AB shows the way as SA capitalise
On a day where the advantage swayed from one side to the other several times, AB de Villiers put South Africa in the pound seats as they ended the first day of the third and final test against Pakistan on 334 for six in Centurion on Friday.
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On 98 overnight, De Villiers would have to wait until the morning for his century and partner Vernon Philander, on 45, likewise for his half-century.
Dismissed eight runs short of his own century, Hashim Amla praised his teammates for their unbeaten partnership, in the context of the game, and dismissed the idea that because it was a dead rubber, the team could afford to slack off.
"The way we played today, in testing batting conditions, was testament to how much we want to win the game," Amla said.
"We could have thrown in the towel with the ball was seaming all over the place, but the way De Villiers and Philander played in that last session, is the proof of the pudding."
He felt 334 was a very good score for a first day total at the ground and said he hoped the wicket would deteriorate as the game went on to assist the South African attack.
"Either way, batting in South African conditions is more challenging than in most other countries. We managed to capitalise on some loose balls and hung in there long enough to get a good total."
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After the opening pair made an early departure, Amla staged the recovery. Coming together on 38 for two, Amla and Faf du Plessis rescued the side and shared an attacking third-wicket stand of 69.
"We were always going to feel the absence of Jacques Kallis (injured) but Faf fits in anywhere in the batting line-up.
"He's only played a handful of tests but it feels like he's played over 50 already -- and he can only get better," Amla said.
"While it was tough for us to score on that wicket, it was also a good insight for us to see what life will be like after Jacques (Kallis)."
Amla said there was a bit of nip off the wicket and some variable bounce but they were able to keep the score ticking over with the odd boundaries.
"Saeed Ajmal also got a few to keep low so you couldn't get into a rhythm and that's why AB's innings was so unbelievable. He managed to hang in there a lot longer and managed to build a crucial partnership with Vern at the end."
Dean Elgar (seven) failed to make the most of his opportunity, coming in at number six, and Robin Peterson was run out unnecessarily going for a run which was never on. De Villiers sent him back and he was caught short by a direct hit from Mohammad Irfan at mid-on.
Ehsan Adil, aged 19, took two wickets on debut and they included the scalps of Graeme Smith and Du Plessis.
With only one match under his belt prior to this test, Rahat Ali bagged three of South Africa's top six, conceding 95 runs.
Alviro Petersen (10) was trapped in front to give Rahat his first wicket in test cricket and Smith gifted Adil his first wicket off only his third ball in the longest format.
Smith (five) got an outside edge which ballooned to the slips and Younis Khan moved swiftly across to his right to snatch the catch.
Opting for a fourth seamer instead of another batsman to replace the injured Kallis, South Africa looked to be in trouble on 38/2.
Du Plessis (29) was out shortly after lunch to a delivery from the youngster Adil. The ball moved away slightly and shaved the outside of the bat on its way through to the keeper.
De Villiers joined Amla for a crucial 79-run partnership, before Rahat was responsible for Amla's demise.
Rahat took the new ball after 80 overs, when South Africa were on 308 for six but he was unable to make inroads into the tail.
De Villiers played responsibly, bringing up his half-century off 111 deliveries. At the close of play, the unbeaten seventh-wicket stand between him and Philander was worth 86 off 136 balls and included eight boundaries.
Pakistan's bowling coach, Mohammad Akram, said they had no choice but to play teenager Adil after injuries to Umar Gul and Junaid Khan had left them short of seam bowlers.
"We always take youngsters on tour to give them some exposure but because of the injuries Adil got an opportunity to play," Akram said.
"I thought he bowled well to start with and although he showed a bit of nerves, we're happy with him."
Akram admitted the spate of injuries to their bowlers was caused partly by the soft and heavy grounds in South Africa but also said the team needed to work harder on their fitness.
"We didn't really capitalise on those wickets but it was mainly because of the inexperienced bowlers," said Akram.
"They'll learn quickly but when you're bowling against De Villiers and (Hashim) Amla, it's never easy."
SOUTH AFRICA: GC Smith (capt), AN Petersen, HM Amla, KJ Abbott, AB de Villiers (wk), F du Plessis, D Elgar, VD Philander, RJ Peterson, DW Steyn, RK Kleinveldt
PAKISTAN: Mohammad Hafeez, Imran Farhat, Azhar Ali, Younis Khan, Misbah-ul-Haq (capt), Asad Shafiq, Sarfraz Ahmed (wk), Saeed Ajmal, Mohammad Irfan, Rahat Ali, Ehsan Adil