South Africa’s Batting Future Appears Better After Durban Fightback
Hope for South Africa’s batting future.
Talk of South Africa's Test batting line-up and the first names that come to mind are Hashim Amla, Faf du Plessis and AB de Villiers. Stretch it a touch and you get Dean Elgar. Beyond these four, very few others had made an impact in recent times and it showed in South Africa's average returns as a Test side.
They still stood in the top half of the rankings but hanging by a thread whereas a few years ago, they hadn't lost overseas for 9 years in a row. The aura of the side that Graeme Smith possessed had vanished entirely. Yet, with a few superstars and a formidable bowling attack, they managed to churn out decent performances.
But the lost sheen in batting was telling. They were no longer a side that invoke fear in the minds of the opposition. The Indian series at home was thought to be a chance for the Proteas to extract revenge for a drubbing in 2015 in India.
Yet, few overs into the first Test at Cape Town and South Africa found themselves relying on AB de Villiers yet again for a comeback into the Test after losing three wickets upfront to Bhuvneshwar Kumar. They fought back brilliantly for a win and won the series in the next Test but conceded the Johannesburg Test which is surprising for it is the most South African of pitches and a place where India aren't expected to win.
Then arrived Durban. With an over-reliance in their three big names, South Africa barely threatened with the bat. AB de Villiers stood tall amidst the ruins but with 162 in the first innings, they could hope for few positives. Yet, by the end of the Test they had lost by 118 runs, South Africa took home quite a few positives, courtesy a stunning fightback launched by their younger brigade of batsmen.
Aiden Markram joins the party
The young South African opener and under-19 World Cup winning skipper showcased his temperament and talent in a remarkable innings of 143 in the second innings, mocking the Aussies who had splurged quite a few expletives at him post a running between the wickets mishap that led to the dismissal of AB de Villiers.
Markram was a treat to watch, playing attractively all around the wicket and scoring runs positively to keep the Aussies on their toes. On a day which witnessed the senior pros – AB de Villiers, Hashim Amla and Faf du Plessis – desert them, Aiden Markram put his hand up and fought with the oomph and spirit of a zealous youngster. This knock would go down as Markram's coming-of-age innings.
“A South African cricketing star has been born. The two best batting techniques in South African cricket that I have seen came from Barry Richards and Jacques Kallis. Aiden’s batting technique is as good as theirs. His hundred today is one of the best I have seen from a South African batsman. It was scored under extreme pressure and against an Australian bowling attack which is one of the best I have seen in world cricket for many years. His temperament under constant Aussie pressure was excellent”, Ali Bacher had told ESPNCricinfo after Markram’s brilliant knock on day 4.
de Bruyn shows why South Africa need to trust the domestic talents
Theunis de Bruyn's fighting 87 run stand alongside Aiden Markram paved way for South Africa's fightback after they were 49/4 with the big four all back in the hut. Markram was the enforcer but without de Bruyn’s solidarity, the effect of a combined effort would not have hit home so hard.
Aussies resorted to mouthing de Bruyn with Mitchell Starc constantly pestering the youngster with words. It reached a point where Starc was enjoying himself with the verbal barrage but de Bruyn stood unfazed and smashed three boundaries in an over to take Starc on.
Even though he couldn't quite carry on, de Bruyn's dazzling effort would sit well with South Africa's management who were on the lookout for reliable back-up batsmen. It shows that the domestic circuit isn't all deserted and the selectors just need to entrust the newbies with more responsibility.
Quinton de Kock's much awaited return to form
Quinton de Kock’s welcome return to form is possibly the biggest bonus for South Africa from Durban. The southpaw had struggled with his indifferent returns in the Indian series and had been the subject of a lot of discussions post the series particularly with Heinrich Klaasen showcasing some wonderful form.
The swashbuckling no.7 however silenced the hullabaloo with a stunning counter-attacking partnership with Aiden Markram, a stand of 147 that had Australia chasing leather worriedly.
The eventual half-century was de Kock’s first in sixteen innings’ and it could well have been a hundred had he not got stuck with Morne Morkel late on the fourth day .
With his commitment relentlessly questioned and Klaasen constantly knocking down the selectors’ doors, de Kock had been coping a tough time. It apparently brought the best out of him as he stood up against Australia’s fearsome bowling attack and smashed a superb 83.
An in-form Quinton de Kock boosts South Africa’s chances quite a bit as his Durban knock proved. The war of words with David Warner hopefully fires him up to do much more damage in the forthcoming matches.