Friday night’s man of the match, Aiden Markram, has heaped praise on stand-in captain Keshav Maharaj following South Africa’s commanding 28-run win over Sri Lanka in the opening T20 in Colombo.
Markram’s 48 (33) was crucial to the Proteas posting 163/5 in their series opener, but it was ultimately a clinical bowling performance that got the visitors over the line.
Maharaj found himself in the unique position of captaining his country on his T20I debut just a day after being named in South Africa’s 15-man squad for the upcoming T20 World Cup.
With full-time white ball captain Temba Bavuma back home having been ruled out of the tour with a fractured thumb, Maharaj skippered the last two ODIs against Sri Lanka while he has now also been entrusted with the T20 series.
The 31-year-old left-arm spinner then capped off the craziest of days with a wicket with his very first ball in the format, eventually finishing with figures of 1/19 (4) to be the pick of the Proteas bowlers.
Speaking after the match, Markram applauded Maharaj for the way he had stepped up in Bavuma’s absence.
“He’s been brilliant. Obviously, he has massive shoes to fill with us not having Temba here,” said Markram.
“It must have felt quite weird for him making his debut and being the captain of the side, but he has led the guys incredibly well in Temba’s absence.
“He’s obviously been a good leader for the Dolphins over the years and I think he’s carrying that into the side now.
“Guys respect him, listen to him and appreciate the value that he has to add and he’s just really a good team man leading us.”
Not for the first time this year, the Proteas batters showed impressive intent and execution against spin bowling, while the spinners were again key to the bowling attack.
“I think the guys are certainly a lot more confident playing spin nowadays, and that’s because of the amount of emphasis we’ve put on it and the amount of training that we’ve done on it,” said Markram.
“It also helps when spinners in your camp are incredibly good bowlers and we get to face them day in and day out. I think, as a batter, you want to be facing some of the best in the world and we’ve got that luxury at the moment.
“The guys have been putting in a lot of hard work from a spin perspective. It’s definitely still a work in progress, but I do think we’ve come a long way.”
The second of three ODIs takes place on Sunday.