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October 8, 2007
Ashwell Prince got off the mark with his second ball this afternoon, promping one journalist to call it a brisk start, in not as many words. Prince then hit a boundary, a languid cover drive which seemed out of place with his game's character, off only his sixth delivery and it appeared a rare, fluid Prince innings had been forged.
It didn't quite turn out that way, but a sixth Test fifty, as is increasingly becoming the case, came in circumstances when it was most needed. Mohammad Asif had his tail up, Danish Kaneria was locked in at the other end and South Africa might just have been pondering over their decision to bat first.
The tone for Prince's innings was set in that afternoon spell, not his first few deliveries. He took what singles he could find, mostly content to provide Jacques Kallis some company and soak up what the Pakistan attack threw his way. Every now and again he reminded us of his shot-making skills, as when he greeted Abdur Rehman's first ball with a dancing, dashing on-drive. But for much of the day, Prince - and South Africa - ground out what runs they could. The pitch wasn't Karachi and neither was the bowling.
"It's a different pitch [to Karachi]," he offered later, as explanation perhaps for eventually taking three hours to make 63. "There is more in it for the bowlers. Pakistan bowled well today, especially Mohammad Asif, who beat the bat several times. It's a different game altogether. In Karachi you could plant your front foot down and just play but you can't do that here."
Like his start, his end was most un-Princely. A sixth Test century was just about becoming inevitable, but clearly something about Rehman got him in the mood to jig. Down the track came Prince, only to be beaten in flight and bowled, leaving him to look a little, well, irresponsible, as Prince himself put it.
Irresponsibility, followed by a little luck in AB de Villiers' dismissal at the end of the day, made a decent day for South Africa a little less so. Mark Boucher remains with the tail for company and a new ball only two overs old.
"It's a little bit even," was Prince's assessment. "But that last wicket was unfortunate and probably tilted the balance a little in Pakistan's favour. We still have Mark out there and he can attack. It's a new ball yes, but it can go the boundary faster as well so it depends on how they attack and bowl tomorrow."
With the pitch offering more bounce, something South Africa's pace bowlers won't ever complain about, any total might make it difficult for Pakistan's batsmen. "There is more bounce here than in Karachi and that will help our bowlers more," concurred Prince. "Also it turned more than we thought it might on the first day, but again, as Pakistan have to bat last, that is beneficial to us as well."
Indeed, Paul Harris will not mind that either.
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