Opening batsman Aiden Markram has been in superb form with the bat for the Titans this season. Picture: GALLO IMAGES
Opening batsman Aiden Markram has been in superb form with the bat for the Titans this season. Picture: GALLO IMAGES

It has become difficult to read the sport pages without seeing an argument for Aiden Markram’s inclusion at the expense of Stephen Cook in the Test squad SA will send to England in July.

This is not one of those stories; it is an explanation for why that is 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. " He is a bright talent and he clearly looks like one for the future.

"But if you didn’t have someone like that coming through the ranks would you really be looking at replacing … 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 in March‚ he scraped together 17 runs in four trips to the crease and was dropped for the third Test in Hamilton.

Markram‚ who famously led SA to triumph at the 2014 Under-19 World Cup‚ scored 161 for the Titans in the One-Day Cup final against the Warriors in Centurion on Friday and 183 against the Lions at the Wanderers on March 17. Markram had 508 runs at an average of 56.44 in his nine innings in the One-Day Cup, 165 fewer in one more innings than his opening partner for the Titans‚ Henry Davids. But Davids does not 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 SA one day‚" Prince said.

Not that the top of the order was SA’s only batting problem.

"Quinton de Kock has been a luxury at No7‚ where he has come in to rescue the situation more often than not‚" Prince said‚ questioning 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… 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 is not averaging over 40 is not scoring enough runs‚" Prince said. "The team is being put under pressure because of that‚ and rather than … De Kock coming in to take the game away from the opposition he is having to rescue the situation."

Of SA’s top six in New Zealand only Faf du Plessis and Elgar had averages of more than 40. We do not need to be told who the others are and neither do they.

As Prince said, "Batsmen know when more is needed from them."

TMG Digital

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