Kallis and Amla put South Africa in charge
An imposing century by Jacques Kallis gave South Africa the honours on the first day of the first Test after Graeme Smith had won the toss and elected to bat on a hot Karachi morning. They ended the day on 294 for 3, with Kallis unbeaten on 118.
Starting cautiously and taking 14 deliveries to get off the mark, Kallis hit his stride soon with elegant drives square of the wicket. The slow pitch and hot weather made bowling difficult and anything short in length was ruthlessly cut and ended up penetrating a strong off-side field. Dropped on 36 and 61, Kallis ensured an otherwise fluent innings playing majority of his strokes along the ground.
He dominated the 170-run third wicket partnership with Hashim Amla, in terms of both strike and runs, and relieved the pressure when Amla got bogged down against the spinners. Kallis was not afraid to use his feet against the slower bowlers and scored at a quicker rate than normal, reaching 50 off 91 balls and his hundred off 147 balls.
The foundation for the innings, however, was laid by a confident opening stand of 87 between Smith and Herschelle Gibbs that punished some wayward bowling by Mohammad Asif and Umar Gul. Not getting any early movement off the pitch or in the air, the bowlers erred in line and length and allowed South Africa reach 50 in the 12th over. Striving for the yorkers he delivered so successfully during the World Twenty20, Gul was frequently driven through extra cover and was duly replaced by Danish Kaneria in the tenth over.
The slowness of the pitch was apparent as Asif, trying to bowl short, was pulled by Gibbs to square leg on several occasions. Pakistan lacked energy and creativity in the field and Shoaib Malik, the captain, tried six bowlers before lunch, including debutant Abdur Rehman. It was, however, Mohammad Hafeez who got the first breakthrough as Smith went back to a straight ball and got hit on the back leg in front of off stump.
Gibbs slashed at a wide Gul delivery after lunch and was caught at gully by Hafeez but it was all Kallis and Amla from then on. Though the bowlers were able to swing and spin the older ball, a play-and-miss was the best they could achieve on a deteriorating pitch. It was the new ball, taken in the 82nd over, that brought the wicket of Amla, who fell for a sedate 71. Being overshadowed, and perhaps awed, by Kallis' performance, and finding it difficult to get the spinners away, Amla dealt mostly in singles but dispatched Rehman into the sighstcreen after he had managed to dry up the scoring.
With Kallis unbeaten on 118 overnight, and not having scored a double-century yet in his 107-Test career, a long day in the field looks on the cards for the home team while they rue the dropped catches and missed run-out opportunities.
Faras Ghani is an editorial assistant on Cricinfo