Kyle Abbott returned the best ever figures by a South African in their debut Test innings and, in doing so, put his side well on course to wrap up the series whitewash over an outclassed Pakistan; probably sometime tomorrow afternoon.
From being introduced into the attack in the 18th over with Pakistan on 51 for one, mainly thanks to a sprightly 30 from Imran Farhat, Abbott took seven for 29 from 11.4 overs and helped dismiss them for just 156. In truth, he benefited from some serious technical shortcomings on the part of the Pakistan batsmen and from the ridiculously long tail that the visitors were forced to go with for this match after the injury to Umar Gul and the axing of the lacklustre Tanvir Ahmed. However, that should not detract from his achievements.
After starting loosely with a half volley which was flicked for four by Azhar Ali first ball, he bounced back well. His first wicket came just five balls later when Mohammad Hafeez fended a ball low to Dean Elgar in the gully.
Next to go was Azhar Ali, chopping on a Vernon Philander grubber to complete a mini-collapse of three for 10. It was then back to Abbott. Misbah-ul-Haq was his next victim as he too fended awkwardly into the ravenous slip cordon, while Asad Shafiq gave Dale Steyn his only wicket of the innings when trapped leg before for six.
With Pakistan’s tail arguably beginning with wicket-keeper Sarfraz Ahmed at seven, Abbott was given the opportunity to take plenty of relatively easy wickets. He made the most of it and took all of the last five to fall. Maintaining a tight off-stump line at a decent, but not express pace, his method inevitably invoked comparisons with Vernon Philander, who had enjoyed a prolific debut of his own, against Australia just over two years ago.
Pakistan’s last four of Sarfraz, Saeed Ajmal, Ehsan Adil and Mohammad Irfan all edged into the slips, each wicket getting to look more and more like slip-catching practice as they fell. Abbott then trapped Younus Khan, who had looked easily the most technically proficient of the Pakistan batsmen, LBW to end the innings.
With Pakistan some 253 runs behind, Graeme Smith had little hesitation in enforcing the follow-on and was rewarded first ball with the wicket of a clueless Hafeez. Steyn, who bowled much faster in the final half hour of the day than he had earlier, simply seemed to beat Hafeez for pace and had his off-stump laying on the ground before he had finished his defensive stroke. Fortunately for Pakistan, Azhar Ali - promoted to open in place of Imran Farhat who took a blow on the hand while batting in the first innings - and Younus survived, not without a few scares, to stumps.
Earlier, AB de Villiers and Vernon Philander had batted on and helped South Africa post 409. De Villiers made 121 and Philander 74. Rahat Ali provided Pakistan supporters with some early cheer and ended with six wickets, albeit at a cost of 127 runs, but his brief success was all that Pakistan enjoyed on a day two in Centurion on which they were thoroughly outclassed by a ruthless South Africa.
© Cricket World 2013
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