At the tender age of 23, Aiden Markram already has three Test cricket centuries, with his most recent ton coming against Australia on Sunday. Markram battled his way to an impressive 143 runs off 218 balls, while nearly everyone else around him crumbled.
His talented performance was not unexpected, however. Recent youth cricket development in SA has been showing good results, and producing a number of players of real international calibre.
With Kagiso Rabada, Lungi Ngidi and now Markram, the young Proteas are proving among the team's biggest stars in the most recent two series.
Here's all you need to know about the Proteas' latest batting phenom:
Blueprint for success
Aiden Kyle Markram was born on October 4, 1994, in Centurion, and the right-handed batsman fell in love with cricket early. He began playing while still very small at junior level, and eventually went on to strap on the pads for Pretoria Boys High in 2010.
Andrew de Kock of Pretoria Boys High describes him as "a talented cricketer who could play as wicketkeeper, fielder, off-spinner and batsman".
After leaving school, he joined the University of Pretoria's Tuks Cricket Academy in 2013, where he began his meteoric rise to Proteas stardom.
Markram ascended to the upper echelons when he had a dream run as captain of South Africa U19, leading the side to the ICC Cricket World Cup title in 2014 – becoming the first South African captain, at any level or format, to win a World Cup.
Patience is a virtue
Despite being the skipper for the U19 World Cup triumph, finishing as SA's top scorer and being named Player of The Tournament, it was the likes of Kagiso Rabada and Andile Phehlukwayo who dominated headlines as the next potential Proteas.
After the U19 World Cup, Markram went through a dip in form that briefly hindered his development and his rise in SA cricket. However, he was quick to show that form is temporary, but class is permanent – reviving his career after moving to the Titans in the 2016/17 season.
He would eventually captain the side, and was named Domestic Newcomer of the Year at the Cricket South Africa awards in May 2017.
The Proteas' next big thing?
Markram's performance in the 2016/17 season eventually saw him being called up for the Proteas. He made his Test debut for South Africa against Bangladesh on September 28, 2017 and grabbed his chance with both hands.
After narrowly missing out on a maiden Test century on debut, Markram made up for it in the second Test against Bangladesh, scoring 143 off 186 balls.
He then made his ODI debut for South Africa against Bangladesh on October 22, 2017, scoring 66 runs and taking two wickets.
He scored his second Test ton in December 2017, becoming the first player for South Africa to score two centuries in his first three Tests. His third century (from four Tests) came in the first Test against Australia on Sunday, March 4.
South Africans were certainly pleased with Markram's heroic efforts while chasing the enormous final-innings target of 417 – despite the Proteas' eventual defeat, it looked for a long while on Sunday as if the 23-year-old might against all expectations be driving his team to a draw, or even a win. Here are some of the things people had to say on Twitter:
High quality 100 from SA's Aiden Markram. Looks a class act. #SAvAUS— mark butcher (@markbutcher72) March 4, 2018
Markram and De Kock reach milestones off consecutive balls. Add De Bruyn's stout contribution, and you are looking at the future of S.A. Test team. Not so grim, after all....— Lungani Zama (@whamzam17) March 4, 2018
Aiden Markram looks a serious player. Young opener facing this attack in the second innings on a tough pitch.. and it's reversing at 90mph.. 👏🏻— Matty Fisher (@9M_Fisher) March 4, 2018
A great day today, 9 down and 1 to go. Well bowled @mstarc56 and to our bowlers for grinding it out. A very good 💯 by Markram 👏— David Warner (@davidwarner31) March 4, 2018
Mighty impressive century by young Aiden Markram. Battling against heavy odds against arguably the world's best bowling attack, yet stroking the ball freely and beautifully. Australia still most likely winners, but SA showing gumption— Cricketwallah (@cricketwallah) March 4, 2018
Aiden Markram on verge of scoring his third 100 after playing just three Tests. This lad is an absolute gun.— Peter Lalor (@plalor) March 4, 2018
There is a reason Test Cricket is Best Cricket. Stunning comeback from SA. Markram is a special player, and brilliant from De Kock #AUSvSA— Mohammad Kaif (@MohammadKaif) March 4, 2018
Overall: throughly entertaining game of cricket. Kingsmead crowds need to show up on weekends, please. Pity we were on the losing side but thanks to Markram and QDK, I'm not a sad panda #SAvAUS— Sibongile Mafu (@sboshmafu) March 5, 2018
Don't think SA will win from here. MarkraM's innings should be a great reminder to the non performing seniors that they're not indispensable. #SAvAUS— SwingAndSeam (@swing_seam) March 4, 2018