Kagiso Rabada and Aiden Markram were teammates when South Africa won the U-19 World Cup in 2014.
Fast bowler Rabada’s career took off immediately afterwards as he made his international debut for the Proteas nine months later in a T20 in Australia and has maintained a stratospheric altitude ever since.
Markram, however, has looked like a jet fighter pilot at home, but in Asia he has scratched around like the person who cleans the rubbish bins at the airport.
But there was joy for them both in Karachi on Thursday on the third day of the first Test against Pakistan as Rabada claimed his 200th Test wicket and Markram made his first half-century on the sub-continent.
Rabada (27-7-70-3) was the shining light in a bowling attack that travelled far and wide on the third morning as Pakistan’s tail thrashed 70 runs in 12.2 overs to stretch their lead to a commanding 158. He is the eighth South African to reach the landmark, and in terms of balls bowled (8 154) he is the third fastest overall, behind only Pakistani Waqar Younis (7 730) and compatriot Dale Steyn (7 848) to reach the milestone.
Markram then showed great composure and shot selection as he scored a five-hour 74. Along with Rassie van der Dussen (64) they erased the deficit with a courageous second-wicket stand of 129.
The day nonetheless ended as badly for South Africa as it had begun, with Pakistan claiming three wickets for 12 runs to reduce them to 187 for four at stumps, holding a lead of just 29 with both set batsmen out.
“Personally, it’s a massive feat to be included in a list of such names as Waqar and Dale,” Rabada said.
“When you start playing you never think of such stats. You just try to be the best you can. There’s no magic answer as to why I’ve been so consistent, it’s just hard work and spending a lot of time on my craft.
“It’s not easy. You’re trying for perfection and it takes constant repetition and hours of work, just trying to be relentless in seeing how much better you can get.”
While Rabada’s wicket-taking graph has just climbed steadily upwards, Markram’s career has been interspersed with troughs. His 74 on Thursday was his eighth half-century in 23 Tests, while he has also scored four centuries, for a tidy average of 39.51.
But in Asia he had scored just 97 runs in nine innings before Thursday’s defiant effort.
“Aiden played an extremely important innings and his partnership with Rassie got us back in the game,” Rabada said of his former U-19 captain.
“He’s a magnificent player and he really applied himself well. He’s been working hard on his game and he really wants to be here. We have been through some of the same challenges and I’m glad he got runs today. He gave us a real chance.”