Smith's hundred leads solid South Africa day
South Africa 311 for 3 (Smith 100, Amla 80, Petersen 67, Kallis 53*) v Pakistan
Scorecard and ball-by-ball details
Graeme Smith led the way in a strong South Africa display with his 22nd Test century to help his team reach a commanding 311 for 3 on the first day in Dubai. He and Alviro Petersen used up a fair degree of luck in their stand of 153 before Hashim Amla and Jacques Kallis consolidated in professional style with a partnership of 117 as Pakistan's bowlers struggled to make an impression in flat conditions.
With no wickets falling in the first hour it became a day where the batsmen would have to get themselves out and both openers fell to careless shots, but South Africa never appeared in any real danger of their solid day's work being derailed by a clatter of wickets. On current form there probably wasn't a better pair than Amla and Kallis to build on a strong opening partnership. Such was their control that it was a major surprise when Amla's concentration failed him four overs from the end with a flat-footed drive at Wahab Riaz, who then worryingly left the field, but Kallis remained entrenched on 53.
Smith's innings wasn't the most fluent he'll ever play, but he battled through a tricky start and was much more expressive during the middle session as he reached three figures from 151 balls. The stage was set for a massive contribution from the captain, but from his next ball he pulled a bouncer to deep square-leg and departed in disgust at the wasteful shot. However, on reaching three figures for the 20th time in charge of his team, he set a new landmark for captains, having earlier become the most prolific run-scorer among Test leaders.
The Middle East is likely to be Pakistan's home for a long time and the surface produced for Dubai Sports City's first Test certainly resembled something from Karachi or Lahore. Barring some early movement there was nothing for the quicks and while signs of turn suggested the spinners will play a key role, for now there are masses of runs on offer.
However, Pakistan, who made seven changes from their previous Test against at Lord's for a variety of reasons ranging from suspension to Mohammad Yousuf's late injury, should have had an early wicket which could have given the day a different complexion. In the third over Umar Gul produced a perfect leg-cutter which squared-up Petersen and took the edge to the new wicketkeeper Adnan Akmal - making his debut in place of the AWOL Zulqarnain Haider - only for Daryl Harper to turn down the appeal.
The replays weren't good for Harper as they confirmed a healthy edge and once again put him under scrutiny. There is no UDRS in this series with the PCB having been unable to come to a deal with broadcasters. With just two quicks in the side, Pakistan desperately needed an early breakthrough and deserved better for their opening efforts.
Petersen made the most of his second chance with an increasingly aggressive innings. Spin was in the action by the 10th over and Petersen responded by skipping down at Abdur Rehman to chip him over midwicket and later repeated the dose with a sweet strike over mid-off as he reached fifty from 69 balls.
The early part of Smith's innings was more of a grind and he escaped a stumping opportunity on 12 when Adnan couldn't glove a delivery from Rehman that spun between Smith's bat and pad from the footmarks. It wasn't the easiest of chances, but a Test-class wicketkeeper should have at least been able to make an attempt.
Pakistan's poor ground fielding also made an appearance when Azhar Ali couldn't pick up the ball at short fine-leg as Smith struggled to turn mid-pitch having been sent back by Petersen. Smith had his problems picking Saeed Ajmal's doosra, and also spooned a pull just over the head of midwicket shortly before lunch, but the first over of the second session marked a change for Smith as he struck the opening three balls through the off side for four.
There was a definite attempt to increase the tempo and Pakistan were looking increasingly short of ideas when one of the worst deliveries of the day, a long hop from Rehman, was pulled to midwicket by Petersen where Younis Khan leapt and took a one-handed catch above his head. It was a rare moment of fielding brilliance from Pakistan, although they deserve credit for not completely falling apart under the weight of runs.
Gul had deserved more with the new ball and Riaz produced a wholehearted display which included a well-directed bouncer to induce Smith's final pull shot. However, Amla is currently in the form of his life and an effortless back-foot punch off Riaz was the early highlight of his innings and an almost inevitable fifty came from 93 balls. One attempt to go over cover nearly took a leading edge, but largely he used his feet with the confidence of a man at ease with his game.
Nothing looked more certain than him being there in sight of a hundred in the morning, but Riaz's late strike meant Pakistan could leave the field feeling a little more positive about life. However, with Kallis still there that feeling may not last too long.
Andrew McGlashan is an assistant editor at Cricinfo