Aiden Markram was in fine form during his knock of 78 for the Proteas against Pakistan. Photo: Halden Krog/AP

CAPE TOWN – After a couple of hair-raising Test matches at the hallowed old ground, Newlands put forward yet another day of dramatic day of Test cricket in the first contest of 2019 on Thursday.

With a pitch that has now become renowned for possessing a bit of spice on the first day, the opening morning is a stage set for dramatic theatre.

Thursday was no different, with Pakistan losing five wickets in the first session.

The entertainment carried through right until the very last ball, when South Africa’s impressive opener Aiden Markram had his stumps rearranged by part-timer Shan Masood to leave the Proteas closing out the day on 123/2.

“That was the ball of the day,” Dale Steyn said of Markram’s dismissal. “It is a pity that we lost Aiden there.

“I am sure he was gutted. He would have wanted to get through the day and getting out for 78, he would’ve wanted to come back and knock off those 22 runs to get another 100.

“We could all see how well he was batting, and when someone is batting like that, it lifts the change-room. It shows that there are lot of runs to be made here.

“Pakistan have a really skilled attack and they really test your technique, so the way Aiden was batting shows that we can get through this.”

Markram certainly provided the copybook for the remaining South African batsmen that there are no Centurion-like devils lurking in the Newlands pitch, despite Pakistan being bundled out for 177 within two sessions once again.

The young opener displayed great authority at the crease, utilising positive footwork equally against both pace and spin.

And although Masood said “throughout the series, there has been a ball with your name on it” – like Markram discovered – there will still be plenty of runs to be made if the batsmen show the correct application and patience at the crease.

Unfortunately for the tourists, they are simply not equipped with either the skill or temperament at this point to succeed in such challenging conditions.

Captain Sarfraz Ahmed (56 off 81 balls) and Masood (44 off 137 balls) tried valiantly during the middle part of the day, but the remainder of the Pakistan batting unit simply faltered against the hostile four-man Proteas pace quartet.

Led once again by the newcomer Duanne Oliver, who Steyn simply described as “hot”, and that “you could possibly give him a beach ball right now and he would nick someone off”, the home team’s attack went in search of the jugular from the get-go.

Duanne Olivier celebrates the dismissal of Azhar Ali in taking four wickets on Thursday. Photo: Halden Krog/AP

Olivier is certainly relishing the role of the “enforcer” handed to him by the team management, and ran in with great purpose yet again, while delivering an avalanche of short-pitched bowling.

It may not have been the classic swing and swerve the patrons of Newlands are accustomed to watching from Steyn and Vernon Philander, but it was brutal in its execution, with Oliver picking up another four wickets to go with his 11-fer at SuperSport Park.

“When you win the toss and decide to bowl, you think you’re going to nick them off, but a couple of wickets came from short-pitched bowling,” Steyn said.

“You sum up the conditions, and obviously we want to hit the right areas and beat the bat and get the caught behinds and LBWs, but a good bowling line-up assess the conditions quickly, and are able to take it from there.”

Hashim Amla on 24 not out and new batsman Theunis de Bruyn will continue South Africa’s innings on the second morning of what is fast developing into yet another intriguing Test match at the foot of Table Mountain. 

@ZaahierAdams


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