There could very well be space for both Aiden Markram and Pieter Malan in a future Proteas Test team, writes ANDRE HUISAMEN.
The pair of Markram and Malan piled on the runs in last week’s 4-Day Franchise Series clash between the Titans and Cobras, with Markram notching a third consecutive century in the competition, while Malan made scores of 125 and 57.
With the Proteas set to welcome Sri Lanka for two Test matches, starting on Boxing Day, and the future availability of Faf du Plessis in this format uncertain, the Proteas selectors are left with a good headache on who to pick between the two right-handers.
Should Du Plessis’ focus be on only T20 cricket, it could be worth having a look at Markram batting down the order.
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With his current form, the idea is undoubtedly that he should open the batting alongside Dean Elgar, while Malan will narrowly miss out on selection.
Both are highly talented batsmen with a willingness to start on the front foot, something that suits the opening position.
Markram, though, is a bit more versatile in that aspect and could fit in very well at No 4, while Malan continues to open the batting.
The former Proteas U19 skipper has batted down the order for the Proteas in ODI cricket in the past and could form a strong foundation for a Test outfit that has struggled through its middle order in the past.
Markram is an instinctive type of player with decent Test-cricket experience and could potentially excel in this new role after recent struggles at the top of the order.
He remains one of South Africa’s most naturally gifted batsmen in the modern age and appears to be determined to reclaim his spot in the Test format, having overcome some of the problems he faced over the past 12 months.
This could very well be an ideal opportunity to see a new and matured Markram perform for the Proteas and hopefully be a worthy contributor with the bat.
Malan, on the other hand, is a bit more similar to Elgar in his approach of grinding out tough spells against tricky opposition bowlers.
His 80 against England at the beginning of the year in Cape Town proved that during a second innings with the Proteas desperate to hang on and bat for as long as possible.
Malan’s tough-nut style of play might be a better fit for what the Proteas need at the start in comparison to Markram’s eagerness to play his natural shots early on, which will be much more suited down the order.