TELFORD VICE in Cape Town
IT’S become difficult to read the sport pages without seeing an argument for the inclusion of Aiden Markram at the expense of Stephen Cook in the test squad South Africa will send to England in July.
This is not one of those stories.
Instead it’s an explanation for why that’s happening.
“If we didn’t have a young opening batsman in the country scoring as many runs as Markram we wouldn’t be saying the same thing,” former national selector Ashwell Prince said on Monday.
“Obviously he’s a bright talent and he clearly looks like one for the future.
“Whether that future has arrived only time will tell.
“But if you didn’t have someone like that coming through the ranks would you really be looking at replacing Stephen Cook?
“A month ago people were talking about how solid the partnership was between (Dean) Elgar and Cook.
“Three or four innings down the line suddenly that’s not the case anymore.”
Cook has scored three centuries in his 19 test innings. But, on the tour to New Zealand last month, he scraped together 17 runs in four trips to the crease and was dropped for the third test in Hamilton.
Markram, who famously led South Africa to triumph at the 2014 under-19 World Cup, scored 161 for the Titans in the One-Day Cup (ODC) final against the Warriors in Centurion on Friday and 183 against the Lions at the Wanderers on March 17.
All told, Markram had 508 runs at an average of 56.44 in his nine innings in the ODC – which is 165 fewer in one more innings than his opening partner for the Titans, Henry Davids.
But Davids doesn’t open the batting in first-class cricket.
Markram has opened in 42 of his 45 innings in first-class cricket, although only nine times at the tougher franchise level.
But he has made those opportunities count, scoring 162 and 139 in his first two knocks for the Titans and 53 in his third. Another 53 followed two innings later.
“He’s a very talented player and I think he will play for South Africa one day,” Prince said.
“Whether that should be against England, that’s fortunately not my decision anymore.”
Not that the top of the order was South Africa’s only batting problem.
“Quinton de Kock has been a luxury at No. 7, where he has come in to rescue the situation more often than not,” Prince said, and questioned comparisons with Australia’s former wicketkeeper-batsman, Adam Gilchrist.
“Gilchrist wasn’t coming to the crease under these circumstances all the time; Quinton is coming to the crease under pressure all the time.
“I don’t know if any kind of situation fazes him much, but that points fingers at the top and middle order.”
In New Zealand, De Kock walked to the wicket with the scoreboard reading 252/5, 206/5, 94/6, 148/5 and 59/5.
On average, the batsmen above him got out for 29.19 runs each. De Kock’s average for the series was 52.50.
“Any batsman in the top six who isn’t averaging over 40 is not scoring enough runs,” Prince said.
“The team is being put under pressure because of that, and rather than Quinton de Kock coming in to take the game away from the opposition he’s having to rescue the situation.”
Of South Africa’s top six in New Zealand only Faf du Plessis and Elgar had averages of more than 40.
We don’t need to be told who the others are, and neither do they.
As Prince said: “Batsmen know when more is needed from them.”