Amla Stands Firm As Pakistan Start Well
South Africa 245-8 (Amla 118no) v Pakistan
First Test, Abu Dhabi, day one
Hashim Amla scored an unbeaten century on day one of the first Test between South Africa and Pakistan in Abu Dhabi, succeeding where his team-mates had failed in the face of a strong Pakistan effort in the field.
Amla had made 118 in 250 balls when play ended with his side on 245 for eight after they won the toss and chose to bat.
Mohammad Irfan struck twice early and Zulfiqar Babar marked his debut with three wickets as only Amla and JP Duminy (57) passed 20 for the Proteas.
Junaid Khan and Saeed Ajmal took a wicket apiece as Pakistan's four-strong bowling attack kept South Africa in check for much of the day.
Only when Amla and Duminy were adding 95 for the fifth wicket can South Africa claim to have been on top for a period of more than 15 overs.
Their day began by handing Morne Morkel his 50th Test cap. The tall fast bowler is the 18th South African to reach the milestone while Pakistan selected left-arm spinner Babar and opener Shan Masood for the first time. Masood will open alongside Khurram Manzoor, who was preferred to Ahmed Shehzad.
South Africa opened with their now familiar pairing of Graeme Smith (15) and Alviro Petersen (3) but both fell to Irfan within the first seven overs. Petersen was first to go when he was caught by Masood and Smith hit two boundaries before he was caught behind by wicket-keeper Adnan Akmal.
Jacques Kallis was next to go, also caught by Akmal but this time off the bowling of Junaid and the Proteas had slipped to 43 for three after a little more than an hour of play.
Amla began the recovery with AB de Villiers, who dug in to make 19 in 76 balls as they ground South Africa past three figures, although four runs past the milestone, de Villiers was run out by Younus Khan and Akmal.
Everything, aside from Amla's wicket, was going Pakistan's way.
That changed as Amla and Duminy, making his first Test appearance for almost a year, combined to blunt Pakistan's charge.
Duminy struck six fours and a six in making a fluent 57 in 94 balls as both players carried on from where they had left off in the tour game against Pakistan 'A' until Duminy was caught by Asad Shafiq to become Babar's first Test wicket.
Babar quickly got another couple of tastes of success when he had Faf du Plessis caught by the same fielder for one and then bowled Robin Peterson for five.
When Ajmal, inevitably, struck, to trap Vernon Philander in front for three, South Africa had lost four wickets for 23 runs.
Fortunately for them, Amla stood firm at the other end, hitting 13 fours, and was joined by Dale Steyn who was clearly in the mood to show the batsmen that quick runs were possible.
That, or perhaps some frustration at being expected to bat on the first day at all, inspired him to hit one four and a six in an innings of 13 not out in 23 balls that at least ensured South Africa finished the day on a positive note, even if their start, and most of the middle, had not given their fans much to shout about.
However, with Pakistan's batsmen guilty in recent times of failing themselves to make the best of strong positions afforded them by their bowlers, any runs that Amla, Steyn and Morkel can add on day two may yet prove to be vitally important.
© Cricket World 2013