Maharaj applauds Pakistan's Babar, Fawad as Proteas seek early blows on Day 2

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Proteas spinner Keshav Maharaj
Proteas spinner Keshav Maharaj
  • Proteas spinner Keshav Maharaj heaped praise on Babar Azam and Fawad Alam's partnership on the opening day of the final Test.
  • The duo's unbeaten 123-run fourth-wicket partnership put Pakistan firmly ahead of the Proteas.
  • Maharaj also stated that the Proteas are still assessing the Rawalpindi pitch.

Proteas spinner Keshav Maharaj looked set to have a day to remember in Rawalpindi on Thursday, but firm resistance from Pakistan skipper Babar Azam (77*) and Fawad Alam (42*) changed all that.

A couple of early strikes with the new ball from Maharaj had left the hosts in trouble at 21/2, and when Anrich Nortje got rid of Abid Ali (6) thanks to a blinding catch from Aiden Markram, Pakistan was reeling at 22/3.

At that point the Proteas looked poised to run through the Pakistan lineup and take a significant step towards levelling the two-match series after their loss in the first Test in Karachi.

What followed instead was an undefeated 123-run stand for the fourth wicket between Babar and Fawad that will carry over into day two after the entire third session on Thursday was lost to rain.

READ | Century partnership steadies Pakistan on rain-hit opening day against Proteas

Maharaj ended up bowling 25 of South Africa's 58 overs on day one, but he could not add to his tally and he finished with figures of 2/51.

"Credit to Babar and Fawad Alam. I think they played really well and absorbed pressure nicely," Maharaj said after the day's play.

"They bided their time and after lunch, it seemed to be a bit easier and better to bat on. Fair play to them."

The hope for the Proteas will be that, after the rain on Thursday, the wicket on Friday morning offers some assistance to the bowlers again.

"We saw with the newish ball and the moisture that it sort of sticks in the wicket a bit," said Maharaj.

"We saw that as the day went on and the moisture started leaving the surface, the turn was minimised.

"Everyone was a bit confused as to what to expect from the pitch, but it seems pretty hard. With the moisture around, it might bind it a bit heading into tomorrow and with the heavy roller.

"It's a bit difficult to say what it's going to play like tomorrow and I think at the end of the day we'll have a clearer idea as to if the wicket is going to deteriorate."

Maharaj was a fitness concern heading into the match having picked up a slight abdominal strain in training on Tuesday. He is still "feeling it", he says, but applauded the Proteas medical team for getting him onto the park.

It is just as well, too, because South Africa's second spinner George Linde bowled just 2.5 overs before he left the park with a split-finger that required x-rays.

Fortunately for the visitors, there is no fracture in Linde's hand and he could even bowl on Friday.

"It's very unfortunate for George and he was bowling really well having got into his spell," said Maharaj.

"There was a bit of concern for his well-being and I'm glad to know that he is feeling a lot better and hopefully he will take the field tomorrow at some stage."

Play on Day 2 starts at 06:45 SA time.

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