Pakistan v South Africa, 1st Test, Karachi, 1st day October 1, 2007

Amla capitalises on good batting track

Hashim Amla's knock of 71 was one of dogged patience and determined defense © Getty Images

Even though Hashim Amla perished late in the day, beaten by the new-ball movement of Mohammad Asif, his innings of 71 was of one of unadulterated patience, determined defence and steady concentration.

Although the majority of his time on the flat batting pitch in Karachi was spent playing second-fiddle to Jacques Kallis, who scored a century, there was still a need to stay and apply one's technique.

"The conditions were favourable for batting and Graeme [Smith] winning the toss really helped us," Amla said after the innings. "It is, however, a crumbling track and will deteriorate quickly which is why we are looking in excess of 500 as our first-innings score."

The pitch was believed to assist the spinners greatly - and it probably will more - prompting Pakistan to go in with four spinners (two front-line and two part-timers) and only two fast-bowlers. An hour into the day's play, there was neither seam movement for Asif or Umar Gul, nor was there any sharp spin to assist Danish Kaneria.

Pakistan's decision to go into the Test with only two fast bowlers surprised Amla in particular. "It was definitely unusual to play against only two fast bowlers and four spinners," he said, "especially before lunch on the first day, but we were prepared for it and played them well."

Amla appeared to be troubled by the spinners more than he was by the fast bowlers. On various occasions he tried to counter by sweeping his way out of strife, but only managed to top-edge the ball into the deep. Luckily for him, the ball landed safely on all occasions.

"Danish [Kaneria] got a lot of turn just before lunch and that made it difficult for me to play him at the start. However, as I got in, settled down and spent more time at the crease, I adjusted well and played him better."

Inevitably he was disappointed at being dismissed so close to the end and with a century on offer especially "after all the hard work we put in." He has, at least, the consolation of putting his side into a commanding position so early in this Test.

Faras Ghani is an editorial assistant on Cricinfo