An unnecessary run-out robbed Aiden Markram of a well-deserved hundred on debut in the first Test against Bangladesh.
It may have come from a generosity of spirit, for he had backed up too far to give Dean Elgar the single he needed for his hundred. Elgar sent him back, but by then he was close enough to shake hands on his way to the pavilion. He was just three runs shy of the magical number. Four balls later the Proteas went into tea at 198-1 with Hashim Amla yet to score.
But it was an excellent innings nonetheless, having struck 13 fours off the 152 balls he faced.
A run-out is the most likely form of dismissal on this wicket. With every driven four, the Proteas openers rubbed raw Bangladesh’s bizarre decision to bowl first on what looked an excellent batting strip. Apart from two or three tidy overs at the start of the day, the batsmen have been in complete control.
Having gone into the match with three quick bowlers and one frontline spinner, the Bangladeshis ran out of options once they found that the ball was doing very little, either through the air, or off the pitch, and they lacked the discipline to apply pressure by strangling the flow of runs.
The decision to bowl first was indicative of some muddled thinking by the Bangladesh management. If, as captain Mushfiqur Rahman believed, there would be a bit of life in the wicket, it is surprising that he turned to spin in just the sixth over. There was no real movement for the seamers and there was even less assistance for the 19-year-old off-breaker Mehidy Hasan, playing in just his 10th Test match.
The South Africans went into lunch on 99, with Markram on 43 off 69 balls and Elgar on 56 off 99. At the resumption, Markram stepped up a gear and was soon tracking Elgar neck and neck. Even when there was a rare false shot, usually due to exuberance of youth, the edge would beat the field and run away for four.
It would have been the first Test hundred by a debutant since Stephen Cook’s 115 against England at Centurion in January 2016, and comparisons will undoubtedly be drawn between the two.
Churlish as it may seem, Markram’s actual score needs to be put into perspective, for sterner tests await. Cook scored three hundreds and two fifties, yet after 11 matches he was deemed not good enough.
Cook was the epitome of a grafter and worked hard for his runs. Markram showed greater poise and grace and his confidence burst through like his trademark cover drive.
— SuperSport (@SuperSportTV) September 28, 2017
Photo: Lee Warren/Gallo Images