Amla leads Proteas to recovery
South Africa: 104/2 (Amla 50*, Du Plessis 29*, Ehsan Adil 1/17, Rahat Ali 1/38)
South Africa maintained a healthy run rate, but two wickets kept Pakistan in the hunt at lunch on day one of the third test.
With nothing to play for except a rare series whitewash and 50th test match win as captain, Graeme Smith won the toss and unusually chose to bat.
SuperSport Park is often kind to the team batting second, but considering the threat of Saeed Ajmal looming ever larger after his failed heroics at Newlands, it seemed like a sensible decision.
The Proteas went into the match without Jacques Kallis, who pulled a calf muscle and is expected to be out for three to four weeks. Fortunately for South Africa, this is their last test of the summer.
Kallis was replaced by Dolphins seamer Kyle Abbott.
Pakistan made three changes from the Newlands test with Nasir Jamshed, Umar Gul and Tanvir Ahmed losing out to Imran Farhat, Rahat Ali and Ehsan Adil. The latter two had a big say in how the first hour panned out.
Just like the last time Smith batted first at Centurion in 2009 in the first test against England, he looked tentative as Mohammad Irfan and Rahat probed consistently outside offstump.
Despite two sumptuous boundaries, Alviro Petersen’s struggles this series continued, this time becoming Rahat’s first test victim with his pads not getting out of the way of an inswinger. His series scores of 20, 27, 17, 1 and 10 have been generously underwhelming but there is the off-season to regain touch.
Hashim Amla was his fluent self on his favourite ground and glided to a serene 76-ball 50.
There were no signs of struggles against Saeed Ajmal, who battled to extract turn on the greenish but true first day track.
Smith’s 21-ball torture ended on five runs when he became debutant’s Adil’s first test wicket with his third ball of his career.
The first two tested Smith outside offstump and the captain could not survive the onslaught, with his thick outside edge well caught by Younus Khan at third slip.
Pakistan ceded all those gains to a sparkling unbeaten 66-run stand between Amla and Faf du Plessis.
The latter seemed to be more at home in the number four berth and played some exquisite shots, including a lovely straight drive of Adil, who persevered for a fuller length.
When the ball did not swing, it sat up to be hit. Their 50 partnership was brought up in 74 balls and restored the rate to above four runs an over.
Scoring quickly may not be the most important thing but a template has been set.