CAPE TOWN, January 5 – South Africa batted themselves into a virtually impregnable position on Friday’s second day of the second Test against Pakistan at Newlands in Cape Town.
They began the day in a dominant position, with Aiden Markram’s powerful half-century having taken them within 54 runs of Pakistan’s first innings total by the end of the first day.
Markram fell to that day’s final delivery, but only two wickets down the Proteas were expected to plough on.
To begin with, however, they struggled, thanks to some disciplined and aggressive Pakistani bowling.
Hashim Amla was the first to go, bowled behind his legs by a ball which nipped in wickedly off the seam from Mohammad Abbas, and Theunis de Bruyn fell soon after, aiming a booming drive at Shaheen Afridi and only succeeding in edging to gully, where Babar Azam grasped a sharp chance.
At 149/4, Pakistan might have hoped to keep South Africa’s lead within 50 runs, and they felt their hopes boosted when Azhar Ali appeared to clasp a low chance off Temba Bavuma’s fourth ball, only for the third umpire to overturn the onfield ‘out’ soft signal.
Bavuma, so often South Africa’s man for a crisis, continued to live a precarious existence.
With the pitch showing more signs of variable bounce – Markram having been dismissed by a pea-roller on the first day – Bavuma was struck on the body on multiple occasions, while his captain Faf du Plessis was struck on the gloves more than once.
In between, however, there were enough well-timed shots to ensure South Africa built up a sizeable lead, with the partnership crossing 150.
The new ball caused some problems as Pakistan refused to wilt, with Bavuma overturning an LBW on review by the narrowest of margins, but he still missed out on his hundred, nicking off to a fine ball from Afridi that nipped away off the seam.
De Kock entered, and the pace of the game quickened as he struck his first two balls for four, before almost playing on a few overs later, with the ball bouncing just over his stumps.
It wasn’t long before Du Plessis brought up his hundred with a firm push through the covers, a shot that encapsulated the unfussy, solid nature of the innings.
He fell not long after, given out caught behind on review to a sharp, seaming, rising delivery from Shaheen that only served to highlight the capricious nature of the pitch and to emphasise the quality and worth of the knock which it ended.
It gave De Kock, a player who needs little invitation anyway, licence to attack, and he duly brought up his half-century from 59 balls.
He made it through to stumps to put the seal on a dominant day. Plenty more runs await if he can stick around on Saturday. (ANA)