa stage a tremendous fightback on the fourth day of the first Test at Kingsmead in Durban on Sunday.
Having watched his team plunge to 49 for four, there was an impressive sense of composure about Markram and South Africa’s face-saving began when he and Theunis de Bruyn, teammates from the age of 19 at Tuks, added 87 for the fifth wicket.
But even after De Bruyn was caught behind off Josh Hazlewood for 36, Markram ploughed on and he found a most able ally in De Kock.
The wicketkeeper/batsman’s current form may have been dodgy, but his class and ability to win matches is not in dispute and as they built their terrific stand of 147 for the sixth wicket, one could sense the frustration growing in the Aussie camp … and even some trepidation.
“It was a superb innings by Aiden on a really tough pitch, there was reverse-swing and lots of spin, and they were getting close to winning the game. We didn’t start to think they were getting away from us because we knew the new ball was around the corner, but I’m sure some guys were worried. Aiden and Quinton were playing really well, but we knew we were one wicket away,” Paine said after a late collapse left the Proteas with just one wicket in hand at stumps.
Markram’s heroic 143 in 339 minutes against arguably the best attack in world cricket was just another reminder of the incredibly bright future that awaits the impressive 23-year-old.
Having scored heavily against Bangladesh and Zimbabwe in his first three Tests, the big question was always going to be how he fared against India.
His 94 on a bizarre Centurion pitch showed he belonged, but his innings on Sunday against Australia was on another level.
“Once you were in you could develop a plan that you could stick to, there was not a lot of lateral movement today, which is the most difficult to play, but there was quite a bit of reverse-swing. But I just stayed in my plans for longer and, from a personal point of view, the innings was a relief.
“I felt the pressure building and it bothered me that I made a start in the first dig. Today I had a bit of luck and I ran with it. It was a massive challenge today, it obviously always is against Australia, and this is a tricky stage of my career for me as I try and establish myself in the side, and that against two very strong teams [India & Australia].
“We had to fight today and this innings is probably up there with my best because of the pressure of playing against a great bowling attack and having not performed recently as I wanted. This innings has definitely helped with my belief, which is a massive thing in cricket. Today my confidence has gone a long way, which is very nice, and I must keep building on this and not take anything for granted,” Markram said with refreshing candour.