It was a messy, messy day for South Africa in the field on the second day of the first Test against Pakistan in Karachi on Wednesday as they not only dropped catches and misfielded too often to maintain pressure, but they also wasted their three reviews and lost their way with the second new ball.
Having been bowled out for a disappointing 220 on the first day, the Proteas reduced Pakistan to 33 for four overnight and there were high hopes they would be able to bowl the home side out on Wednesday and get a handy lead.
Instead Pakistan, led by a superbly tenacious century by Fawad Alam, scored 275 runs in the day and lost just four wickets to reach 308 for eight at stumps, already leading by 88 – a sizeable lead.
The bowling effort, once again led by an unfortunate Kagiso Rabada, could not be faulted for much of the day, but they were not backed up by their fielders.
Fawad, who was eventually dismissed for 109, was dropped on 37 at slip by Dean Elgar off Keshav Maharaj, a sharp chance that hit his boot because he could not get his hands down in time. Faheem Ashraf, who belted a belligerent 64 off 84 and shared the match-defining partnership thus far of 102 for the seventh wicket with Fawad, was dropped on 21 by wicketkeeper Quinton de Kock off Rabada. It was a tough, low chance diving to his left, but South Africa’s captain has taken those more often than not.
Another anomaly occurred late in the day when Hasan Ali, on 6, skied Maharaj over mid-on and Faf du Plessis, running back, could not get a hand on it. The hard-hitting Hasan has the ability to hurt South Africa further on the third day as he is 11 not out at stumps.
Skipper De Kock was also not at his best when using South Africa’s reviews, gambling and losing all three of them.
While South Africa have lost many great cricketers in recent years in both the batting and bowling departments, they also seem to have lost much of the fielding prowess that used to make them the benchmark. There were several intense spells by the bowlers, but too often the pressure was released by a fielding error which allowed the strike to be rotated.
South Africa were still eyeing a lead when Pakistan were 176 for six, and they took the second new ball three overs late when Fawad and Faheem had already lifted the score to 214 for six. Maharaj surprisingly kept bowling, even part-time offie Aiden Markram had a go, and within 10 overs the home side had raced to 259 for six.
Nevertheless, Maharaj, who also bowled Hasan late in the day but had delivered a no-ball, said it was still within South Africa’s capability to win the game.
“The pitch still looks pretty good, there are some footmarks but it’s just the usual wear and tear, and we will just try and bat for as long as possible,” Maharaj said.
“I don’t know how much the pitch will deteriorate by the end of the third day, but Fawad showed that if you apply yourself you can get runs. There was not as much turn today as you might have expected seeing Yasir Shah on the first day, but he is a wrist-spinner.
“So it was a decent day for us, we controlled the run-rate really well, we did not let it get out of hand and it’s still less than three. So the bowling unit really did a good job and I thought we fielded pretty well. Yes, there were some slumps, and some catches were dropped, but that’s expected, there are always going to be a few half-chances.”