Markram makes merry as Proteas close in on World Cup qualification

02 April 2023 - 19:36
By Stuart Hess at the Wanderers AND Stuart Hess
Aiden Markram on his way to top scoring for the Proteas with 175 in their dominant 146-run ODI victory against the Netherlands at the Wanderers on Sunday.
Image: Siphiwe Sibeko/Reuters Aiden Markram on his way to top scoring for the Proteas with 175 in their dominant 146-run ODI victory against the Netherlands at the Wanderers on Sunday.

It’s a reflection of Aiden Markram’s weirdly modest return in the ODI format that the 175 he scored in Sunday’s final ODI against the Netherlands equated to more than 10% of all the runs he’s made in the format since making his debut in 2017. 

The win for South Africa sees them with a foot in the 2023 World Cup, with an improved net run rate that should also see them through even if Ireland beat Bangladesh in all three games in a series in Chelmsford in May.  

Markram, playing in his 50th ODI, finally notched a first hundred in a format that his talent and technique seem ideally suited for.

Over the course of his career, he has struggled with the tempo of his innings. Markram’s been dismissed 19 times for scores between 20 and 49, an indication for the most part of how when he wants to accelerate he finds himself getting out. 

It’s not something that affects his T20 game, where Markram averages over 40 at a strike rate of 150, but clearly the extended time available to him in the 50-over format has messed with his head. 

So Sunday would have been enjoyable for him especially since the team weren’t in the best position halfway through the innings. Asked to bat by the Netherlands, the Proteas lost their two openers inside the power play, both dismissals falling in the category  of ‘soft.’ 

Markram added 62 runs for the third wicket with Rassie van der Dussen and then 51 for the fourth wicket with Heinrich Klaasen, but at 145/4 in the 26th over, the Dutch were sniffing an opening. 

Van der Dussen must be grateful this season has ended. Sunday was the fourth time in the last month he’s been out hooking or pulling, though on this occasion it was just an awfully-timed stroke against a long-hop from a spinner rather than the ferocity of a bouncer from a West Indies quick. 

It might be premature to talk of playing himself out of the World Cup — he made a hundred against England in January — but Van der Dussen will be concerned about the limp manner he is ending a season in which he’s been dropped from the Test team and also deemed surplus to requirements in the T20 side.  

Meanwhile, the opposite holds true for Markram, who returned to the Test team, scored a hundred against West Indies and was named captain of the T20 group.

His innings on Sunday was beautifully balanced both from the perspective of technique and how he steadied SA's innings in partnership with David Miller. 

The Proteas had already been accelerating the scoring rate during the third and fourth-wicket partnerships, but this new bolder approach saw them increase that rate even more despite four of the main batters already being back in the changeroom half way through the innings.

Markram, after taking 47 balls for his first 50, faced 39 more deliveries to get to 100 and then a further 29 to reach 150. He drove powerfully and with typical elegance, while the short ball, which the Dutch offered up often, was disdainfully dispatched. 

He looked on course to eclipse Gary Kirsten’s record high score for a Proteas batter — 188* against the UAE at the 1996 World Cup — but weariness overcame him as he picked out Tom Cooper at long-on. 

His 175 matched Herschelle Gibbs' effort in the ‘438 game’ leaving the pair tied for the sixth-highest ODI score by for South Africa. 

Markram and Miller shared a partnership of 199, with the latter falling nine runs short of a century as he top-edged a swing across the line. 

Nevertheless they were responsible for ensuring that what looked at one stage like being a target of less than 300 was substantially more and out of the reach of the Dutch. 

Sisanda Magala, picked up a maiden ODI five-wicket haul, as the Proteas ran away winners by 146 runs. With both wins against the Dutch being comprehensive the Proteas net run rate on the Super League log received a significant boost, giving them an important advantage over Ireland.