Pakistan v South Africa, 1st Test, Abu Dhabi, 2nd day October 15, 2013

Manzoor ton breaks top-order drought

Pakistan 263 for 3 (Manzoor 131*, Masood 75) lead South Africa 249 (Amla 118, Duminy 57, Irfan 3-44, Babar 3-89) by 14 runs
Scorecard and ball-by-ball details

Usually, a couple of hours into a Pakistan Test innings, Younis Khan is in the middle trying to rescue the team after the top order has floundered. In Abu Dhabi, he was relaxing in the pavilion, fiddling around with a camera while chatting with Junaid Khan. He could afford to joke around as Pakistan's new opening pair, Khurram Manzoor and Shan Masood, put on 135 runs, Pakistan's first century stand for the first wicket since January 2012, back when they were making a mockery of England's No. 1 ranking.

It is much too soon to talk of them making a mockery of the current No.1 side in the world, but Pakistan's sixth opening combination in seven Tests put them on course for a healthy first-innings score. Manzoor went on to his maiden Test century, the first by a Pakistan opener against South Africa in a decade, to heap the pressure on Graeme Smith's side.

Manzoor is only playing his 10th Test, spread over more than four years, but was already deemed the senior opener in the squad, after Mohammad Hafeez was axed. He is fresh off twin half-centuries in his previous Test, and though he had a few nervy moments early on, he didn't throw away his wicket. He was generally watchful against the quicks, wearing a blow on his ribs from Jacques Kallis, and only opened out just before lunch when the spinners came on, taking three boundaries in two overs.

What stood out as much as his crisp strokeplay and concentration was his desire to get a big score. He regularly chided himself when he played a loose shot, even knocking his helmet with his bat several times after chasing a wide one from Vernon Philander and nearly nicking it when on 90. It was a bit of struggle for him around that time, scoring only one run in 24 deliveries. Just as the pressure was mounting on him, he broke free with consecutive boundaries off Robin Peterson. The century arrived soon after with a push towards cover for two, celebrating in a chest-thumpingly exuberant manner.

His combativeness was also on display late in the day, when a wicketless Dale Steyn charged in with the second new ball. When Steyn flung the ball at him after fielding it, Manzoor didn't back down, instead blowing kisses back at him.

His opening partner Masood, making his debut, outside-edged his first ball in international cricket past the slips, survived a half chance to Jacques Kallis at second slip and had several plays-and-misses but he didn't look out of his depth in Test cricket. He pounced on the many leg-stump deliveries offered in the morning session and kept up a brisk scoring rate, and also eased the pressure with several quick singles. He looked particularly strong on the leg side, confidently pulling Philander and using his wrists when Steyn overpitched.

Steyn had a rare off day with the new ball, leaking 31 in five overs and didn't pose a threat consistently enough. Philander, playing his first Test in Asia, maintained the tight line he is renowned for but pitched a touch too short on a surface which is slower than the ones he is accustomed to. Morne Morkel was the best of the bowlers, probing away around off and getting the ball to rear at the batsmen.

The slow pitch wasn't giving the quicks anything though, and South Africa's most glaring weakness - their spin department - was asked to deliver. Robin Peterson didn't show the accuracy necessary for a lead spinner, and it was JP Duminy who finally provided the breakthrough, getting Masood lbw with tea approaching.

South Africa got a couple more wickets early in the final session - Azhar Ali's wretched form extended and Younis was undone by a snorter from Morkel - but Pakistan didn't unravel as their batting rock, Misbah-ul-Haq, resisted with Manzoor for nearly two hours. Misbah used the reverse-sweep and paddle-sweep to exploit the gaps in the field and ended the day unbeaten on 44.

South Africa's day didn't get off to the best of starts either as their final two wickets went down within 19 deliveries and their innings wrapped up for the addition of just four runs to the overnight score.

Siddarth Ravindran is a senior sub-editor at ESPNcricinfo

Comments