RAWALPINDI: Unbroken fourth wicket partnership between Babar Azam (77 not out) and Fawad Alam (42 not out) stole the limelight on the rain-marred opening day of the second Test against South Africa here at the Pindi Stadium Thursday.
When it all looked shady and bleak for the hosts at 22-3 after winning the toss and electing to bat, the duo rescued the ship, guiding the team to 145-3 before the unexpected rain started ruining the third session of play.
Leading from the front skipper Babar was seen at his usual best, taking the attack back to the bowlers following early jolts that saw Imran Butt (15) and Azhar Ali (0) losing their wickets to Keshav Maharaj (2-51) in back-to-back overs. Abid Ali’s (6) poor run of form continued as he was the third to lose his wicket, leaving Pakistan tottering at 22-3 inside the first fifteen overs of play. With pitch moisture even helping the spinners earlier on, Babar’s concentration level was seen at his best as he made sure he did not lose his wicket to Maharaj for the third time in succession.
On the contrary, he was seen measuring his class and rhythm to perfection, stealing the post-lunch session with an array of attacking shots struck to all corners of the ground against a quality South African attack. In all, Babar punched 12 hits to the boundary with his fifty coming off 81 balls, studded with nine boundaries.
Fawad was not behind in class as he was seen fully supporting his skipper in his efforts to take the team out of the woods. His mature unbeaten patient 138-ball knock was laced with five boundaries. More importantly, the pair has consumed almost 43 overs without getting separated. In the process, both the players set a platform for a big total that could be threatening in the context of the expected low spinning track in days to come.
Following early joy, South Africa’s backup spinner Georgy Linde injured his finger while fielding on his own bowling. Though the x-ray revealed no fracture, the tourists were without a second spinner from 23rd over onward, resulting in extra pressure on Maharaj who bowled 25 overs almost without a break. The left-arm spinner who was introduced as early as in eighth over returned with the best figures of the day. Anrich Nortje accounted for Abid to stunning short-leg catch by Aiden Markram.
The day, however, clearly belonged to Babar and Fawad as they showed patience backed by systematic attacks to earn praise from all around. Pakistan skipper looked set to get yet another hundred which would be his third in as many Tests at the venue. His previous two appearances fetched him centuries.
“I would definitely want to play a big innings at the stadium which is fast turning out to be my favourite hunting ground,” said Babar during his interaction with media.
The play will start at 9:45 am for the next four days of the Test to make up for the lost time. The forecast for rest of the days is all clear.
Pakistan won toss
Pakistan 1st Innings
Imran Butt c de Kock b Maharaj 15
Abid Ali c Markram b Nortje 6
Azhar Ali lbw b Maharaj 0
*Babar Azam not out 77
Fawad Alam not out 42
Extras (b2, nb3) 5
Total: (3 wickets, 58 overs) 145
Yet to bat: Mohammad Rizwan, Faheem Ashraf, Yasir Shah, Hasan Ali, Nauman Ali, Shaheen Shah Afridi
Fall: 1-21 (Butt), 2-21 (Azhar), 3-22 (Abid)
Bowling: Rabada 13-1-36-0, Nortje 11-3-30-1, Maharaj 25-7-51-2, Linde 2.5-1-2-0, Elgar 1.1-0-6-0, Mulder 5-1-18-0
South Africa: *Quinton de Kock, Aiden Markram, Faf du Plessis, Dean Elgar, Temba Bavuma, Kagiso Rabada, Keshav Maharaj, Wiaan Mulder, Rassie van der Dussen, Anrich Nortje, George Linde
Umpires: Aleem Dar (PAK) and Ahsan Raza (PAK). TV umpire: Asif Yaqoob (PAK)
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