JOHANNESBURG: Excellent catching from Pakistan restricted South Africa to 159-4 at tea on the opening day of the first Test here at the Wanderers today.
A quick-fire 79-run stand for the third wicket between Jacques Kallis and Hashim Amla looked to have given the hosts the advantage, but two fine catches dragged the visitors back into the contest. Kallis, having just reached his 58th Test 50, was caught by Asad Shafiq in the deep while Amla (37) was snapped up in the gully by Azhar Ali. AB de Villiers was unbeaten on 10 along with Faf du Plessis (14).
Resuming on 68-2 after lunch, Kallis and Amla flayed the bowling to all parts of the ground with some wonderfully controlled shots. They were particularly severe on debutant fast bowler Rahat Ali (0-43) on a pitch that was still giving assistance to the seamers.
The introduction of off-break bowler Saeed Ajmal failed to produce a wicket as there was precious little turn on offer. The breakthrough came with the score on 125 as Kallis chased a short ball outside off stump from Umar Gul, but top-edged his pull shot into the deep. Shafiq made huge ground to his left before producing a full-length dive to clasp the ball just above the turf.
Ten runs later and South Africa had lost Amla too, he hung his bat out to an innocuous Younis Khan delivery and the edge was expertly grasped by Azhar in the gully. Before lunch, Graeme Smith (24) failed to mark his special day with a big score when he was caught behind by Sarfraz Ahmed off Gul. Smith is captaining his 100th Test and also celebrating his 32nd birthday.
Four balls earlier fellow opener Alviro Petersen was caught at third slip by Mohamed Hafeez off the bowling of the excellent Junaid Khan. South Africa won the toss and chose to bat first on a lively wicket that has provided plenty of encouragement to the bowlers.