The tourists can take heart, for after losing the toss and with the home side in a fairly comfortable position, they hit back to capture 7 wickets for 33 runs, in no time. The loss of Shan Masood and Azhar Ali in two balls to Vernon Philander, before the close, has evened up things on this enthralling day of Test cricket. At this rate, there is a strong possibility of the match not going into the fifth day at the Wanderers.
South Africa 262 (Aiden Markram 90, Theunis de Bruyn 49; Faheem Ashraf 3-57)
Pakistan 17 - 2 (9.0 overs)
At the Close - Pakistan trail South Africa by 245 runs with 8 wickets remaining
South Africa sped along nicely to reach 108-1 at lunch, just shy of four runs an over against Pakistan bowling which had featured three changes from the defeat at Cape Town. It was a combination of form, fitness and series loss, forcing the team management to opt, perhaps reluctantly, for five front-line bowlers. Aiden Markram was fluent and dominated the 126-run 2nd wicket stand with Hashim Amla (41). Markram was unlucky to miss out on a Tet hundred, when out to a leg-side catch behind, having hit 16 fours in his 124-ball knock. Shadab Khan, with both bounce and spin on offer will need to be more accurate if he is to play a role in this game.
With captain Faf du Plessis, sitting out an ICC ban due to slow over rate, 23-year old right-hand batsman, Zubayr Humza, part of the 13-man Test squad for the series, became the 100th SA Test player , since its readmission into international cricket in 1991. Batting at number five, he looked a very fine player, not lacking in confidence either. The tea time score of 226-3 was a healthy state to be in and both Theunis de Bruyn and Hamza –having added 72 together, against somewhat erratic bowling. Hamza, born in Cape Town is of Pakistan decent and would have enjoyed the challenge of facing this particular opposition.
With reverse swing on offer, Mohammad Abbas and Mohammad Amir, got their lines right and bowled their best spells in the post tea sessions and picked up three wickets, within six overs, including that of de Bruyn (49) and Hamza (41). Hasan Ali, having earlier gone for 72 runs off 12 overs in an awful day with the ball, too, joined the party. Both Hasan and Faheem Ashraf showed their inexperience by getting excited with the bounce early on but again did well to wrap the South Africa innings on 262.
Shakeel Ahmed, with 3 Tests and 2 ODIs for Pakistan, to his name in the 1990s, and having lived in Johannesburg for the last two decades, does know a thing or two about South African conditions, 'Had I been contacted, I would have been happy to help out our batsmen. With Mickey Arthur, the team coach, himself a South African, I was expecting Pakistan team to be better prepared for this tour. The batsmen, arriving straight from UAE should have expected swing and bounce and should have made the necessary adjustment on these wickets. Most of the time you are on back foot and Hashim Amla is a classic example as footwork becomes secondary and your ability to drive through the line of the ball and strong defensive technique overtakes everything.’
He further added, ‘Pakistan batsmen have little idea of its off stump and seem to be committing to deliveries they could leave alone. The uncertainty whether to play or leave, has brought their downfall. South African attack has not been challenged and no Pakistan batsman has frustrated them enough to have come out with any substantial innings. Against such pumped-up fast bowling, even the experienced Azhar Ali, finds himself hopelessly out of form. In future if the Pakistan Cricket Board can schedule the tours of Australia and South Africa, one after the other, it might help the Pakistan batsmen, to adapt better as the two countries offer near enough similar conditions.’
South Africa - Aiden Markram, Dean Elgar(c), Hashim Amla, Theunis de Bruyn, Temba Bavuma, Zubayr Hamza, Quinton de Kock(wk), Vernon Philander, Kagiso Rabada, Dale Steyn, Duanne Olivier
Pakistan - Imam ul-Haq, Shan Masood, Azhar Ali, Asad Shafiq, Babar Azam, Sarfraz Ahmed(c)(wk), Shadab Khan, Faheem Ashraf, Mohammad Amir, Mohammad Abbas, Hasan Ali
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