Battling knocks from Dean Elgar (50) and Hashim Amla (63*) helped South Africa wrap up a six-wicket win over Pakistan in the first Test at the Centurion.
Set 149 to win after bowling Pakistan out for 190 on day two, the hosts were struck an early blow with the departure of Aiden Markram in the second over of the day; Hasan Ali nipping one back into the right-hander to trap him in front of his crease for a duck.
A probing spell from Mohammad Amir at the other end indicated that the chase was not to be a stroll in the park. Nevertheless, fortune favoured South Africa. In the eighth over of the day, Amla offered a chance to Fakhar Zaman at third slip, but Pakistan’s opening batsman failed to hold on. The following over saw Shaheen Afridi find the outside-edge of Dean Elgar’s bat, with Azhar Ali appearing to take the ball low at first slip. Nevertheless, television replays saw the third umpire overturn the decision, the catch adjudged to have not been taken cleanly.
Amla and Elgar remained determined to make good use of their stay at the crease, dealing heavily in boundaries as Pakistan’s hopes of an unlikely win faded. The pair took South Africa to lunch with 81 runs on the board.
Despite the determined efforts of Pakistan’s pace trio, much of the same continued after the break, and Amla brought up his half-century with a flashing cut past point for four. In what has been a lean 2018 for one of South Africa’s greats – he has failed to reach three figures in the Test arena this year – these were vital runs.
Elgar reached his half-century with a straight drive off of part-timer Shan Masood but departed the very next ball, playing a loose shot to a wider delivery as he edged behind to the diving Sarfraz Ahmed.
Theunis de Bruyn joined Amla at the crease as South Africa began to cruise towards the target. A cover drive off of Afridi was glorious, although the young left-armer showed his endless fight with some impressive short-bowling that had the tall right-hander ducking and weaving.
Pakistan’s leg-spin weapon of Yasir Shah could offer little threat on a pitch offering meagre assistance to the spinner but was gifted a wicket by de Bruyn. The batsman’s eagerness to finish proceedings saw him advance down the track with a wild swing only to see the ball travel past him to Sarfraz, who removed the bails for a stumping.
South Africa’s mini implosion continued with Faf du Plessis departing for a pair in the match; another short delivery from Afridi, this time reaping the rewards as the Proteas skipper failed to find control on a pull shot that ended up in the safe hands of Hasan Ali at fine leg.
Despite all the skill and resolve shown by Pakistan’s bowlers, there were simply not enough runs on the board to play with. Temba Bavuma, who anchored his side’s first-innings total with an excellent half-century, made sure any miracles were averted, sweeping Yasir for four to seal victory.
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