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by Salim Parvez Thursday 3 January 2019
The home captain Faf du Plessis could not have asked for more from his bowlers as they dismissed Pakistan for a partly 177 in just 51.1 overs. On a surface that looked good for a 300 plus first innings total, Dale Steyn (3-48) and Duanne Olivier (4-48) led the wreckage to demoralise the opposition. At close South Africa had replied with 123-2 with opening batsman Aiden Markram, out for 78 and Pakistan bowlers facing an uphill task on the second day.
Inserted in to bat first by South Africa captain, Pakistan’s top half had no clue to survive against the new ball and was in complete disarray in the opening session. By the 20th over, they had suffered cheap dismissals of Fakhar Zaman, Imam-ul-Haq, Azhar Ali, Asad Shafiq and Babar Azam. Captain Sarfraz Ahmed, under intense pressure when he took guard at 57-5, with a pair at Centurion and a pace attack going for the kill on his mind, was fighting for his country and his own place in the playing eleven. He managed to find the gaps and grew in confidence with few crisp boundaries.
The only plus in the top six was Shan Masood, who having worked on his back foot technique against pace, again looked the most assured amongst the tourists. Prior to his dismissal, caught behind of Kagiso Rabada for 44 in a stay of 2 hours and 17 minutes with five fours and a six, Masood had shown good judgement outside the off stump. With more support from the other end, he could have gone to play a major innings today. Alas that was not to be. His 6th wicket stand with Sarfraz worth 60 runs gave the side some respite. It was followed by a 42-run partnership between the captain and Mohammad Amir (22 not out). Sarfraz brought up his fifty and after battling hard for two hours, was caught behind by Olivier. His departure for 56 and with the tail contribution very little, led to Pakistan falling well short of a respectable total.
Having spent hours and hours of practice against short-pitch bowling on a granite slab in the nets, the likes of Fakhar Zaman and Azhar Ali, seemed all at sea when it came to giving Pakistan a solid start in the Test match which they must win to stay in the series. The bowlers too were short of confidence, particularly Mohammad Abbas who has conceded 45 runs in his 9 overs. Grant Flower, the batting coach and Azhar Mahmood, the bowling coach, continue to do their best amidst frustrating times for Pakistan cricket. Not for the first time the team and management look to their bowlers to bring them back into the contest. It is too early to gauge whether a visit by PCB Chairman Ehsan Mani to meet the squad in South Africa, had any positive effect on the team morale?
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