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Hashim Amla steadies South Africa after early wickets

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Tea South Africa 262 and 25 for 1 (Markram 17*, Amla 1*) lead Pakistan 185 (Sarfraz 50, Olivier 5-51) by 102 runs

There was no mistaking the potency of South Africa’s pace attack, even if the team’s catching on the second day at the Wanderers left much to be desired. Having created more than enough chances to bowl out Pakistan before lunch, they kept hammering away with enough purpose to finish the job an hour or so into the afternoon session.

Duanne Olivier continued his prolific series, twice taking two wickets in an over and finishing with 5 for 51. Pakistan briefly thrived after the interval, as Sarfraz Ahmed raced to a 38-ball half-century, but despite reinforcing their lower order for this Test, once again the innings fell away – Faheem Ashraf’s golden duck, splicing an attempted pull gently to short leg, seemed almost designed to support Mickey Arthur’s mid-series assertion that he could bat no higher than No. 8 in the Test side.

Pakistan’s last five wickets went down for the addition of 16 runs (including three partnerships of 0), meaning that South Africa gained a 77-run first-innings lead – that despite having squandered numerous chances during the morning session. Although Dean Elgar fell for 5 for the second time in the match, an inside edge off Mohammad Amir detected on review, South Africa had extended their advantage to three figures by tea.

Their only concern, aside from the poor fielding, centred on Dale Steyn, who seemed to be experiencing regular pain in his troublesome right shoulder; pain that was added to when Babar Azam thrashed him for five boundaries in two overs, as the Pakistan batsman continued to win their personal dual.

Babar and Sarfraz counterpunched either side of lunch, adding 78 for the sixth wicket in 10 overs of fluent strokeplay. South Africa put down their fifth catch of the day, this one the most difficult, when Elgar could not hold on to a flying edge with Sarfraz on 8, as the game threatened to run away from them again. Sarfraz’s aggression saw him overtake his partner, despite a 29-run headstart, but he departed two balls after reaching his fifty when fencing once too often at Kagiso Rabada.

Becalmed after his volley against Steyn, Babar fell in the next over, top-edging a hook to fine leg for 49, and South Africa sniffed their opportunity. Olivier’s short-ball attack immediately did for Ashraf and Amir also fended to Zubayr Hamza, under the helmet, to give the bowler his third five-for of the series.

Pakistan had made it through the morning session via a combination of luck and no little fortitude, especially from Imam-ul-Haq but also the nightwatchman Mohammad Abbas. Imam, who was dropped on 13 and 33, was a picture of calm stoicism amid the chaos of South Africa’s efforts in the first hour. He produced only the second double-figure score in his team’s first innings of a Test before finally succumbing to Vernon Philander in the penultimate over before lunch.

His partnership with Abbas, who walked out with Pakistan on 6 for 2 the previous evening, was ultimately worth 47, though its value seemed even greater as South Africa’s missed opportunities stacked up. Abbas made 11 from 51 deliveries, dutifully getting into line as Steyn repeatedly rasped the ball past his outside edge, before Olivier finally benefited from a catch being held in the cordon.

Olivier made it two in four balls, when Asad Shafiq attempted to evade a short delivery but only succeeded in gloving through to Quinton de Kock. South Africa clearly had the firepower to wrest control, though they had been their own worst enemies during the opening exchanges.

If de Kock could be forgiven for missing a sharp leg-side stumping off Imam when standing up to Philander, there was little mitigation for Temba Bavuma when a thick edge from Abbas flew straight to him at gully. The catch was at shin height and he got both hands in position, only for the ball to inexplicably pop out.

Worse was to follow in the next over, as Theunis de Bruyn, diving across from third slip, managed to deflect a regulation catch away from Elgar at second. Instead of swallowing the chance, Elgar wore the ball on the chest. Steyn was the bowler, and he should also have removed Abbas shortly after, only for de Kock to shell the chance going one-handed to his right, with the ball seemingly headed for Hashim Amla at first slip.

The frustration of seeing two chances missed off his bowling would have been minimal next to the possibility of Steyn’s injury problems resurfacing. He left the field after his opening spell, angrily punching the hoarding on the tunnel (with his left fist) on his way up to the dressing room, although he was able to return for another short burst with the ball before lunch.

South Africa’s profligacy continued, with Imam and Abbas both surviving opportunities to be dismissed off the same ball. De Kock again could only get fingertips on a low outside edge from Imam and then, with the batsman ball-watching and Abbas halfway down the pitch looking for a run, Rabada was off target with a shy at the non-striker’s end.

Babar survived a crushing blow to the ribs from an Olivier delivery that kicked viciously before he had scored, and also edged just wide of gully, but although he produced a number of sparkling strokes to push back the hosts it was not long before carnage returned to the Bullring.

Source : ESPN Cricinfo

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