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Aiden Markram whacks Windies in first Test, but fellow Proteas batters fall like dominoes

Aiden Markram whacks Windies in first Test, but fellow Proteas batters fall like dominoes
Aiden Markram of the Proteas during day one of the 1st Betway Test match between South Africa and West Indies at SuperSport Park on 28 February 2023 in Centurion, South Africa. (Photo: Lee Warren / Gallo Images)

A first Test century for the Proteas in almost two years, some Formula One-like driving on the cricket pitch, a duck dismissal for new Test captain Temba Bavuma and a typical South African batting collapse. How day one of the Proteas’ first of two matches in the series against the West Indies unfolded.

South Africa began their first match of a two-game Test series against the West Indies on home soil ever so effectively and efficiently — cruising to 141 runs before the loss of their first wicket on day one.

Then, not long after that first wicket fell — with Dean Elgar’s luck finally running out — a typical South African batting collapse ensued. The Proteas, having dominated the first two sessions of the day, capitulated to end the day on 314 runs for the loss of eight wickets.

Drive for redemption

An impressive and driven 141-run partnership for the opening wicket — which later saw opener Aiden Markram notch up his first Test ton in two years (and the first 100 for a Proteas batter in a year) — propped up South Africa for an imposing total at the end of the first day.  

Markram and his fellow opener, former Proteas Test captain Elgar, were on song early on. After taking a few overs to settle in at the relatively empty SuperSport Park in Tshwane, the two South African starters began justifying the decision of new Test captain, Temba Bavuma, to bat first after he’d won the toss.

The pair, perhaps inspired by watching the impeccable driving of Laura Wolvaardt in the knockout stages of the T20 Women’s World Cup drove the West Indies bowling attack to all parts of SuperSport Park as the Proteas looked comfortable.

Elgar was the primary aggressor early on, with eventual centurion Markram happy to take up the position of co-pilot. However, Elgar’s aggression threatened to cost him his wicket early on.

The former skipper was dropped at third slip off the bowling of Kyle Mayers when he was on just 10 runs. He went on to punish the Windies for their tardy fielding — reaching his 23rd international half-century in the longest format, as well as marking his first 50-plus score since April 2022.

Aiden Markram of the Proteas during day one of the 1st Betway Test match between South Africa and West Indies at SuperSport Park on 28 February 2023 in Centurion, South Africa. (Photo: Lee Warren / Gallo Images)


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He only managed to add 21 runs after that milestone, before Jermaine Blackwood (who had dropped Elgar earlier) redeemed himself with a great catch at third man off the bowling of South Africa’s chief tormentor with the ball, Alzarri Joseph.  

In stepped Tony de Zorzi — who was making his senior debut alongside bowler Gerald Coetzee. After the 25-year-old’s introduction, Markram took over the aggression. Unlike Elgar, he would convert his 50 to a morale-boosting ton.

It was a fine response to being dropped from the team at the tail end of 2022. 

“[After being dropped from the last Test], today felt like starting on a clean slate. Obviously, I was heartsore not to be in Australia, but I was spoken to quite clearly about the reasons to not be on that tour, and I was happy with those reasons,” Markram said to journalists about his impressive innings of 115. 

“As batters we need runs. So, if you’re not scoring runs in a team that wants to compete and be the best in the world, your position should be under scrutiny. It worked out nicely, in hindsight.”

The opener, who was one of just three batters to score a century in a match during the inaugural SA20, vindicated the decision of the Proteas’ selection gurus to recall him.

Markram was still riding the buzz of captaining the Sunrisers Eastern Cape to the SA20 title in mid-February, and was as assured as ever after assuming the driver’s seat. He reached his first century in 16 innings off 154 balls.

“At any stage when you have a few runs under the belt, you can take a certain amount of confidence from that… So, those happy vibes are carried forward. It helped that I had a bit of time away from the Test stuff to start on a clean slate,” he said.

Alzarri Joseph of the West Indies during day one of the 1st Betway Test match between South Africa and West Indies at SuperSport Park on 28 February 2023 in Centurion, South Africa. (Photo: Sydney Seshibedi / Gallo Images)

Falling like dominoes

Then came the great collapse, which has become synonymous with South African batting and has seen the side slip from one of the best cricketing nations to also-rans.

It was instigated by an unfortunate run-out of overzealous debutant De Zorzi. Having stroked the ball to deep cover to allow some running between wickets, the Western Province batter was keen for a third — with Markram not interested.

By the time De Zorzi realised this, he was well out of his crease. Despite a valiant effort to return to safety, he was marginally short — gone for 28 off 69 runs. Thus, his 65-run stand with Markram was snuffed.

The unfortunate event triggered a flurry of wickets lost for the hosts of the two-match series. In the same over as De Zorzi departing, Bavuma fell for a duck after just two balls — handing his detractors and online trolls more ammo to aim at him.

Four overs later, the Windies caught the big fish in the form of Markram. Joseph delivered more menace, this time with a peach of a yorker that dislodged the stumps of South Africa’s top scorer.

This left the Proteas on 236 for the loss of four wickets. They went on to add 78 runs for the loss of four more batters, ending day one on 314 for eight. DM  

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