Hashim Amla struck an unbeaten half-century as South Africa brushed aside some early alarms to record a six-wicket victory over Pakistan on day 3 of the first Test at SuperSport Park Stadium in Centurion yesterday.
Chasing a modest 149 to win in testing batting conditions, Amla took his side home shortly before tea on 63 not out to rediscover his form with just a second half-century in his past 14 innings.
He put on 119 for the second wicket with gritty opener Dean Elgar (50) to lay the platform for the win, although both survived early scares as Pakistan’s seamers created immense pressure on a wicket that showed both sideways movement and variable bounce.
Starting their second innings chase under gloomy skies after overnight rain, South Africa opener Aiden Markram was trapped leg before wicket by Hasan Ali (1-39) for a duck before the home side had a run on the board.
Pakistan bowled with skill and accuracy, and beat the bat on numerous occasions before Amla was dropped on 8 at third slip by Fakhar Zaman.
Pakistan’s irritation grew when moments later they thought they had Elgar caught at first slip when he was on 4.
Seamer Shaheen Afridi (1-53) induced the edge that looked to have been gobbled up by Azhar Ali. Elgar began walking toward the dressing room, but was called back when the on-field umpires conferred over whether the catch had been taken.
Bruce Oxenford and Sundaram Ravi referred to television umpire Joel Wilson with a soft signal of out, indicating they thought it was a clean catch.
After looking at several replays, including super-slow close-ups, Wilson ruled that the ball had bounced and Elgar was reprieved.
The decision clearly astonished the Pakistan players, and coach Mickey Arthur was seen leaving his place on the players’ balcony and going to the adjacent office of match referee David Boon.
Television commentator Michael Holding criticized fellow West Indian Wilson.
“I’m convinced he was out,” Holding said. “I think the third umpire made a mistake. The protocol says you have got to be 100 percent sure the decision was wrong to change it.”
It was a potentially a game-changing moment in the innings with South Africa on 16-1 at the time.
Elgar and Amla capitalized on that good fortune before Elgar (50) handed a first Test wicket to Pakistan part-timer Shan Masood when he had a swipe at a loose delivery and was caught by wicketkeeper-captain Sarfraz Ahmed.
Theunis de Bruyn (10) was stumped off Yasir Shah (1-20) trying to finish the game with quick runs, while home captain Faf du Plessis recorded a pair of ducks in the match when he attempted a hook off Afridi and was caught at fine-leg.
His opposing captain, Ahmed, also recorded a pair. Between them, they faced 13 deliveries for no runs in what is thought to have been a first for opposing captains in the same Test.
South Africa fast bowler Duanne Olivier was named Man of the Match for his match return of 11-96.
The second Test is to begin in Cape Town on Friday with the third in the three-Test series to start on Jan. 11 in Johannesburg.
Additional reporting by AFP and staff writer
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