KARACHI: South Africa’s first trip to Pakistan after more than 13 years got off to a sensational start as no less than 14 wickets tumbled on day one of the first Test at the National Stadium here on Tuesday.
Opting to bat after Quinton de Kock had won the toss, South Africa crumbled inside 70 overs for a modest 220 in their first innings on a slow pitch in front of empty stands owing to the Covid-19 protocols.
But the tourists, led by Kagiso Rabada, bounced back with vengeance in the remaining 18 overs to have Pakistan reeling at 33-4 with Babar Azam, who is leading his country for the first time at the highest level, also dismissed.
Barring Dean Elgar, no batsman from either side looked in complete control at any stage of the day. The left-handed Elgar held up the innings together for 165 minutes after guiding South Africa to 94-2 at lunch. But then Pakistan seized the initiative as South Africa lost eight wickets for 112 runs on either side of the lunch and tea intervals, including Elgar for a solid 58.
Elgar had already seen his opening partner Aiden Markram brilliantly taken at second slip by Imran Butt — one of two debutants picked by the home team — with a diving effort for 13, and former captain Faf du Plessis well caught by Mohammad Rizwan off Yasir Shah for 23 in the first session. In between these wickets, Rassie van der Dussen (17) ran himself out after dropping his bat while going for a run.
South Africa captain Quinton de Kock (15) tried to up the ante but his aggression got the better of him when he swung across the line to provide debutant slow left-armer Nauman Ali his first wicket in Test cricket, with Imran completing an easy catch.
Elgar, who had adorned his 106-ball knock with nine boundaries, attempted to change gears but paid heavily when he slashed a sharp catch to Babar at slip, giving Nauman his second wicket.
“I thought we had missed the opportunity for posting big runs upfront but taking those four [Pakistan] wickets have now put in a position of some strength,” Elgar remarked during the virtual presser after stumps had been drawn for the day. “The wicket is quite slow but we didn’t apply ourselves that well when we should have. Some of the guys got out to soft dismissals. But KG [Rabada] has put South Africa in front with those initial strikes and Keshav [Maharaj] getting the key wicket of Babar late in the evening.”
Yasir, who had been feeling the heat for recent failures, made amends by emerging as the most successful wicket-taker with figures of 3-54 in 22 overs. His other victims being Keshav Maharaj and Anrich Nortje returning without bothering the scorers. However, Yasir spoiled his day by spilling a simple catch at first slip when Rabada was on four. In a comedy of errors, the left-handed Rabada escaped on the very next ball as well as Rizwan tried in vain to hold onto a somewhat difficult catch after two attempts. The unfortunate bowler was Hasan. But the tailender inched his team past the 200 mark by finishing undefeated on 21.
George Linde, the left-handed all-rounder playing only in his second Test, chipped in with an invaluable 35 before hooking a catch to substitute Mohammad Nawaz at fine leg off seamer Hasan Ali, who came in the Test side for the first time in two years.
Left with 18 overs to negotiate until stumps, Imran and Abid Ali both perished to Rabada, who now stands one shy of becoming the seventh South Africa to join the 200-wicket club after striking in successive overs.
Abid — who has not scored a half-century since making 60 against England at Southampton last August — was undone by a delivery that uprooted his off stump as the opener shuffled back into his crease with the ball keeping a shade low. Imran was shaping up well without much alarm until Rabada generated awkward bounce out of nowhere to have the 25-year-old right-hander gloving a simple chance to substitute Keegan Petersen, stationed at leg gulley.
With Abid (4) and Imran (nine off 25 balls) gone, the hosts were in the mire at 15-2. The onus was on the shoulders on experienced Azhar Ali and Babar to hold form until the stumps. But
Babar then offered no shot to Maharaj and was found in front of the stumps. The Pakistan captain reviewed the decision but all in vain. Nightwatchman Shaheen Shah Afridi was unnecessarily sent in and when Azhar took a run early in the closing overs, the tailender saw his stumps rattled by Nortje for a duck.
Azhar, who has spent 40 deliveries so far, and Fawad Alam have a mountain to climb on Wednesday against Rabada who has outstanding figures of 2-8 from six overs after being rested for the recent Sri Lanka series.
Nauman, who was quite impressive in picking up 2-38 in 17 overs, still held high hopes of Pakistan clawing back into the match. “The pitch is slow but certainly not unplayable. We can come back into the match because Azhar and Fawad are still batting with Rizwan and Faheem Ashraf to follow.”
South Africa’s score was their lowest in Pakistan since they were bowled out for 214 at Faisalabad in October 1997. While the number of wickets falling — for 253 runs — on Tuesday are the second highest on home soil on a first day after 15 wickets went down when Pakistan hosted New Zealand at Lahore in 1996.
South Africa, meanwhile, had planned to play Tabraiz Shamsi as one of three spinning options but the unorthodox spinner pulled out with back spasms and was replaced by paceman Lungi Ngidi.
SOUTH AFRICA (1st Innings):
D. Elgar c Babar b Nauman 58
A.K. Markram c Imran b Shaheen 13
H.E. van der Dussen run out 17
F. du Plessis c Rizwan b Yasir 23
Q. de Kock c Imran b Nauman 15
T. Bavuma run out 17
G.F. Linde c sub b Hasan 35
K.A. Maharaj b Yasir 0
K. Rabadanot out 21
A. Nortje b Yasir 0
L. Ngidi lbw b Shaheen 8
EXTRAS (B-5, LB-1, NB-7) 13
TOTAL (all out, 69.2 overs) 220
FALL OF WKTS: 1-30 (Markram), 2-63 (van der Dussen), 3-108 (du Plessis), 4-133 (de Kock), 5-135 (Elgar), 6-179 (Bavuma), 7-179 (Maharaj), 8-194 (Linde), 9-195 (Nortje).
BOWLING: Shaheen Shah Afridi 11.2-0-49-2 (3nb); Hasan Ali
14-5-61-1 (2nb); Faheem Ashraf 5-0-12-0; Nauman Ali 17-4-38-2 (1nb); Yasir Shah 22-5-54-3 (1nb).
PAKISTAN (1st Innings):
Imran Butt c sub b Rabada 9
Abid Ali b Rabada 4
Azhar Alinot out 5
Babar Azam lbw b Maharaj 7
Shaheen Shah Afridi b Nortje 0
Fawad Alam not out 5
EXTRAS (NB-3) 3
TOTAL (for four wkts, 18 overs) 33
FALL OF WKTS: 1-5 (Abid), 2-15 (Imran), 3-26 (Babar), 4-27 (Shaheen).
TO BAT: Mohammad Rizwan, Faheem Ashraf, Hasan Ali, Yasir Shah, Nauman Ali.
BOWLING (to-date): Rabada
6-3-8-2 (2nb); Nortje 7-2-20-1 (1nb); Ngidi 3-0-5-0; Maharaj 2-2-0-1.
UMPIRES: Aleem Dar (Pakistan) and Ahsan Raza (Pakistan).
TV UMPIRE: Asif Yaqoob (Pakistan).
MATCH REFEREE: Mohammad Javed Malik (Pakistan).
Published in Dawn, January 27th, 2021