With Tweets and indecent mutterings there is nothing dead about the Wanderers rubber
Unlike used condoms‚ there was nothing dead about this rubber on the first day of the final Test against Pakistan.
Series spoils have already gone to the hosts but the opening day on Friday was a lively affair producing superb authoritative batting before some cunning counterpunch bowling from Pakistan kicked a dent into South Africa’s quest for a Test series whitewash.
Earlier‚ despite the loss of stand-in captain Dean Elgar‚ the day promised much for the hosts.
They were 108/1 at lunch and 226/3 at tea before relinquishing their position of promise.
Aiden Markram was mostly responsible for their sprightly start as he laid into anything loose. He drove imperiously through the covers‚ while his pulls were executed with thunderous intent.
When he fell to an innocuous leg side delivery‚ he looked heavenwards in disbelief. He looked destined for a superb century when he tickled one to the keeper Safraz Ahmed for 90.
The opener was superb and he will grow in stature at the top of the South African innings much in the commanding way Graeme Smith used to go about his business.
For a man who was only declared fit on the eve of the game he looked in remarkable touch.
Earlier‚ had Elgar shown the same restraint as Markram upon his dismissal he would not have piqued the interest of social media.
Mohammad Abbas‚ Pakistan’s most prolific Test wicket-taker last year‚ found the outside edge of Elgar’s bat in the second over. As he was about to cross the boundary and up the tunnel‚ Elgar emitted an audible obscenity that was captured by a nearby television camera. Why he didn’t say the ‘F’ word well before he reached the cameraman only he will know.
Social media of course was aflutter with footage of Elgar’s indiscretion but it was in an unrelated tweet from former Test batsman Herschelle Gibbs that had a few eyebrows arching.
With the audacity of one of his lofted one-bounce cover drives he boldly declared South Africa would bat just once on the basis of Pakistan’s bowlers’ inability to crack speeds higher than the 120km/h mark.
Later in the day‚ after the visitors hit back‚ he changed his rosy prognosis and he even offered advice to Theunis de Bruin.
“Proteas letting a great opportunity to bat big once slip here.. a few soft dismissals. Debryun will have to change to middle guard in future if he wants to improve..can’t stand on off stump and expect to score runs consistently (sic)‚” he wrote.
To be fair to Gibbs‚ Pakistan captain Safraz Ahmed lamented his bowlers’ lack of pace after the team’s defeat in the second Test at Newlands. Safraz made the point that on a surface with inconsistent bounce bowling at 135km/h was simply not good enough compared to South Africa’s 145km/h.
Early on the first day here it emerged that the South African quicks had 412 deliveries over 140km/h in the series compared to Pakistan’s 25.
The Pakistan bowlers found a more probing line in the afternoon sessions as South Africa slumped to 262 all out.
While Pakistan didn’t feel the need for speed Markram was filling his boots and even Hashim Amla momentarily looked his old self. In fact Amla looked assured at the crease.
He looked set for a big score but fell for 41 and has now gone 24 innings without a ton. He has only one half-century in his last 14 Test innings.
It was perhaps fitting that Zubayr Hamza made his way to the crease as Amla departed the scene‚ for the 23-year-old took to Test cricket like a duck to water.