A pair of brilliant 90s from Hashim Amla and AB de Villiers helped South Africa reach an imposing 334-6 on the first day of the third and final Sunfoil Test match against Pakistan at Supersport Park on Friday.
A well grassed but heavily cracked pitch left Graeme Smith in two minds about batting or bowling first and two wickets inside the first hour confirmed that it had been a gamble. The Proteas captain edged to slip on five and opening partner Alviro Petersen was trapped lbw for 10.
Amla was in imperious form, however, and relentlessly seized every scoring opportunity presented to him, especially width outside the off-stump and anything over-pitched which resulted in a series of cover drives.
Faf du Plessis (29) shared a third wicket stand of 69 before edging debutant seamer Ehsan Adil to ‘keeper Sarfraz Ahmed but Amla found another willing ally in De Villiers during a fourth wicket partnership of 79.
Left-arm seamer Rahat Ali cleverly tempted Amla with a serious of full, wide deliveries outside off-stump – the sort which had been hammered through the covers earlier in the day. But the bowler sensed Amla was in no mood to leave the ball and sent them even wider, eventually finding the edge to end the innings on 92 from just 128 deliveries with 13 boundaries.
Dean Elgar (7), like Petersen, fell lbw to the impressive but occasionally erratic Rahat but Robin Peterson (28) continued the impressive form he showed in the second Test at Sahara Park Newlands last week and shared a 52-run stand with De Villiers which was only ended with a run out mix-up.
Determined to make amends, De Villiers accelerated and produced some of the best attacking shots of the day to finish unbeaten on 98 at the close of play, just a couple short of a 16th Test century.
Vernon Philander (45*) showed why he was first selected as a batting all-rounder – both at first-class and ODI level – with a stylish and emphatic contribution to an unbroken seventh wicket partnership of 86 which transformed the feel of the day from ‘level-pegging’ at 248-6 to one heavily weighted in the home team’s favour.
Jacques Kallis withdrew from selection with a strained calf muscle which allowed a debut for Kyle Abbott – the 81st player to represent the Proteas in the five-day format.