Centurion – On a day where the advantage swayed from one side to the other, AB de Villiers put South Africa in the pound seats on 334 for six at stumps on day one of the third and final Test against Pakistan, in Centurion on Friday.
On 98 not out, De Villiers would have to wait until 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 team-mates 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."
After the opening pair made an early departure, Amla staged a recovery, scoring a magnificent 92. Coming together on 38/2, 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."
Amla combined with De Villiers for a crucial 79-run partnership before he was caught behind and, after a brief sojourn at the crease for Elgar (7) and Peterson (28), De Villiers and Philander set about their task, adding an unbeaten 86 in the last session.
Pakistan’s bowling coach, Mohammad Akram, said they had no choice but to play teenager Ehsan 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.
With only one match under his belt prior to this Test, Rahat Ali bagged three of South Africa’s top six wickets, conceding 95 runs. The 19-year-old Adil took 2/54 before he too limped off injured.
"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." – Sapa