South African opener Aiden Markram said his teammates were surprised by the nature of the pitch here after Ravichandran Ashwin took 3-90 to restrict them to 269 for 6 at stumps on day one of the second Test in Centurion.
“We didn’t expect there to be so much assistance for him. Ashwin was difficult to face. He is difficult to face on a flat wicket as well, so it did work out well for him I suppose,” Markram said.
“He still had to bowl well so you need to give him some credit. It will be interesting to see if the pitch will get harder and if it will continue to spin like it did, or if it spun like that because of the grass covering. We’ll see in the next couple of days,” he said after the day’s play.
Markram, who missed out a century after being dismissed by Ashwin, heaped praise on the bowler.
“Ashwin is a world class bowler. He’s always asking the right questions and he sets smart fields. It is not easy out there. I don’t think he would have expected to bowl as much today judging on how last week went,” he said.
“They would have expected something similar. But he is a world-class bowler and it was a good challenge to get out there and face him,” he added.
Markram, who scored 94, provided a good base for South Africa to make a huge score. However, the hosts floundered in the final session.
“I thought we showed good fight, winning the toss and batting first, especially after how last week played out. It is nice to get the start we did get, and for Hashim Amla and AB de Villiers to prolong the partnership,” he said.
‘Game’s pretty right now’
“We would have liked not to have lost those clump of wickets at the end. It is a part of the game and we just got to be nice and positive as a side and fight for every run tomorrow morning,” he said.
“The game is pretty much even right now. In terms of bowling we have got taller bowlers and also being used to the conditions and it would be interesting to see how the Indians bat and make an assessment.”
Talking about the missed hundred, Markram said, “Obviously, I am bitterly disappointed. It’s the second time in a short career, but I’m just going to keep saying it’s part of the game and try to be positive. Next time I get into those situations I’ll take lessons from what I’ve learnt today and hopefully get through to three figures.”
“Even if we were ended the day two down, I still would have been disappointed. It was a bit of a nothing shot. I am not over it just yet. My next role is to try and save runs in the field and do what ever I can before we stuck in again. Probably be on in a positive space,” he added.
‘Kohli’s compliment meant a lot’
Markram also thanked Indian skipper Virat Kohli who complimented his knock.
“He came across and said, ‘Well played, you were unlucky to get out.’ It was a great touch from him. He is a massive competitor as everyone sees on the TV, but it’s great to see that he has got good values that people off the field might not see. It was a great gesture and it meant a lot.”
The opener said South Africa will be looking to put up a good score with Faf du Plessis still at the crease.
“Anything above 350 would be good. We would like to push to 400. We’ve still got plenty of batting. Keshav Maharaj is still in and Kagiso Rabada showed his worth in the previous Test as well, along with the leadership of Faf,” Markram added.