South Africa 262 and 135 for 5 (Amla 42*, de Kock 34*) lead Pakistan 185 (Sarfraz 50, Olivier 5-51) by 212 runs
This has been a series in which pace bowlers have reaped rich rewards, none more so than South Africa’s Duanne Olivier. His third five-wicket haul in as many Tests helped cauterise a sloppy fielding display by the home side, and although Pakistan’s attack remained a dangerous proposition, by the close on the second day at the Wanderers, South Africa had once again assumed a position of control.
Dismissed for less than 200 for the fourth time in five innings, Pakistan roused themselves once again with the ball, but the sight of Hashim Amla barring the way reflected ominously on their chances of averting defeat and a 3-0 whitewash. Faheem Ashraf‘s double-wicket maiden – Theunis de Bruyn sparring to slip, Zubayr Hamza trapped lbw by a shooter second ball – had left South Africa in some bother at 45 for 4, but Amla steadied the innings before Quinton de Kock pushed the needle further with a run-a-ball jaunt to the close.
Pakistan had required some assistance in getting to 185, as South Africa contrived to drop five catches, miss a stumping and a clear run-out chance. Imam-ul-Haq relied on fortune as well as fortitude during a chaotic morning, while Sarfraz Ahmed and Babar Azam counterattacked to good effect but, despite reinforcing their lower order for this Test, once again the innings fell away – Ashraf’s golden duck, splicing an attempted pull gently to short leg, seemed almost designed to support Mickey Arthur’s mid-series assertion that he could bat no higher than No. 8.
And as if being constantly bombed by Olivier’s short stuff wasn’t enough, the tourists then found themselves harried throughout their afternoon in the field by the native fauna. There were several delays as the players dealt with a cloud of midges swarming out in the middle, Hasan Ali even resorting to bowling in shades.
Hasan thought he had dealt with Pakistan’s chief irritant, when he won an lbw decision against Amla on 19, only for the DRS to highlight the involvement of bat. A review had brought Pakistan their first wicket, confirming Dean Elgar’s faint inside edge propping forward against Mohammad Amir, and Aiden Markram also fell to a catch behind the wicket in the first over after tea; Temba Bavuma became Sarfraz’s third victim – and eighth for the match – after a 48-run stand but Amla, looking close to his sempiternal best, brought a much-needed calm to South Africa’s day.
Having created more than enough chances to bowl out Pakistan before lunch, the South Africa attack kept hammering away with enough purpose to finish the job an hour or so into the afternoon session. Pakistan’s last five wickets went down for the addition of 16 runs (including three partnerships of 0) as Olivier took his tally for the series to 21 wickets at 13.28, and South Africa claimed a useful first-innings lead.
Their main concern, aside from the poor fielding, centred on Dale Steyn, who seemed to be experiencing regular pain in his troublesome right shoulder; pain that was added to when Babar thrashed him for five boundaries in two overs, as the Pakistan batsman continued to win their personal dual.
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Pakistan have only had minor victories to show for the tour so far, as was the case when Babar and Sarfraz added 78 for the sixth wicket in 10 overs either side of lunch. Elgar could not hold on to a flying edge with Sarfraz on 8 – the most difficult of South Africa’s drops – and twice overthrows disappeared to the boundary as the game threatened to run away from them, but the Pakistan captain departed two balls after reaching a 38-ball fifty when fencing once too often at Kagiso Rabada.
Becalmed after his volley against Steyn, Babar fell in the next over, top-edging a hook to fine leg for 49, and South Africa sniffed their opportunity, Olivier bouncing out Ashraf and Amir before Rabada wrapped up the innings.
Pakistan had reached lunch five down, partly through South African largesse but also thanks to the efforts of Imam and the nightwatchman Mohammad Abbas, who made 11 from 51 deliveries, dutifully getting into line as Steyn repeatedly rasped the ball past his outside edge, before Olivier finally benefited from a catch being held in the cordon. Olivier made it two in four balls, when Asad Shafiq attempted to evade a short delivery but only succeeded in gloving through to de Kock.
Imam, who received let-offs on 12, 13 and 33, reached double-figures in his team’s first innings of a Test for only the second time, before finally succumbing to Vernon Philander and a successful take in the cordon. South Africa clearly had the firepower to wrest control, though they had been their own worst enemies during the opening exchanges.
If de Kock could be forgiven for missing a sharp leg-side stumping off Imam when standing up to Philander, there was little mitigation for Bavuma when a thick edge from Abbas flew straight to him at gully. Worse was to follow in the next over, as de Bruyn, diving across from third slip, managed to deflect a regulation catch away from Elgar at second, after Imam had pushed at Steyn. Instead of swallowing the chance, Elgar wore the ball on the chest.
Steyn should also have removed Abbas shortly after, only for de Kock to shell the chance going one-handed to his right, with the ball seemingly headed for first slip. But the frustration of seeing those catches dropped would have been minimal next to the possibility of Steyn’s injury problems resurfacing. He left the field after his opening spell, angrily punching the hoarding on the tunnel (with his left fist) on his way up to the dressing room, although he was able to return and bowl again and South Africa said the trip to the physio was precautionary.
South Africa’s profligacy continued, with Imam and Abbas both surviving opportunities to be dismissed off the same Rabada delivery – de Kock fingertipping a low outside edge from Imam and then, with the batsman ball-watching and Abbas halfway down the pitch looking for a run, Rabada missing a shy at the non-striker’s end.