The South African bowlers and Aiden Markram dominated on the opening day of the second Castle Lager test match against Pakistan with the home side ending the first day on 123 for two, in reply to Pakistan’s first innings total of just 177.
Faf du Plessis had won the toss and elected to bowl first with the pitch offering more grass than usual for a Cape Town strip. The decision proved an excellent one as the home side reduced the visitors to 75 for five at the lunch break. Some resistance was offered from Sarfraz Ahmed (56), Shan Masood (44) and Mohammad Amir (22 not out) but the Proteas prevailed, dismissing the tourist for just 177 in a slightly extended post-lunch session.
“As the ball gets older it gets a little bit easier to bat and this pitch is more ‘batable’ than the one in Centurion but the story of our tour is batsmen have gotten in, got starts but not gone on to make the big score. But we lost five wickets already by lunch so it was difficult for us. It was a good toss for them to win,” said Masood.
In response, the Proteas’ openers of Dean Elgar and Markram looked relatively assured of their position at the crease with an opening stand 56 but then Elgar, who had some fortunate times, edged Amir (8-2-25-1) through to Sarfraz behind the stumps for 20.
But the dismissal of Elgar did not deter the right-handed Makram, who went on to record his fourth test fifty off just 64 balls with 11 boundaries, while he and Hashim Amla, almost carried the side to the close with an stand of 67 for the second wicket, as the Proteas trailed by just 54 runs on the first innings with eight wickets in the bank.
Markram’s day ended in the worst possible way as the final delivery of the day from Masood (1-0-4-1) kept low and rattled into the stumps. Markram departed for 78 in 134 minutes while striking 14 boundaries and a six while Amla will resume day two on an unbeaten 24.
“It’s a pity we lost Aiden at the end there, that was just the ball of the day,” said Steyn of Markram’s dismissal. “I’m sure he will be gutted. Just 22 runs away from another ton but he’s done his job today, he’s got 78 of the 123 we scored today, so that’s a pretty good knock,” added Steyn.
The South African bowlers had started the day perfectly on a surface that offered the bowlers some good assistance as Duanne Olivier (15-3-48-4) added to the 11 wickets he claimed in the first test. But it was Dale Steyn (15.1-3-48-3) who started and finished the innings in style.
“Test cricket is hard, I won’t lie. I am happy to be back, but it doesn’t come easy. I’m pretty stoked to be honest with you,” stated Steyn at the end of the day’s play.
Steyn began the rot with some vicious bowling which had Fakhar Zaman gloving to Temba Bavuma in the gully for just a single. Imam-ul-Haq (8) did not last long before the returning Vernon Philander (11-3-36-1) trapped the left-hander in front and despite the review, the umpires finger remained raised.
“As a bowling unit you would call them relentless,” said Masood at the end of the day’s play. “They keep coming in, they keep hitting those areas, they keep putting pressure on you,” added Masood.
“KG (Rabada) has got incredible pace and a great bowler, Vernon has got incredible skill and is just relentless. He will test you all day and will test your technique and your defense. Doozle (Duanne Olivier) is just hot at the moment!” said Steyn.
“You could probably give him a beach ball and he will nick somebody off,” added Steyn to giggles in the press box.
Olivier then grabbed the wicket of Azhar Ali (2) before Kagiso Rabada (10-2-35-2) had Asad Shafiq (20) caught at third slip by Elgar. Olivier completed the morning session with the wicket of Babar Azam for two.
Sarfraz and Masood tried to stem the flow of wickets with a stand of 60 for the sixth wicket but then Rabada had Masood caught behind by Quinton de Kock.
“I thought after lunch that I got a few decent balls away. I was set but Rabada came in again and bowled in an area that eventually got me out. They keep coming in, they are relentless,” said Masood of his own innings.
The Pakistan captain, who was leading from the front, was then joined by Amir and the pair added 42 for the seventh wicket in 12 overs before a great delivery from Olivier saw Sarfraz depart, caught behind.
The final three wickets fell for the addition of just 21 runs as Olivier and then Steyn brushed the tail aside to leave the visiting team still searching for that 200-run mark.
“They are a quality side, a quality bowling unit, especially in their own conditions. But you know what the challenge is, and we have to be up for it and hopefully in the second innings as a batting unit we can put a solid batting display together,” ended Masood.