South Africa 334-6 (de Villiers 98no, Amla 92) v
Third Test, Centurion, day one
Nineties from Hashim Amla and AB de Villiers meant that South Africa closed day one of the final Test against Pakistan well on the way to securing the series whitewash that they so desire.
Pakistan did begin well and arguably had the better of the first half of the day despite missing their two most experienced pace bowlers due to injury. However, Amla added 79 with de Villiers before falling prior to tea for 92, while de Villiers and Vernon Philander then frustrated Pakistan with a combative unbroken seventh-wicket partnership of 86.
Graeme Smith had earlier won his third toss of the series and had elected to bat in spite of South Africa’s batting being weakened by the late withdrawal of Jacques Kallis with a calf injury.
They lost Alviro Petersen in Rahat Ali’s second over when the right-hander was trapped plumb LBW, with Smith, starved of much of the strike, handing Ehsan Adil a maiden Test wicket third ball when he edged a catch that was taken by a diving Younus Khan at second slip.
That made it 38 for two, but the inexperienced Pakistan seam attack wasn’t able to maintain any pressure. Rahat, Adil and Mohammad Irfan, boasting just two appearances between them before today, were all at times wayward, while the usually reliable Saaed Ajmal had a mediocre first session. That meant that South Africa cruised to lunch on 104 for two from 25 overs, with Amla and Faf du Plessis tucking into the frequent loose offerings.
After the break, Pakistan struck almost immediately when Adil got his second wicket, having an increasingly assertive du Plessis caught by Sarfraz Ahmed. South Africa then dominated much of the rest of the session, again scoring at a good rate, as Amla and de Villiers again capitalised on the inexperience on offer.
However, just before tea came a double-strike of potentially huge importance. Following a slowing in the rate of scoring, Amla, on 92, played loosely at a ball from Rahat outside off-stump and edged to Sarfraz, while two overs later Dean Elgar was trapped leg-before for one to the same bowler.
With that, Pakistan headed into tea in the ascendancy having dismissed half of South Africa’s side despite bowling indifferently for the most part.
The final session of the day was where the home side really established the advantage that they should have built throughout the day. From 34 overs they scored 133 runs for the loss of only one wicket. Robin Peterson was the unlucky man, run-out by Mohammad Irfan following a mix-up with de Villiers.
That gave Pakistan probably the last chance they will get to gain the upper hand in this Test. Again they failed to take it. From 248 for six, Philander and de Villiers took their side to stumps on 334 for six - a position from which a total in excess of 400 should be easily achievable. That should be more than enough for the best pace attack in world cricket, even though they are without the injured Morne Morkel.
De Villiers ended the day unbeaten on 98 and will expect to complete his 16th Test century tomorrow, while Philander will be eyeing a second fifty and, from there, who knows?
© Cricket World 2013
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