An unbeaten 123-run partnership between Babar Azam (77*) and Fawad Alam (42*) helped Pakistan recover from 22 for three to end Day One of the second Test in Rawalpindi at 145 for 3, as the final session of the day was washed off. The hosts were in all sorts of trouble early on as Keshav Maharaj and Anrich Nortje picked up three wickets between them in a span of four overs.
After being dropped by Temba Bavuma, Imran Butt – playing just his second Test – would have wanted to cash in, but Maharaj eventually got his man after he was caught behind for 15. Pakistan’s most experienced player Azhar Ali departed without troubling the scorers soon after, trapped in front to a ball that came in with the arm. Abid Ali’s poor form with the bat too continued, after a brilliant catch at short-leg by Aiden Markram saw him depart for just six and he has now gone nine innings without a fifty.
However, after the early South African jolts, Babar and Fawad initially took time and weathered the storm, after which they started playing some eye-catching strokes. Babar, especially, was on the lookout for runs at every possible occasion, but Fawad was a little more circumspect and was happy to keep his wicket intact, instead of playing his shots.
From overs nine to 15, South Africa built up immense pressure on the Pakistan batsmen, a phase in which they conceded just two runs (one off the bat) and picked up three wickets. However, after Babar broke the shackles with a couple of boundaries off Maharaj, the pressure released to a certain extent. From thereon, it was Pakistan who dominated proceedings. Fawad and Babar played risk-free cricket and after a point, the South African bowlers too ran out of ideas.
George Linde injured his finger while trying to stop a ball hit back at him by Babar and walked off the field, not returning for the rest of the day. He should be back in action on Day Two after he was seen warming up during the rain-break. However, the South Africa bowlers barely had a sniff with both Babar and Fawad playing with utmost control. Babar’s beautiful cover drives were once again in full flow as he raced towards his 16th Test fifty. Fawad is well on course to reach the landmark as well on Day Two, but the duo will have to start all over again.
Play will begin 15 minutes earlier than initially scheduled after an entire session was washed out. The forecast seems to be clear for Day Two. South Africa trail in the two-match series after losing in Karachi by seven wickets and are in a quest to register their first win in Asia since 2014.
Pakistan 143 for 3 (Babar Azam 77*, Fawad Alam 42*; Keshav Maharaj 2 for 51) vs South Africa