Abu Dhabi - Hashim Amla continued his good form with the bat at the Sheikh Zayed Stadium on Monday as he ground out another century - his 20th in Tests - as South Africa posted 245/8 on the opening day of the first Test against Pakistan.
The bearded Amla batted a marathon 360 minutes and was unbeaten on 118 with 13 boundaries when stumps were drawn. He will resume with Dale Steyn, who has 13 to his name.
The 30-year-old Amla was solid as a rock on a day when Pakistan threatened to run through the Proteas’ batting.
But with wickets falling around him he realised the need for a calming influence, and batted with the assurance which has made him the No1 Test batsman in the world.
Three wickets fell early in the innings before Amla and AB de Villiers steadied the innings with a 61-run fourth wicket partnership.
Amla and De Villiers came together at 43/3 after Jacques Kallis was caught at the wicket for 15 off Junaid Khan in the 17th over.
The pair were separated when De Villiers survived an LBW appeal by Zulfiqar Barbar but stayed in a stretched position out of his crease as Adnan Akmal whipped the bails off to run him out.
The day hadn’t started as the Proteas would have liked as they lost three vital wickets in the morning. Their aim was to dominate the opening session and put pressure on Pakistan but it turned out the other way as Mohammed Irfan and Junaid Khan produced the early magic.
JP Duminy said afterwards: “You’d expect this with the new ball in the first session (losing wickets) and also later in the day. Stats shows that this happens here - we would take 245/8 anytime but we hope to come with a positive frame of mind to push on in the morning then bowl well with the ball.”
Alviro Petersen (3), Graeme Smith (15) and Kallis (5) were back in the “cooling” chambers of their changeroom after the Pakistan quicks had given their side the desired start after Misbah-ul-Haq had lost the toss on a hot and humid morning.
Irfan was a revelation as he bowled with some fire in his belly.
And there was much delight when he sent back the openers before they had they had time to settle in. Petersen was snapped up at short leg by new cap, Shan Masood and three overs later with the help of wicketkeeper, Akmal, Irfan sent back the South African captain just as he was getting on top of the bowling.
Smith had been out of serious cricket for 21 weeks and had little match practice coming into the Test though he admitted that he was comfortable after facing just 15 balls in the warm-up game against Pakistan A in Sharjah last week.
Khan bowled without any success but when Irfan was rested after figures of 6-1-19-2 he gained the much needed confidence boost when he had Kallis superbly caught behind by Akmal as South Africa slumped to 43/3 in the 17th over.
They knew they had gained the big breakthrough and went in search for another wicket with the introduction of Saeed Ajmal just as lunch was approaching.
But Amla and De Villiers denied them as they made it to the break on 66/3.
Pakistan sniffed more success soon after lunch as De Villiers disappeared but Alma found a valuable ally in Duminy.
As Amla and Duminy continued to build the innings Pakistan because a frustrated outfit on the field. But they finally broke the stand - the pair added 95 - the smiles returned on the faces of the Pakistanis who chiselled away to eventually take eight wicket by the close.
Irfan was delighted with his 2/42 while Barbar, proved that at age 34 he does have it in him to play Test cricket taking 3/89.