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Saturday, 2 February 2013

South Africa v Pakistan, 1st Test, Johannesburg, 1st day

Pakistan take opening-day honours

Pakistan 6 for 0 (Hafeez 6*, Jamshed 0*) trail South Africa 253 (Kallis 50, Hafeez 4-16) by 247 runs

Umar Gul had Graeme Smith caught behind, South Africa v Pakistan, 1st Test, Johannesburg, February 1, 2013
Umar Gul had Graeme Smith, in his 100th Test as captain, caught behind © Getty Images 

Pakistan ended a fascinating opening day of the series with the advantage after chipping South Africa out for 253 at the Wanderers. Mohammad Hafeez bagged career-best figures of 4 for 16 to run through the lower order, building on a consistent performance from the visiting attack throughout the day, as the early exchanges lived up to the hope of a competitive series.
Only Jacques Kallis posted a half-century; sharp catching aided Pakistan's efforts while the bowlers shared the early wickets around, before Hafeez nipped in. Younis Khan, who before today had seven Test wickets, provided a huge bonus for Pakistan when he claimed Hashim Amla in his first over, and Hafeez struck first ball to remove AB de Villiers.
Junaid Khan, the left-arm quick, was the overall pick of the attack, maintaining his accuracy throughout the day, but it was Hafeez who ended with the biggest haul. Having been given the new ball mid over, he removed Robin Peterson, shouldering arms, and then had Dean Elgar caught down the leg side. South Africa lost their last five wickets for 21, including a poor run-out of Vernon Philander, to leave Pakistan with two overs to face before the close.
Misbah-ul-Haq deserves much praise for an excellent day as captain. There was an element of luck in Younis' surprise role, but it was smart use of Hafeez to keep him in the attack with left-hand batsmen at the crease, rather than opt for what would seem the more obvious choice of a quick with the new ball. Yet, it is a role Hafeez is used to performing.
Despite the openers falling in consecutive overs before lunch, a stand of 79 between Kallis and Amla was threatening to pull South Africa away in familiar style. However, moments after reaching a 74-ball fifty, Kallis failed to keep a sweetly struck pull shot down and Asad Shafiq made significant ground from deep square-leg to hold a fine catch.
Kallis' innings had shown the side of his game that has evolved in the latter part of his career; a counter-attacking ability to seize the initiative. Both he and Amla played Saeed Ajmal confidently, milking him for four an over in his first spell, although ironically it could have been the fact that Ajmal, who ended up wicketless from 23 overs, did not pose a huge threat that encouraged Misbah to give Younis his profitable trundle. With his third ball, Younis dropped one short outside off stump, Amla cut it but did not keep the shot down and Azhar Ali, at gully, clung onto a flying chance above his head.
What will frustrate Smith and Gary Kirsten is the number of wasted starts. South Africa had appeared to battle through the toughest conditions when Smith and Alviro Petersen, leaving as much as they could early, blunted Pakistan's early efforts. However, one of the factors that makes the Wanderers such a good Test venue is that the bowlers always have some encouragement.
Junaid, having return for a second spell, made the breakthrough when he found Petersen's edge by cramping him for room from round the wicket as he tried to play to leg. In the next over Smith, who had been the focus of so much attention in the build-up to the match, was also guilty of aiming across the line, and he edged a full delivery from Gul.
There had been plenty to distract Smith leading to this match, as he became the first man to lead in 100 Tests and on his birthday, but he seemingly managed to put those events to one side. He looked steeled for a typically tone-setting innings and was angry with himself at the mode of dismissal.
Amla and Kallis, the two pillars of South Africa's middle order, firstly consolidated either side of lunch, and then started to expand their strokeplay, including a period of four consecutive boundaries between them. By tea, however, both had been removed and, unlike the New Zealand attack of a few weeks ago, Pakistan kept applying pressure.
There was a hint of controversy early in the final session - not for the first time sparked by the DRS - when Pakistan were convinced that Faf du Plessis had edged debutant Rahat Ali to the keeper. They reviewed the not-out decision by Billy Bowden and the TV umpire concluded there was no conclusive evidence to overturn although there was a growing consensus a short while later that there was a mark on the edge.
Pakistan used up their second review eight overs later when they thought de Villiers was caught down the leg side off Ajmal, but did not have to wait much longer for success. Hafeez's first ball was floated wide of off stump, de Villiers pressed forward and Sarfraz Ahmed snapped up the outside edge.
Already in a young Test career, du Plessis has rescued South Africa more than once but this time, having reached 41, departed in curious style after playing a forward defensive which sent the ball rolling slowly back towards the stumps to knock off a bail. Du Plessis held his pose for so long that he could have had time to turn and kick the ball away. The rest departed in an unexpected hurry, but judgements on the total will need to be held until South Africa's attack has responded.

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