There had been whispers before the match began that spin was likely to play an increased role in this Test. However, it is probably fair to say that no-one expected Saeed Ajmal to dominate the formidable South African batting line-up to quite the extent that he did on what was, after all, still only day two. Bowling unchanged for all of the second half of the day, Ajmal, who found surprising amounts of turn and bounce from a docile-looking pitch, dismissed all five of South Africa’s top-order and by stumps had reduced them to 139 for five - still 199 runs adrift of Pakistan.
Ajmal had earlier begun well for the tourists by adding a combative 64 for the ninth-wicket with Tanvir Ahmed. Any hopes Pakistan had had of passing 400 in their first innings had been scuppered early on as Vernon Philander had overnight centurion Asad Shafiq caught behind with his first ball and then removed wicket-keeper Sarfraz Ahmed in his next over. In fact, it was only thanks to Ajmal and Tanvir that they passed 300.
Tanvir made 44 off 59 balls and played the aggressor to Ajmal, who ended not out on 21 off 65. Philander completed yet another Test five-fer - his ninth - when he trapped Umar Gul leg-before for a duck, while Robin Peterson bowled last man Mohammad Irfan to end a disappointing innings with the ball on a high.
Then it was over to Ajmal. Introduced into the attack as early as the 12th over following a lacklustre opening spell from Tanvir, he struck almost immediately. Graeme Smith was his first victim and would be the first of three successful reviews for Pakistan. He was struck on the pad, originally given not out on the assumption that the ball would have missed leg-stump; only for the Pakistanis to challenge that decision and be vindicated when Hawkeye showed the ball hitting a healthy portion of it.
Alviro Petersen was next to go, caught smartly at short-leg by Azhar Ali, with Hashim Amla and Faf du Plessis then surviving until tea. They didn’t last much longer, though. Amla became the second of Pakistan’s successfully overturned decisions when trapped on the crease leg before; Hawkeye showing the ball crashing into leg-stump; while Jacques Kallis became the third and most controversial.
Kallis thought that umpire Steve Davis had originally give him out caught bat-pad and challenged him. Replays proved that he hadn’t hit it, although the ball was going onto clip leg-stump, which is where the vagaries of the DRS come in. The portion of leg-stump that Hawkeye indicated the ball would have hit was not sufficient to overturn a not-out decision but was sufficient to back-up one of out. If Steve Davis had given Kallis out caught bat-pad, was he not effectively giving him not out for LBW? The crowd made their displeasure known with a chorus of boos as Kallis dragged himself off.
That wasn’t the end of the disappointment for South Africa as du Plessis became the fifth and final one of Ajmal’s victims for the day. His was mercifully a more straightforward dismissal - edging a ball that didn’t spin to Younus Khan at slip. AB de Villers and Dean Elgar then took the hosts to stumps without further loss, but will have Ajmal to contend with again tomorrow morning as he bids to become the first bowler to take all ten in an innings since Anil Kumble in Delhi in 1998-99.
© Cricket World 2013
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