For someone who wasn’t expecting to make the South African squad for the Under-19 World Cup, things have turned around quite rapidly for Aiden Markram. The 19-year-old’s pessimism may have appeared to be justified. The South African age group program doesn’t get a lot of international exposure so when Markram underperformed at the U19 quadrangular in Visakhapatnam last year,(he scored 73 runs in 5 innings) it would well have seemed he had missed his chance.
But Markram not only got his call-up, he was also named skipper of the squad. It was a decision that he says left him “shocked and uncertain whether to feel either happy or sad”. The selectors faith in him was justified. On Sunday he not only led South Africa to their first ever U-19 World Cup triumph, he also was named player of the series for his 370 runs at an average of 123.33.
Even with the exhilaration of victory fresh, Markram is remarkably level headed about his achievement. “I have had some bad tournaments so it is good to have a good one as well,” he says. “The man of the series trophy isn’t as important to me as the team trophy,” he adds.
His century against Zimbabwe rescued his side from 54/3 and his 45 in the semis against Australia formed a base for the middle order to build on. And while the powerfully built Markram appears a tad stodgy for an opener, he backs his ability to find the big hits and make up the runs over the course of his innings.
On Saturday against Pakistan, albeit chasing a modest total, South Africa were 28/2 after 11.4 overs.So Markram went about his job – seeing off the main Pakistani bowlers. He was 28 from 66 balls at one stage but stuck to his task methodically – tapping the wide lines between overs-a superstition he has maintained since school cricket. Ultimately he would see SA home with an unbeaten 66, carrying his bat for the second time in the tournament.
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Rabada’s fast track to success
The slow wickets of Dubai were one where spinners were expected to dominate and for the most part that held true at the U-19 World Cup. But when someone bowls at close to 90 miles an hour, like Kagiso Rabada does, that’s got to count for something as well. Indeed, the South African finished as the second highest wicket-taker in the tournament with 14 wickets in 5 games, including a six-wicket haul against Australia. While Rabada’s pace obviously draws attention, he combines with it accuracy. His wickets came at 10.28 runs each, he only conceded 3.1 runs an over.
“Congrats South Africa in Rabada you have unearthed another outstanding Quick bowler”, tweeted former England captain Michael Vaughan after Rabada’s 6/25 against Australia in the semifinals. Rabada doesn’t come from a family of cricketers.
”My father played football. As a black man in his time, he didn’t have the kind of opportunity to play cricket. I was luckier that could go to a good school (St. Stithians College) where I got the chance,” he says. Rabada says he always knew he wanted to be a fast bowler. “I saw Alan Donald bowl on TV and he was quick. I wanted to be like that.”