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Markram confident Proteas have more in the tank

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The win over the West Indies in the first Test will have instilled the belief in the Proteas that they can still win matches away from home.

Aiden Markram of South Africa hits pass Joshua de Silva of the West Indies during day 1 of the first Test at Darren Sammy Cricket Ground, Gros Islet, Saint Lucia
Aiden Markram of South Africa hits pass Joshua de Silva of the West Indies during day 1 of the first Test at Darren Sammy Cricket Ground, Gros Islet, Saint Lucia. Photo: Randy Brooks/AFP

JOHANNESBURG – The West Indies and South Africa find themselves in very similar positions heading into the second Test despite being on opposite sides of the result in the first match.

They’re both trying to maintain an even keel as it were – in the Proteas’ case not wanting to get too high after winning that opening Test so comprehensively and for the home side not wanting to get too down on themselves.

They are inexperienced teams, a point emphasised by both Aiden Markram and Jason Holder this week. The West Indies had started feeling good about themselves when a young side went to Bangladesh in February and surprisingly won a series there. The South Africans have generally felt and looked flat, but perhaps the appointment of new captains has felt like an opportunity for a restart.

Naturally the Proteas will feel good about themselves after taking less than two and half days to win the first Test, but to hear the players and coaches explain it, they’re still very much a work in progress. That win was the team’s first away win for four years, a reflection of just how far South Africa have slipped.

“It will have re-instilled belief in the guys, just knowing we can still win away from home,” said Markram, who was brought in as a non-playing squad member in 2017, when South Africa last won a Test away from home, beating England in Nottingham.

There is still a series on the line, and an opportunity for the Proteas, to wipe another depressing stat off the board should they avoid defeat in the second Test that starts on Friday, also at the Daren Sammy Cricket Ground, but on a different pitch. South Africa last won away from home in March 2017, beating New Zealand.

The fact that it’s the Kiwis who will be playing in the World Test Championship final, also starting Friday, reflects the different directions those two sides have taken in the last four years.

For now the Proteas won’t be measuring themselves against New Zealand, currently ranked as Test cricket’s No.1 team. “It’s about having a set standard for us as players and as a team for us to live by,” said Markram.

“It doesn’t matter the result, if you win or lose the game, because if you’re operating at the standard we’ve set as a team, then more often than not you’ll get good results. We’re pretty inexperienced, so the only thing we can measure ourselves against is the standards we set for ourselves.”

The standard the South Africans set in that first Test win was quite high. “It will be tough to better that performance,” Markram chirped. However, being a new team, with a captain who has stated he wants to push the benchmark, means that a big part of the challenge ahead of the second game, is to find ways to improve.

“I’m hoping we’ve got more percentage in terms of being better for the next Test,” Markram added. “I’m positive we’ve got something more in us.”

Holder has called for patience from the public in the Caribbean ahead of the second Test. “We have a relatively inexperienced batting line-up,” said the former West Indies captain, who is currently ranked as the best all-rounder in the Test arena.

“There are guys who are looking to re-engage with Test cricket and others trying to engage in the Test arena. All these things add up. We need to be a little bit more patient. We’ve seen what they can produce, with the performances just in the recent past.”

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