KARACHI: Skipper Babar Azam and Fawad Alam helped Pakistan recover from an early slide to post 145/3 before rain played spoilsport on what was shaping up to be an enthralling first day in Rawalpindi.
Fawad Alam and Babar Azam, in their contrasting styles, racked up an unbroken 123-run stand that helped Pakistan recover from an alarming slide that reduced them to 22/3. They had helped take the side to tea, when rain intervened and washed out a promising final session.
Pakistan opted to bat in the morning, but found themselves in all sorts of trouble within the hour. Kagiso Rabada, and particularly Keshav Maharaj, who was brought into the attack as early as the eighth over, looked threatening.
Maharaj should have had a wicket in his first over, when he induced an edge from Imran Butt that was dropped by Temba Bavuma at first slip. However, the drop didn’t prove costly. In his third over, Maharaj had Butt snared with a flighted delivery – and this time, it was pouched by Quinton de Kock.
Another wicket followed in Maharaj’s next over, when he had Azhar Ali trapped in front with a full delivery for nought. When Anrich Nortje got into the act, dismissing Abid Ali thanks to a sharp catch at short leg by Aiden Markram, Pakistan were in dire straits. They had lost three wickets for just one run, and Babar and Fawad had a job to do.
It didn’t help that one of the two spinners in the South Africa line-up, George Linde, was forced off in the 23rd over, having injured his finger on the bowling hand. That, along with Babar and Fawad’s defensive proficiency meant the South African bowlers had to toil. After his early burst, Maharaj’s success dried up, despite bowling extended spells.
Babar, who has scored Test centuries in his two previous knocks at Rawalpindi, was in fine touch. He was the yin to Fawad’s yang, breezing to 125-ball 77* by tea, after a watchful start. At the other end, Alam was obdurate, his unorthodox stance and solid defensive punches, punctuated by the occasional runs, taking him to a 138-ball 42*.
They took Pakistan through to lunch safely, and went through the whole second session without losing a wicket. Babar brought up his 16th Test half-century, and Fawad seemed primed to do that as well in the final session.
However, relentless rain meant the batsmen will have to wait till the second morning to bring about those landmarks. That is unless a revived South Africa have another great morning session.