An imperious display of batting from Aiden Markram gave South Africa the perfect start to the Johannesburg Test, the opener dispatching Pakistan’s attack at will to move within sight of a century at lunch on the first day, reports ESPN.
Markam cruised to fifty from 72 balls with a flurry of boundaries, and was 78 not out at the break, as a changed Pakistan experienced a familiar sinking feeling in their efforts to avoid a series whitewash.
After a wicket in the second over of the day, Pakistan were left gasping in the thin Highveld air as Markram set a punishing tempo for the morning session. He and Hashim Amla added an unbroken century partnership in ideal batting conditions, to set their side up after winning the toss. Having stuck to their four-man pace attack from Cape Town, South Africa may already be eyeing an opportunity to tear into the tourists again.
South Africa went into the game with just one, enforced change, with Cape Cobras batsman Zubayr Hamza handed a debut in the wake of Faf du Plessis’ slow over-rate suspension. Hamza, the 100th cap of the “Proteas” era – though the 335th man to play Tests for South Africa – was listed to bat at No. 5, though he was able to soak in the occasion from the dressing room during the morning session as Markram shouldered the load.
Pakistan did make the early inroad that they would have been hoping for on a Wanderers surface that looked friendlier to batsmen than any other recent offering.
Dean Elgar, standing in for du Plessis as captain, was unable to capitalise after winning the toss, lured into feeling at one in the channel from Mohammad Abbas.
However, that was as good as it got for the visiting attack, as collective indiscipline allowed Markram to stamp his mark on proceedings. Abbas was struck through the covers and then hooked fine in his fourth over, giving Markram his impetus, and thereafter only Mohammad Amir was able to offer a semblance of control.
The sight of Markram’s blade flashing fours through the off side was standout feature of the session. Twice in consecutive deliveries, Hasan Ali was thrashed through backward point, Markram riding the bounce with disdain. Sarfraz Ahmed, who lamented his bowlers’ lack of pace after defeat in the second Test, could do little but fold his arms and wish for a few kph more.
Faheem Ashraf, one of three changes to the XI from Cape Town, was introduced within the hour as Pakistan’s fourth seamer, and he was close to drawing a mistake from Markram, as a flashed back-foot drive flew just beyond the reach of gully. The only other chance offered by Markram came when he was on 2 and jabbed a ball out of the meat of the bat straight at short leg, where Shan Masood was unable to get his hands up in time for the epitome of a reaction catch.
With Amla puttering along smoothly in a lower gear – a peremptory chop into the covers here, a nudge off the pads there – South Africa made serene progress while Sarfraz shuffled through his options. Shadab Khan, the legspinning allrounder brought in for Yasir Shah, began with a full toss that Markram belted through cover and the batsman added his 14th boundary of the session in the next over, a straight drive as crisp as anything else on show.
Score (Day 1): South Africa 229/4 (Markram 90, Abbas 2/35)