It turned out to be a comprehensive captaincy debut for Babar Azam. It turned out to be a familiar story for South Africa with senior men letting the team down on a challenging subcontinent track.
When Aiden Markram and Rassie van der Dussen were batting on day three, one might have expected the Test to at least go into the fifth day. That was after a 14-wicket first day. The curtains came down too quickly for South Africa. After a 127-run second-wicket stand, South Africa lost nine wickets for 70 runs to lead by a paltry 87.
It all happened too quickly to comprehend. The partnership between Markram and van der Dussen seemed an occasion of a different Test. In the last hour on the third day and in the morning session on the fourth day, South Africa lost six wickets for 16 runs either side of a 42-run seventh-wicket stand between Temba Bavuma and George Linde.
Truth be told, South Africa lost the initiative first when they did no utilize the advantage of batting first and then late last evening when they lost wickets of their most important batsmen in a frenzy. Today morning began with a similar narrative as Keshav Maharaj lost his off stump to Hasan Ali on the first ball of the day.
Trouble by spin continued for Quinton de Kock. A half-hearted prod to a turning leg-spinner from Yasir Shah landed in the hands of leg-gully.
Bavuma and Linde batted with purpose. Bavuma, in particular, was positive and looked more assured than any other South Africa batsman. While he lasted, he was able to dump the odd misbehaving ball outside his sinew. Against spin, he was the only one able to deploy the sweep with good effect.
Then, Nauman Ali got into action. First, he induced an inside-edge through to leg slip to dismiss Linde. Kagiso Rabada tried to hit his way out of trouble. He was even dropped at long-on. But, on the very next ball, Nauman beat him between bat and pads while he was attempting a slog. A wicket each in his next to overs, that of Anrich Nortje and Bavuma earned Nauman a five-for on debut. Pakistan needed only 88 runs to go 1-0 up in the series.
The way Kagiso Rabada and Anrich Nortje began with the ball, South Africa would have wished for a 100 more runs to turn this walkover into a contest. There were enough balls staying low and an odd one bouncing off a length.
Pakistan opener's survived the extended morning session with some luck and an odd crisp boundary. Nortje stuck twice in the over after lunch, removing Abid Ali played on and Imran Butt caught behind.
Babar found himself awkwardly defending balls from Rabada that were just a few inches high from being grubbers. Once he was set, he played some good shots to somewhat make up for the first-innings failure. With a half-century to his name from the first innings, Azhar Ali looked solid.
Once the pair saw the spell from Rabada and Nortje through, the chase became a matter of time. There was a drop in potency as the spinners erred on length and Lungi Ngidi strayed on line.
In the end, the only thing that stood between Babar and a perfect finish to captaincy debut was his nemesis in the first innings. In an identical dismissal, Maharaj trapped him plumb in front with victory only two runs away. In fairness of his efforts in the Test, it was Fawad Alam who hit the winning runs.