CENTURION – IOL Sport’s cricket writer Stuart Hess highlights some of the plays-of-the-match from the first Test between South Africa and Pakistan:
Babar Azam was excellent in Pakistan’s first innings as were Imam ul-Haq and Shan Masood in Pakistan’s second. But the best batting in the match - given when it came and the manner in which he played - was produced by Temba Bavuma. He was technically proficient, mentally strong and courageous especially on that first evening when Pakistan’s excellent bowlers came hard at the Proteas having reduced them to 43/4.
Bavuma’s highest Test score remains that famous 102* at Newlands, but it’s safe to say his innings of 53 in this match along with a couple of others he’s made - in Australia and New Zealand - are actually better and certainly more valuable.
Du Plessis said afterwards he’s expecting a ‘big one’ from Bavuma soon. His form here suggests that to be true.
Before this Test Asad Shafiq talked about learning from the batting failures that cost Pakistan the series against New Zealand last month. Then Pakistan got to 1001/1 in the second innings here, a 58-run lead with a chance to get way ahead.
In two hours they lost nine wickets for 90 runs and with it the Test.
In Pakistan there were reports of an angry Mickey Arthur chastising his senior batsmen in particular. You can’t blame him. Sarfraz Ahmed, among those to get a dressing down in the away team’s dressing room, wouldn’t talk about it Friday. “It’s about our team meeting, we won’t be disclosing anything outside,” Sarfraz retorted.
A pair of pairs
For both captains, nogal. Neither Sarfraz nor Du Plessis lasted long either - the Pakistan captain faced a total of 6 balls in the match and Du Plessis 7.
“Fantastic Test match, will certainly go down as one of my best,” Du Plessis joked. “Theunis gave me a chance to get a pair, with 12 runs to go...when you get down to about 25, you’re thinking ‘I’ve got everything to lose here and nothing to gain.’
Thankfully part of a record...as long as I’m breaking records, I’m happy.”
Olivier has the gait of a man who’s tilled the fields since he’s learned to walk. His hands are the size of dinner plates. He’d not have played this Test had Vernon Philander been fit and is unlikely to play the next one with Philander set to return.
But his impact on this series has been significant. He changed tact after his second over on the first day. Not appreciating being driven for consecutive fours by Azhar Ali, he took hammering the middle of the surface with the ball.
“These conditions suited him perfectly. It reminded me of what Mitch Johnson did to us at this ground in 2014. If you bowl quick, hard lengths and a lot of short stuff, with one or two balls that go a little bit up and down it makes it really tough to bat against.
He bowled the perfect way that you need to bowl at this ground, if you’ve got a bit of pace,” said Faf du Plessis about Olivier.
It’s an aggressive nature that doesn’t fit with his personality, but it did him and the Proteas the world of good. Who know’s what next week brings, but Olivier will always have Centurion.
When is TV analysis a dangerous exercise?
When your producers ask you to head to the middle of the field in your ‘Sunday best’ and demonstrate slip catching.
Ask Shaun Pollock, who ripped his pants live on TV during the lunch-break Friday, had to don a towel around his waist for the rest of the stint, then - still wearing that towel - had brief exchange with injured Pakistan bowler Mohammad Abbas about seam positions and gripping the ball, before heading up the grandstand with crowd sympathetically cheering.
Fortunately the SA dressing room donated a pair of tracksuit pants to the former skipper for the rest of the day.@shockerhess
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