Proteas know they are in for a rough ride as South Africa tar­get se­ries win


AI­DEN MARKRAM is learn­ing very quickly that end­ing this three Test se­ries with a hefty bat­ting av­er­age is some­thing that may not hap­pen, given the na­ture of the sur­faces South Africa want pre­pared.

South Africa’s bats­men have to set aside egos and thoughts on im­prov­ing their av­er­ages as the team seeks to take ad­van­tage of util­is­ing its ma­jor strengths – quick bowl­ing – to iso­late the op­po­si­tion side’s main weak­ness – fac­ing the steep bounc­ing ball.

“Sac­ri­fice is the right word. For the team you will do al­most any­thing and this is the thing you have to bat­tle through,” Markram said yes­ter­day, ahead of his first Test at his home ground here in Cen­tu­rion.

It’s not an easy change of mind­set, and es­pe­cially so for a young bats­man like Markram who is still learn­ing and try­ing to make his mark at in­ter­na­tional level. In the first Test at New­lands, he was un­done by some clever think­ing and ex­e­cu­tion from Bhu­vnesh­war Ku­mar in the first in­nings and then by his own mis­judge­ment in the sec­ond.

“To be ex­posed to chal­lenges like this, as a young player, is great. You learn your best lessons at this level. It was cer­tainly valu­able. Go­ing into this game, I’ll be more aware,” said Markram.

Proteas cap­tain Faf du Plessis adopted the pol­icy of mak­ing life as un­com­fort­able as pos­si­ble for teams from the sub-con­ti­nent last sum­mer when Sri Lanka were white­washed in three Tests on quick, even green sur­faces. Be­cause In­dia have a more skil­ful seam bowl­ing line-up than their Asian neigh­bours, South Africa are hop­ing grounds­men avoid pro­vid­ing too much grass, which aids seam move­ment, and just cre­ate sur­faces that are hard, to aid bounce and pace.

New­lands last week, said Markram prob­a­bly “did too much,” but he is happy to change his mind­set and ap­proach if it en­sures he’s in the win­ning team.

“By no means are we just go­ing to ac­cept the fact that bat­ters can’t score runs here. I still be­lieve the bat­ters can get stuck in and score. It won’t be easy, it’s re­ally chal­leng­ing. But if you ap­ply your­self, and play for long periods within your own game plan there are runs up for grabs.”

In part to help his bats­men’s men­tal­ity, the Proteas coach Ot­tis Gib­son has said he wants them play­ing pos­i­tively.

“The mes­sage that I’ve been giv­ing to the guys out in the mid­dle is to try as best they can to get runs be­fore that ball gets you,” Gib­son said af­ter the New­lands Test.

Markram and the rest of the bat­ting unit have dis­cussed how to adapt that ap­proach to what they’re fac­ing at the crease.

“I didn’t want to lose the in­ten­sity at which I bat. There are game plans, which are utilised ac­cord­ing to the kinds of wick­ets you’re play­ing on.

“It’s im­por­tant your part­ners un­der­stand ... know when you’re get­ting a bit loose or when you need to raise your in­ten­sity, there’s no fixed blue­print, it’s dif­fer­ent for each player, but we keep the pos­i­tive af­fir­ma­tion hap­pen­ing.”

South Africa’s train­ing ses­sion yes­ter­day af­ter­noon was typ­i­cally in­tense. AB de Vil­liers, still nurs­ing the fore­fin­ger dam­aged while catch­ing Hardik Pandya on Mon­day, for­went a stint in the slips.

There was also a bruis­ing ses­sion with the ball for Chris Mor­ris and Lungi Ngidi.

As was the case in Cape Town, it will come down to a case of one or the other, or play­ing just three seam­ers and the ex­tra bats­man in Temba Bavuma, or play­ing Bavuma, four seam­ers and ax­ing spin­ner Keshav Ma­haraj.

Both Mor­ris and Ngidi looked in ex­cel­lent shape dur­ing their stints, and Gib­son and Du Plessis, who watched in­tently as the pair bowled, will have an­other very dif­fi­cult de­ci­sion to make as they fi­nalise the start­ing XI.


PLAN­NING AHEAD: Ai­den Markram knows that it will be tough out there in the mid­dle as the South African pitches will be mak­ing bat­ting a hard task. But the opener is will­ing to suf­fer for his team, so long as it se­cures a se­ries vic­tory against In­dia.

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