Kagiso Rabada’s late fiery spell may have helped South Africa achieve parity, but a litany of wasted starts saw the visitors slip to 220 all out in the first day of the first Test against Pakistan in Karachi on Tuesday.
They then bowled well enough to limit Pakistan to 33/4, giving them a 187-run advantage at stumps after what was an action-packed day where 14 wickets fell.
SCOREBOARD | Pakistan v Proteas, Day 1
South Africa wasted starts in possibly the best batting conditions and, at one stage, the Proteas were 133/3 but then collapsed.
With the ball, Rabada removed Abid Ali (4) and debutant Imran Butt (9) to leave Pakistan tottering at 15/2 after 6.4 overs.
Azhar Ali (5*) and captain Babar Azam (7), Pakistan’s two best batsmen, didn’t have too many issues, even though the pitch had already showed signs of irregular bounce.
However, spinner Keshav Maharaj snared Azam’s wicket with a beautiful arm ball while Anrich Nortje castled nightwatchman Shaheen Shah Afridi (0) to give the visitors an unexpected boost and leave the game tantalisingly poised.
Having won the toss and opting to bat first on what initially looked a fair, but low bouncing surface, South Africa rattled off at over four an over despite the pre-lunch losses of Aiden Markram (13) and Rassie van der Dussen (17).
Markram, who looked good, was snaffled by Butt at second slip off Afridi while Van Der Dussen was comically run out to leave South Africa 63/2 after 15.2 overs.
Yasir Shah was identified as a threat and made good on his promise with a tightly controlled spell that reined South Africa in after lunch.
South Africa, who were 96/2 at lunch, lost Faf du Plessis (23) to a lovely Shah leg-break that drew him forward and took the edge that was collected by wicketkeeper Mohammad Rizwan.
108/3 in the 29th over became 133/4 in the 36th over when captain Quinton de Kock (15) soiled his 50th Test when he slapped a sweep off debutant Nauman Ali to Butt at midwicket.
The collapse wasn’t dramatic, but the soft middle-order underbelly was exposed to Pakistan’s spinners, who tied down South Africa’s batting.
Keshav Maharaj (0) was beaten by a straighter one from Shah while the same fate befell Nortje on the same score.
Those dismissals were preceded by Temba Bavuma’s (17) run out as he couldn’t beat Hasan Ali’s rocket return from deepish fine leg while attempting a second run.
The untroubled George Linde (35) threw his wicket away when he picked out substitute fielder Mohammad Nawaz at deep mid-wicket off Ali.
Rabada (21*) unfurled some aggressive shots while batting with Lungi Ngidi (8) as the fast bowlers pushed the total past 200.
Ngidi’s stay was terminated by a full Afridi delivery, but that gave Pakistan a tricky 18 overs to negotiate.
Rabada, though, gave Pakistan a fair bit of discomfort when he detonated Ali’s off-stump while Butt could only fend Rabada to Bavuma at backward short leg.
Azam and Afridi couldn’t stand the late day heat and were shuffled out of the kitchen in successive overs to even out the contest significantly.