RAWALPINDI: Pakistan prised out an overly aggressive South African top four to leave an under-pressure middle order with plenty to do in Rawalpindi. Temba Bavuma, who has not scored a hundred in five years, and Quinton de Kock, who has scored 45 runs in four innings as captain, were at the crease at the close having approached their time in the middle entirely differently.
While Bavuma survived a drop, an lbw review and two appeals for catches, de Kock breezed his way to 24 not out off 11 balls and took on the spinners. Pakistan’s attack will nonetheless be pleased with the pressure they put on a South African line-up that continues to grapple with its approach to batting in the subcontinent, with no-one able yet to convert a start into something more.
Pakistan also didn’t have a centurion in their first innings but seventies from Babar Azam and Faheem Ashraf provided the fulcrum around which the rest operated in the face of an intense show by Anrich Nortje. He claimed his third career five-for, and first away from home, and ensured South Africa kept Pakistan under 275.
Nortje made the breakthrough with the second ball of the day when Azam looked to cut a length ball but got a thick outside edge. Faf du Plessis took the catch at head height to deny Azam the opportunity for a third hundred in three innings at this ground. But du Plessis’ catch was not the most spectacular piece of fielding on the day. That belonged to Bavuma, who ran out Fawad Alam with a direct hit at the non-striker’s end with a one-handed pick up and throw from point, reminiscent of his Perth 2016 dismissal of David Warner.
South Africa hoped to get rid of Ashraf fairly soon after that and called for a review when he missed a paddle sweep off Keshav Maharaj on 15. Replays showed the ball would have missed off stump. Ashraf made the most of that and saw off the second new ball, which accounted for Mohammad Rizwan – bounced out by a fired up Nortje – and Hasan Ali, who was caught at slip off Maharaj. In particular, Ashraf punished an off-colour Kagiso Rabada, taking 30 runs off 32 balls he faced from him.
With Yasir Shah at the other end, Pakistan would have had 300-plus in their sights but Shah offered Wiaan Mulder a low catch in his follow through. Nortje cleaned up with two wickets in his 25th over to prove that seamers, if they’re able to bowl quickly, can prosper on this pitch.
That wasn’t entirely the approach of the Pakistan pacers. While Shaheen Shah Afridi bowled around the 145kph mark, Hasan found a hint of swing through the air and Dean Elgar’s edge. Twice. Elgar first pierced the gap at second slip before a faint edge made its way to Rizwan. Hasan’s next ball kept low and snuck under Rassie van der Dussen’s bat to remove his off stump and leave South Africa 26 for 2 at tea.
du Plessis appeared in good touch before he chased a wide delivery from Ashraf and was caught behind and his dismissal saw South Africa change their batting order. Bavuma, who has been coming in at No. 6, was promoted to de Kock’s No. 5 position and the switch very nearly did not pay off. Bavuma was dropped by Rizwan on 1, after Nauman Ali took the edge, and should have been out lbw at the end of that same over when he was hit on the back pad. Pakistan did not review but replays confirmed it was hitting leg stump. In Nauman’s next over, Bavuma defended a ball onto his boot which the on-field umpires referred for a catch and saw the ball had hit the ground too, and in the over after that Pakistan referred what they thought was a catch off a Bavuma sweep that came off his arm.
In all that, Aiden Markram had steadily built his way into the 30s and appeared relatively settled but miscued as he tried to whip Nauman to leg and skied the ball to mid-on. South Africa were 81 for 4 and in some trouble before de Kock played a carefree cameo, which included five fours, to provide an energetic end to the day.