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The Report by Siddarth Ravindran
February 23, 2013
Pakistan 156 (Abbott 7-29) and 14 for 1 trail South Africa 409 (De Villiers 121, Amla 92, Philander 74, Rahat 6-127) by 239 runs
Scorecard and ball-by-ball details
It's been a heady couple of days for Kyle Abbott. On Friday, he got the exhilarating news that he would make his Test debut, after Jacques Kallis was ruled out with a calf injury. On Saturday, he grabbed that chance in the most spectacular manner, ripping through Pakistan's brittle batting to end with 7 for 29, the best figures by a South African in his first Test innings.
He's still only South Africa's sixth-choice fast bowler, but at Centurion he was the one proudly leading the team off the field after Pakistan were bundled out for 156. Dale Steyn, the premier quick bowler in the world, walked across and gave Abbott the innings ball to treasure.
Over the past year, Abbott worked on his fitness and shed plenty of kilos, before forcing his way into the national reckoning with a chart-topping haul of 49 wickets for Dolphins in South Africa's domestic competition.
A bustling bowler operating in the mid-130s kph range, he was accurate around off stump and consistently got the ball to zip away from the right-handers on a pitch that had variable bounce. It was that movement that confounded the Pakistan batsmen, with six of his victims edging to the slip cordon or gully. It was also a damning statement on the technique of some of the batsmen, as they regularly tried to defend with an open blade, resulting in outside edges that were eagerly snapped up behind the wicket.
Unlike every other innings in this series, Pakistan's openers actually managed to provide a solid start. Their highest partnership in four previous innings was 10, but this time Mohammad Hafeez and Imran Farhat, taking the place of the struggling Nasir Jamshed, kept out everything South Africa threw at them for over an hour.
South Africa's bowlers, yet again, showed their ability to turn the game around in a jiffy. From a steady 46 for 0, Pakistan slipped to 56 for 3 in the space of the 13 deliveries. Vernon Philander started the slide, by getting Farhat lbw with a full delivery. Abbott then became the second debutant in the game to get a wicket in his first over as Hafeez slapped the ball to gully where Dean Elgar scooped up a low catch. Azhar Ali followed next ball, as a Philander delivery stayed low and Ali's limp attempt at defence ended in an inside-edge onto the stumps.
Asad Shafiq, one of Pakistan's more successful batsman this series, was then trapped lbw by a pumped-up Steyn in the first over of the final session. Sarfraz Ahmed, whose batting has looked woefully short of international standard this series, resisted briefly, and with the help of Younis Khan, Pakistan's perennial saviour, he took the score to 132 for 5.
Just as Pakistan fans were beginning to hope that the follow-on could be avoided, Abbott took over, and the final five wickets were rolled over in 40 deliveries. He began by getting Sarfraz to nick to Graeme Smith at first slip and the very next delivery it was an action replay as Saeed Ajmal went for a golden duck. The smile kept getting wider as the spell continued and more lower-order batsmen gave catching practice. The final wicket was that of Younis, who had hung around gamely for 33 before falling lbw.
Younis didn't have much time to put his feet up, however, as Hafeez's horror tour ended with a golden duck in the second innings after Smith enforced the follow-on. Less than 15 minutes after having stuck around with the tail, Younis was back out to battle South Africa's fearsome pace pack.
Pakistan had had a bit to smile about in the morning session. Rahat Ali hadn't earned too many admirers after his lacklustre debut in Johannesburg earlier this month, and his shelling of an absolute sitter off AB de Villiers made him a laughing stock, but he silenced the doubters with a six-for that ended South Africa's first innings at 409. With debutant Ehsan Adil struggling with a leg injury, Ajmal understandably not at his most dangerous this early in the Test, and Mohammad Irfan tiring towards the end of the innings, Rahat was the most successful in an inexperienced Pakistan attack.
Before Rahat's strikes, de Villiers completed his 16th Test century, and Philander went on to his career-best score of 74 as they stretched their seventh wicket partnership to 129, and South Africa reached a total that they could be satisfied with.
Abbott made certain they had nothing to worry about, as he exemplified the depth of South Africa's talent pool and put them on their way to complete a summer of total Test success.
Siddarth Ravindran is a senior sub-editor at ESPNcricinfoFeeds: Siddarth Ravindran
© ESPN Sports Media Ltd.
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