The Chronicle - - Racing -

DURHAM sign­ing Ai­den Markram is con­vinced the spirit of cricket is still alive de­spite the fall-out from the Aus­tralia ball-tam­per­ing scan­dal he wit­nessed at close hand.

The 23-year-old South Africa opener and his team-mates found them­selves at the cen­tre of an in­ter­na­tional furore dur­ing their 3-1 Test se­ries vic­tory which saw the tourists’ skip­per Steve Smith, David Warner and Cameron Ban­croft banned for con­spir­ing to al­ter the con­di­tion of the ball.

Markram, who cap­tained his coun­try to Under-19s World Cup glory, will con­tinue his ed­u­ca­tion in the game with a short spell at Durham, where he will play the first four games of their Spec­savers County Cham­pi­onship cam­paign.

And afer dis­tin­guish­ing him­self with two cen­turies in the se­ries against Aus­tralia, he says the game’s in­tegrity re­mains largely in­tact. Asked if the spirit of cricket still ex­ists, he said: “I do think it ex­ists, yes.

“On the field, there are a lot of pres­sures to deal with and a lot of com­pet­i­tive juices that get flow­ing, and that’s when it’s the tough­est part to try to keep it in the spirit of cricket. “But def­i­nitely af­ter­wards or af­ter some­thing, let’s say, hap­pens that is not in the spirit of cricket, you get your apol­ogy very quickly and you get your rea­sons be­hind it. “If the rea­sons make sense to you, then you ac­cept your apol­ogy; if not, you try to look past it. “But I still think there is that el­e­ment in the game and I don’t think it is some­thing we should lose at all. For as long as I play, wher­ever I play in the world, it’s some­thing I’ll en­cour­age and drive for­ward be­cause at the end of the day, it is the gen­tle­man’s game and it’s a big part of cricket it­self.” Markram and his team-mates were in­no­cent by-standers as the drama un­folded dur­ing the third Test in Cape Town, and says they were stunned when they Ai­den Markram learned what had tran­spired. He said: “We were very shocked. The heat of the se­ries was ob­vi­ously hap­pen­ing. It was the third Test match and it was a crunch game, and the next thing, the story broke out.

“Ev­ery­one woke up the next morn­ing and the guys couldn’t be­lieve what had hap­pened.

“It ob­vi­ously hit home overnight and it was tough to see what the Aus­tralians went through. You don’t wish that on your worst en­emy, so I’m sure they’re glad it’s done and we’re glad it’s done.

“The pun­ish­ments that were dealt out were harsh, but hav­ing said that, you also can’t let peo­ple get away with what they did.”

Markram has reached 1,000 Test runs in just 10 matches, two quicker than revered for­mer Pro­teas skip­per Graeme Smith. That in­vites in­evitable, if – he be­lieves – un­fair, com­par­isons.

He said: “If I could be half the player Graeme Smith was, I’ll take that with open arms. I don’t think it’s a fair com­par­i­son, but that’s sort of how the world works.

“I quite en­joy hav­ing pres­sure and get­ting stuck into any sit­u­a­tion, and hope­fully go­ing for­ward, it keeps work­ing out like it has be­cause it’s been a bless­ing of a start.”

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