Aiden Markram scored a classy 152 on the opening day of the Johannesburg Test match, thereby bringing the focus back to cricket after it was marred by indifferent controversies.
Markram's feat naturally came in for effusive praise from many quarters. "The best young batsman going around," said Graeme Smith on air, summing the 23-year-old up in just six words. Virat Kohli, a captain in the millennium generation, needed even fewer, merely tweeting Markram's name followed by a couple of complimentary emojis. The Indian leader's gesture was appreciated by a player whose team was being pulverised by Kohli just last month.
Aiden Markram ????????— Virat Kohli (@imVkohli) March 30, 2018
"It's quite a special feeling," Markram said of the praise Kohli had showed. "There are a lot of players that I look up to who are a bit older than me and he is one of them. I didn't chat to him too much after the one-day series or the Test series but I did keep a close eye on him and how he goes about his things. It helped a lot. His competitiveness is something to admire and his motivation to keep scoring runs, is something I've tried to take on board."
That motivation has translated into runs on the board - 443 of them in this series alone at an average of 63.29. To put that into perspective, Markram became the first South African to score 400 runs in a Test series against Australia. AB de Villiers also scored a crucial 69 as the duo stitched up 105 which took them to 313 by the end of the days play.
Markram said on De Villiers' innings " When a guy like AB strolls down the wicket and says, 'This is tough, I don't feel like I am batting too well...' You kind of have to take a step back yourself," said Markram. "We decided we were going to try and absorb it as much as we could. It was a tricky period and we knew if we could drag it on for a while it could become easier. We saw that with AB - he kicked on from 30 to 60 fairly easily. It paid off for him."
"I don't think you're going to see anything a hell of a lot worse than what we've seen in the last few weeks," Markram said on Friday (March 30). "It was a bit of an eye-opener to be honest."
Markram showed his character as he was able to keep his mental shape throughout his innings and take his team to a position of strength on Day 1.