JOHANNESBURG - Pakistan eased to a seven-wicket win in the first Test against South Africa on Friday, making the tourists pay for two poor performances with the bat.
Anrich Nortje provided a few nervous flutters as Pakistan chased the 88 runs needed for victory, dismissing both Pakistani openers, Abid Ali and Imran Butt, in the first over after lunch.
But the home team’s two best batsmen, skipper Babar Azam and the experienced Azhar Ali, shared a stand of 63 runs for the third wicket to take the hosts to the brink of victory.
Babar was trapped lbw with two runs needed by Keshav Maharaj. Fittingly, Fawad Alam, who set up the victory with his first innings century, struck the winning runs.
South Africa were bowled out for 245 earlier on Friday suffering another catastrophic collapse in their second innings. From 175/1 on Thursday afternoon, they lost nine wickets for 70 runs in 33 overs.
The first innings collapse saw them lose eight wickets for 112 runs in 50 overs. Test matches cannot be won in those circumstances. And it’s not the fault of the conditions either - because at the Wanderers against Sri Lanka at the start of the month, they had horrible collapse there too losing nine wickets for 84 runs in 24 overs in their first innings.
With the exception of a gritty and technically efficient innings from Temba Bavuma, who was the last man out for 40, the rest of the South African batsmen struggled on the fourth morning.
Nightwatchman Keshav Maharaj, was bowled off the first ball of the day by Hasan Ali, while Quinton de Kock struggled again, and was dismissed for two, caught at short leg off Yasir Shah, the ball bouncing more than the batsmen anticipated.
There is no doubt that De Kock is struggling for confidence with the bat, and playing him at no.5 is not having the effect the Proteas head coach Mark Boucher had hoped.
In four Test innings this season, De Kock has scored a total of 45 runs, with a highest score of 18 in the first innings of the first Test against Sri Lanka last month.
Between Boucher and selection convener Victor Mpitsang there will have to be a re-think about how much is being asked of De Kock at the moment
There was a brief flicker of hope for the Proteas when Bavuma and George Linde added 42 runs for the seventh wicket, but the introduction of left-arm spinner Nauman Ali, led to a quick end to the South African innings.
Linde was caught at leg slip, inside edging a drive, with the ball deflecting between his legs and Imran Butt, taking a smart catch.
Bavuma had batted very well against the spinners and the quicks - his thinking was clear and he played Yasir very well off the back foot.
However, unlike the Pakistan tail which wagged effectively in their first innings, there was no help for Bavuma from his teammates. Nauman finished with 5/35 in 25.3 overs. His leg spinning teammate Yasir picked up 4/79. Between them, Pakistan’s spinners picked up 14 wickets.
Fawad Alam was duly named man of the match, for his knock of 109 in Pakistan’s first innings. It was a great performance and the perfect example for the South African batsmen to follow.
Overall it was a poor performance by the Proteas. Only for 40 minutes on the first day when they reduced Pakistan to 27/4 and then when Aiden Markram and Rassie van der Dussen added 127 runs in their second wicket partnership on Thursday, could it be said they on top of Pakistan.
Otherwise they were out-thought, out-field and out-fought.
The second Test starts in Rawalpindi on February 4.