The Proteas bowlers showed outstanding precision.
JOHANNESBURG – South Africa’s bowlers bailed out their batsmen, after the latter produced a lousy display, devoid of discipline and strategy, on the opening day of the first Test against Pakistan in Karachi on Tuesday.
Having gained a significant advantage by winning the toss and predictably choosing to bat, the Proteas were knocked over for 220 in the 70th over, with half the batsmen giving their wickets away.
Thankfully for the tourists, the bowlers showed outstanding precision, led by the magnificent Kagiso Rabada, who after scoring what could turn out to be 21 crucial runs, then removed the Pakistani openers.
Keshav Maharaj followed that with the vital wicket of Pakistan skipper Babar Azam, trapped lbw for 7, while Anrich Nortjé knocked back nightwatchman, Shaheen Afridi’s off-stump, to leave the hosts 33/4 at stumps.
South Africa’s batting, however remains a concern. They were fortunate against the Sri Lankans, that so many of their bowlers got injured in the first Test earlier this season, allowing them to score 600 in Centurion. At the Wanderers they lost nine wickets for 84 runs to open the door for Sri Lanka in the second Test.
On Tuesday, in benign conditions, a number of players got starts, but none were able to take advantage thereof. Dean Elgar top scored with 58, but played a loose drive against the 34-year-old debutant left arm spinner Nauman Ali; skipper Quinton de Kock, in his 50th Test, played a poorly judged slog sweep and was caught after scoring 15 and George Linde, who batted calmly in making 35, failed to properly execute a pull shot to an innocuous short ball from Hasan Ali.
Throw in two run outs – Rassie van der Dussen and Temba Bavuma – and it added up to a bad day at the office for the batting unit.
The subcontinent demands patience from the batsmen, particularly in the first few days when conditions are good, but South Africa panicked especially after lunch when leg-spinner Yasir Shah got a couple of balls to spin shortly after the interval. Faf du Plessis (23) was undone by a lovely leg break that caught the outside edge, and his dismissal seemed to spook the visitors.
Ghosts of subcontinent tours past were revisited as minds appeared scrambled with players not finding the right balance between attacking and absorbing pressure.
The top seven batsmen all got into double figures, but none of them were able to build on the foundation they created. Pakistan’s bowling was good, but nothing that was deserving of causing as much fright as they did.
Yasir picked up 3/54 and Nauman Ali 2/38, with both of his wickets gifts from Elgar and De Kock.
South Africa’s bowling was superb. Rabada, after some loose deliveries to start, corrected his lines and bowled Abid Ali with a peach that snaked back and kept low, beating the Pakistan opener for pace.
Debutant Imran Butt got one off a similar length, but which bounced towards his ribs and he was only able to glove the ball to substitute fielder Keegan Petersen at leg gully.
The key wicket of Babar went to Maharaj for whom this match is an important one given his struggles in India 18 months ago. He drew the Pakistan captain forward, striking him on the pads in front of leg stump, with Babar’s request to DRS to overturn Aleem Dar’s decision not successful.
Nortj– got a bullet through nightwatchman Shaheen Afridi’s defences, to leave Pakistan in tatters at the end of the first day.
The pitch has already shown signs of inconsistent bounce, making it imperative that South Africa get a lead ahead of their second innings.