Proteas take lead over Pakistan at end of Day 2

Together with Temba Bavuma, Faf du Plessis made up one half of the bedrock of the South African innings.

Temba Bavuma and Faf du Plessis during the Test against Pakistan on 4 January 2019. Picture: Twitter/OfficialCSA

CAPE TOWN - In a game that has so far been defined by the smallest of margins, millimetres made up the difference between a good score by the Proteas and a potentially match-winning one.

But as much as good and great were decided by finest margins on Friday, the difference between Proteas captain Faf du Plessis and anything Pakistan had to throw at him was as stark as day and night.

It was a gutsy innings by Du Plessis, enduring the pain of being hit on the fingers, multiple times, and cramp in his hands that later set in. He went on to compile his first Test century off 209 balls, his first at Newlands and a first against Pakistan. It was the most emphatic riposte to his pair at Centurion a week ago in the first Test.

Together with Temba Bavuma, Du Plessis made up one half of the bedrock of the South African innings. The pair put on 156 runs for the fifth wicket, erasing any hope Pakistan have of squaring the series. It was the finest of edges too that eventually saw off Du Plessis - knicking an Afridi delivery to Pakistan wicketkeeper and captain Sarfraz Ahmed.

For much of the second day of the second Test match, Pakistan bowlers were always in with a shout, aided by some uneven bounce and unpredictable movement off the pitch. But Du Plessis and the hardworking Bavuma were, for the most part, equal to the task of stabilising a jittery first session by the Proteas batsmen.

South Africa lost Hashim Amla early on, without adding to his overnight score of 24. Theunis de Bruyn, who must now be worried about his place in the lineup, managed just 13 runs. He stuttered along, but eventually perished at the hands of Afridi who produced a blistering delivery to find the hands of Babar Azam in the slips. At 149/4, it was not an ideal start for the Proteas.

After Thursday’s grilling at the hands of their South African counterparts Pakistan’s bowlers were able to find openings in the Proteas top order. But for mere centimetres, the tone of the match would have been very different.

On a pitch that still offered plenty of movement and bounce, Pakistan were able to get an early breakthrough. Amla was bowled around his legs when he walked across a Mohammad Abbas delivery in the 32nd over of the innings, without adding to his overnight score of 24.

Abbas and Shaheen Afridi were able to land the ball in the right areas and create enough doubt in the minds of the South African batsmen.

Du Plessis and Temba Bavuma steadied things and accumulated runs almost at will, but not without some close calls along the way.

Bavuma survived a dismissal in the slips by Azhar Ali off the bowling off Abbas, when he was on just 3. Ali claimed the catch but Bavuma stood, before the matter was referred to the third umpire. In almost a carbon copy of “the catch that wasn’t” in Centurion in the first Test (also by Ali), excruciating slow-motion replays and magnification suggested the ball touched the ground first, before Ali’s fingers got under it.

The soft signal from umpire Bruce Oxenford was “out” which meant the third umpire had to find video evidence to the contrary. He did, and there were centimeters in it. Bavuma had another life on the pitch where he scored his maiden Test century. Two overs later Bavuma was hit on the box and survived an LBW review. Replays suggested the ball bounced too high.

Curiously Pakistan delayed their acceptance of the new ball by three overs. Muhammad Abbas took the new ball after two balls in the 84th over.

It was in the 90th over that Bavuma again faced the prospect of dismissal when he was given out LBW off the bowling of Afridi. Umpire Oxenford raised his finger but Bavuma reviewed it. Fortunately for him, there was again just millimetres in it – an extra coat of paint on the wickets and Bavuma would have been out.

In the end, it was Du Plessis and Bavuma that has shut the door on a Pakistan victory. The best the visitors could hope for now is to be put out of their misery as South Africa look to amass an unattainable lead, and put their opponents in to bat.

Quinton De Kock piled on the pain for Pakistan with a quickfire 52 off 59 balls, in contrast to the patient game played by Du Plessis and Bavuma.

Luck clearly was on South Africa’s side even after Bavuma departed. De Kock had his heart in his mouth early in his innings as he watched a delivery from Afridi bounce perilously close, missing it by millimetres. He survived and continued on his merry way to 55 not out.

South Africa head into day three on 382/6 and with a gaping lead of 205 runs over hapless Pakistan.

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