Hawk Eye on South Africa v England First Test: Markram ready to star

Jimmy Anderson
Anderson's back

Ed Hawkins says the South African opener is underrated ahead of the Boxing Day Test in Centurion from Thursday

"Boucher took Markram under his wing for Titans and it's a relationship which has ensured the runs have flowed"

The coming force

Dean Elgar's obduracy, Faf Du Plessis's composure and Quinton de Kock's aggression are all England need to worry about in their Test series against South Africa, right? Maybe not. A tall, elegant right-hander has slipped under the radar but it might not be long before the secret is out.

Aiden Markram, classy and cool-headed at the crease, could be the breakout star of the contest and it is fair to reckon that because of more well-known colleagues the layers have not paid as much attention to the opening bat as they should.

In 19 Tests, Markram is averaging 40. He has four centuries to his name and six half-centuries. He is assertive with the bat, quick with a word or two and - rare, this - is a World Cup-winning South African. He led the under-19s to glory. He is Faf Du Plessis' heir apparent as leader.

He comes into the series under a bit of cloud. He had a torturous time in India earlier this year to the extent he self-harmed, fracturing a wrist after punching "a solid object" following a pair in Pune. Playing spin is not a forte. He should have no worries against England if they carry out their threat to go with an all-pace attack.

More important, perhaps, is the installation of Mark Boucher as coach. Boucher took Markram under his wing for Titans and it's a relationship which has ensured the runs have flowed; averaging more than 50 in first-class and limited-overs.

Markram is value across the markets for a score in Centurion, the place of his birth. He has four wins in 17 on the top bat in the last two years. But all of those have been at home and it's right to say he's yet to master the art of adjusting technique and temperament to unfamiliar pitches. Filter home Tests only and he has four wins in 13. Either way, Sportsbook's 4/1 looks toppy.

The best wager could be the 2/1 he scores a first-innings fifty. We make that an even money chance on career while the 8/1 about a first-innings century (three in 19) also gives us an edge.

South Africa last two years matches/top bat wins
Elgar 2/18
Du Plessis 4/16
Markram 4/17
Bauma 1/13
Hamza 1/2
De Kock 2/18

Rabada and Anderson have little to beat

A couple of old faithful for punters to consider on the top bowler market for game one: Kagiso Rabada and James Anderson. The big question to ponder will be whether they have much to beat.

Rabada is, of course, one of the best fast bowlers in the world and with a strike rate of a wicket every 28.9 at Centurion, Sportsbook's 21/10 could seem generous.

Even more so when you think of the colleagues he has to pip. In the expected South Africa XI there is only Keshav Maharaj who has won this market in the last two years (Morne Morkel and Dale Steyn have retired, Duanne Olivier left for a Kolpak).

Sportsbook's 21/10 is not value by the letter of the law but when you consider the above we may have to consider breaking our own rules.

As for Anderson, Stuart Broad and Jofra Archer have both been under the weather. Rare that Anderson is fitter and stronger than the rest, eh?

Anderson hasn't played since pulling up against Australia at Edgbaston in August. In the downtime Sportsbook have, alas, not forgotten his reliability as per our numbers below.

South Africa last two years matches/top bowler wins
Rabada 5 3t/18
Philander 2t/14
Maharaj 3/14
Linde 1/1

England last two years matches/top bat win
Root 7/43
Stokes 7/33
Bstow 4/38
Buttler 3/20
Woakes 1/20
Burns 3/14
Denly 2/10

England last two years matches/top bowler wins
Woakes 1 4t/22
Anderson 7 6t/33
Broad 7 6t/38
Wood 1/5
Archer 2/6
Leach 0/4

Hawk-Eye P-L

2019 - points p-l: +30.42 (131 points staked)
2018 - points p-l: +9.86 (89 points staked)
2017 - points p-l: +5.29 (26 points staked)

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