On what was an unusually dry Day 1 Rawalpindi pitch, Keshav Maharaj bowled 11 of the 29 overs of the first session on Thursday (February 4) and made early inroads to put South Africa in a position of advantage despite losing the toss. Maharaj bagged two of the three wickets that fell within 15 overs, which was followed by a period of rebuilding as Babar Azam and Fawad Alam put on an unbroken 41-run stand to help Pakistan to 63 for 3 at Lunch.
Although Imran Butt got off the mark with a crunching cover drive off Kagiso Rabada in the opening over, he didn’t appear in complete control in the first session as the South African pacers targeted both edges, and found them too without doing any damage. Abid Ali too had an edgy start but he managed to hang on as the Pakistan openers tried to blunt the new ball and put South Africa under pressure.
Rabada moved the ball both ways, as did Anrich Nortje, with the pacers bowling disciplined lines and posing questions to the openers who survived the spell despite not looking fluent. With the pacers not making inroads, Maharaj was introduced as early as the eighth over and he immediately found the outside edge of Butt’s bat, only for Temba Bavuma to put down a simple catch at slip.
But it wasn’t a costly miss as Maharaj got Butt to edge one again in his next over, with the resultant catch being held by Quinton de Kock. As South Africa put pressure on Pakistan with a string of maidens, the hosts lost their second wicket, with Maharaj striking again. Azhar Ali, who played for the turn only to be trapped in front by a straight delivery, departed for a duck. Nortje also tasted success as he got Abid to inside-edge a short of length delivery, with Aiden Markram pulling off an excellent one-handed catch at short leg.
Pakistan scored their first runs off the bat in seven overs when Babar got off the mark by cutting a short delivery from Maharaj and then flicked one fine for another four. Fawad too got his first runs with a four, whipping a Nortje delivery to the square-leg fence. He was tested by a barrage of short deliveries but managed to survive as he assisted Babar in steadying the innings.
Meanwhile, George Linde was off the field after hurting himself while trying to stop a Babar shot that was hit back at him on one bounce. Rabada was brought back late in the session but Babar and Fawad kept him at bay as they went into the break unbeaten.
Brief scores:Pakistan 63/3 (Babar Azam 24*, Fawad Alam 16*; Keshav Maharaj 2-27, Anrich Nortje 1-10) vs South Africa.