Inexplicable decisions caused a Proteas slump to 220 all out on the first day of the Test against Pakistan in Karachi, only for their bowlers to excel and put them in charge.
The Proteas predicted that the Karachi wicket would be typically sub-continent – dry, slow and low. They knew spin would play a big role, and Faf du Plessis stressed the importance of having the skills to rotate strike against Pakistan’s spinners, or risk digging themselves into a pressure-laden hole.
They did none of that, instead capitulating in a heap, attributable to schoolboys run judgement and unnecessarily aggressive shots. Their total of 220 was well below par, but the bowlers excelled, taking three wickets in the last session, including that of skipper Babar Azam.
It sets the Proteas up for a strong second day, when for most of the opening day their batting did little to inspire confidence.
They won the toss and elected to bat, giving them the best of the Karachi track. The Proteas openers shot out of the gates, exploiting favourable conditions to their advantage. However, Aiden Markram got a beast of a delivery from Shaheen Afridi, which caught his edge and spat to second slip where Imraan Butt took a blinder.
Despite this, none of the attacking intent was lost, with Elgar and new partner Rassie van der Dussen jumping on every opportunity to score. Van der Dussen looked in complete control, as he often does, but inexplicably set off for a single after hitting the ball directly to the mid-off fielder. Elgar stood his ground, leaving Van der Dussen scrambling to get back into his crease. He didn’t, and South Africa were 63-2.
With the Proteas in a transitionary phase, Elgar and Faf du Plessis have become the team’s key batsmen and, as they did against Sri Lanka, they once again anchored the innings after early setbacks, the tourists on 94-2 at lunch.
The Proteas then endured a nightmare middle session during which they lost four wickets for just 85 runs. Du Plessis got a gem from Yasir Shah that turned and brushed his outside edge before being caught by the wicketkeeper. However, the rest of the batters need a serious dose of introspection.
Elgar, usually so composed, slashed wildly at a wide delivery to knick off. Then, inexplicably, Quinton de Kock heaved across the line of a spinning delivery, only to toe it to midwicket. It was a disgraceful effort by the skipper of a side in trouble.
Temba Bavuma and George Linde then brought some stability to affairs, but that all ended when the former attempted a second run while the fielder had the ball in his hand. That left the Proteas on 179-6 at tea and exposed a long tail.
It was all over soon after the break, Linde holing out in the deep, while the remainder of the Proteas batsmen simply couldn’t deal with Shah’s quality.
Kagiso Rabada helped the Proteas find some joy in an otherwise awful day. The fast bowler looks rested and potent and he will be key to the Proteas’ fortunes in this tour.
He cleaned up opener Adib Ali with a back-of-a-length delivery that stayed fairly low, then got Butt with a vicious delivery that struck his glove and floated to backward square leg.
Azhar Ali and Babar Azam looked comfortable against the seamers thereafter, though, but Keshav Maharaj and Anrich Nortje struck within three balls of each other to leave Pakistan reeling at 33-4 at the close of play.