Gibbs and Smith hammer Pakistan into submission at Newlands
Records may have tumbled during the Second Castle Lager/MTN Test between South Africa and Pakistan in Cape Town, but the day belonged to Herschelle Gibbs who walked off the lush Newlands turf on cloud nine as he waved to an appreciative crowd.
Opening the batting with Graeme Smith, Gibbs nearly batted through the day to become the sixth South African to score 3,000 Test runs and the holder of the highest individual Test innings at Newlands.
His 200 was also the second fastest Test double hundred to be scored in terms of balls faced. Facing 211, he stroked 26 fours and smashed five sixes into the stands. By the time Saqlain Mushtaq got one through his defence he had 228 to his name and an innings rated by some as the best seen on South Africa soil for many a year.
Graeme Smith, after being left out of the World Cup squad, answered the national selectors in the only way possible, scoring an excellent 151 but his innings was dwarfed by the quality entertainment supplied by Gibbs. On any other day he would have been lauded, but picked a day when Gibbs was at his glorious best.
The two first broke all the possible partnership records for South Africa against Pakistan before passing the 260-run South African first wicket partnership, between Bruce Mitchell and Ivan Siedle against England at the same ground during the 1930/31 season.
Next to fall was the 341-run highest South African partnership for any wicket, that set by Eddie Barlow and Graeme Pollock against Australia in Adelaide during the 1963/64 season.
By the time Smith was bowled by Mohammad Zahid the partnership had grown to 368 becoming the fourth highest first wicket partnership in Test history.
As much as the Pakistan bowling was below par, it was their fielding that let them down. Dropping three simple catches on a batting paradise was always going to put them under immense pressure. Smith was dropped in the slips on 54 while Gibbs was given two very expensive chances, one on 31 at backward point and one at midwicket when he was on 99.
The bowling too was poor, with none of the bowlers finding the correct length and line. More than 50 per cent of the South African runs coming on the leg side and a further 19 runs being given away in no balls. Waqar ended one over away from conceding 100 runs, while Saqlain saw 160 runs taken off his off-spin.
When stumps was called for bad light, 70 minutes after the scheduled close, with one over still to be bowled, South Africa had moved to 445/3, another record as the highest total scored in a days play. Without doubt the match referee, Gundappa Viswanath from India, will have something to say about the Pakistan dismal slow over rate.
Jacques Kallis on 19 and Boeta Dippenaar on eight will start proceedings for South Africa on day two. Pakistan will be in bed early after a hard day in the field, contemplating on what might have been if they had held onto the catches offered, while South Africa will sleep well knowing that they have put themselves into a very favourable position after the first day's play.