Match report: Proteas finally face a true test

2013-02-16 10:58

Pakistan: 338 all out (Asad Shafiq 111, Younus Khan 111, Tanvir Ahmed 44, Philander 5/59, Morkel 2/29, Robin Peterson 2/94)

South Africa: 139/5 (Du Plessis 28, Amla 25, De Villiers 24*, Saeed Ajmal 5/20)

South Africa trails by 199 runs

Saeed Ajmal’s five wickets ensured that Pakistan were in the pound seats at the end of day two. Like Younus Khan, he was required to put his hand up and he did not disappoint. Controversy reigned, though, over Jacques Kallis’ dismissal.

After a fighting first innings total in which Pakistan’s long tail wagged uncharacteristically, Saeed Ajmal’s mixture of flighted off-spinners and doosras had the South African batsmen all at sea. The Proteas had little difficulty in seeing off Jeetan Patel, Nathan Lyon and even Graeme Swann had little effect on them last year. They met their match here, and if it were a boxing match, there would have been a technical knockout stoppage. It was spellbinding stuff and the Proteas simply had no response.

He coaxed turn and bounce in a way Robin Peterson wasn’t able to and, in an unbroken 25-over spell, he weaved his magic. Graeme Smith was his first victim, trapped in front from an ungainly sweep shot.

His referred dismissal was the first of five reviewed decisions from Steve Davis at the Kelvin Grove end with the third one proving to be very thorny.

Hashim Amla’s leg-before decision was a straightforward one that Davis did not give, with DRS proving him wrong. Jacques Kallis was South Africa’s key wicket after a long bowling stint following Morné Morkel’s absence owing to a tight left hamstring.

He was given out caught at short leg, but when the decision came back as leg before, he stood his ground. Under the playing conditions of the decision-review system, the third umpire is allowed to look at other modes of dismissal that may have been missed by the on-field umpire. It was a controversial, crucial yet legal moment and with that wicket there was a definite momentum change.

Saeed then collected the scalp of Faf du Plessis with a wonderful doosra that beat the batsman all ends up.

It was the delivery that signalled his dominance over the batsmen. The Proteas may have had some nervous moments in England and Australia but this is a test they have been yearning for and, by all accounts, they seem to have got it.

The follow-on may have been avoided but Pakistan can definitely feel confident about their prospects on a track that is increasingly taking turn. But the third innings at Newlands is known to be very tricky, and it is not getting any easier to bat on.

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