One team has had a reputation of defending small totals, the other has had a reputation of choking but in the end, nothing dramatic unfolded as South Africa chased down 149 with relative ease to take a 1-0 lead in the two-match Test series. Pakistan caused some concerns early on after getting rid of Aiden Markram very early in the chase. They had their moments but the failure to capitalise on them made things easier for the hosts.
Pakistan’s best bet was to make light work of the under-pressure South African top order in order to expose the middle order to the new ball very early. Mohammad Amir found movement in the first over and Hasan Ali did the same in the second, taking just two balls to strike. Pitching on a good length, the ball jagged back in to strike Markram on the pads to give Pakistan the ideal start.
It took South Africa 34 deliveries to score their first runs off the bat when Hashim Amla stylishly flicked one to follow it up with a pull shot. Elgar then opened his account in streaky fashion when an edge flew in the only gap available in a packed slip cordon. Pakistan should have put themselves on top in the very next over when Amla edged one to Fakhar Zaman at slip only for the batsman to put him down. The drop was eventually a massive moment in the context of the Test match and for Amla himself who was desperately in need of some runs.
With Pakistan continuing to probe, they thought their efforts were rewarded just seven balls after the fluffed chance as Azhar Ali claimed a catch at slip with Shaheen Afridi finding Elgar’s edge. Even though the soft signal was out, replays confirmed that the ball had made contact with the ground, much to the home side’s delight. A couple of tight overs followed before Amla finally found his composure by fetching two boundaries in an over bowled by Hasan.
From thereon, it was one-way traffic as both batsmen started finding their groove with regular boundaries. The second hour of the morning session saw Elgar cop a couple of blows to his body and Pakistan waste a review out of desperation with the batting pair narrowing down the target. Post the lunch break, Amla completed a much-needed half-century and saw Elgar depart quickly after completing his own milestone.
Theunis de Bruyn and Faf du Plessis then perished in succession after failing in their attempts to complete the formalities in quick time but no thoughts of a potential choke were entertained as the calm and composed Amla guided the side home. The late fightback certainly left Pakistan to rue that second innings collapse. 50-60 more runs could have perhaps made it a much more interesting battle.
Brief scores: Pakistan 181 (Babar Azam 71; Duanne Olivier 6-33) & 190 (Shan Masood 65; Duanne Olivier 5-59) lost to South Africa 223 (Temba Bavuma 53; Mohammad Amir 4-62) & 151/4 (Hashim Amla 63*; Shan Masood 1-6) by six wickets