Jacques Kallis has admitted South Africa were taken by surprise on the opening morning in Abu Dhabi as Tanvir Ahmed, the Pakistan debutant, reduced them to 33 for 3 on a wicket that offered unexpected assistance to the quick bowlers. It required Kallis to dig deep into his reserves alongside AB de Villiers as the pair hit impressive hundreds to haul their team to a position of supremacy by the close on 311 for 5.
Pakistan opted to bowl first, which suited South Africa who would have batted in any event, and Tanvir made an immediate impression by removing Alviro Petersen with his third ball in Test cricket. He soon added the scalps of Hashim Amla and Graeme Smith to expose the middle order, but couldn't get past the formidable partnership of Kallis and de Villiers. The ultimate success for a batsman is to succeed in trying conditions and for Kallis, who scored an unbeaten 135 in Dubai, it was a challenge he relished.
"We had a look at it this morning but after the first over was bowled it really took us all by surprise," Kallis said. "We were going to bat in any case but it did a lot more than we thought and the boys really played well to get us in the game in a situation we are now.
"We were under a bit of pressure and needed a partnership. Fortunately myself and AB scored at a good rate as well so we could transfer a bit of pressure back on to Pakistan. The wicket played a little bit differently than what we thought and I think the seamers will be interested throughout the game."
Kallis has the reputation for being a stodgy batsman, but the evolution of Twenty20 has given him an extra gear which he is now willing to transfer into Test cricket. It was this counterattack which put Pakistan onto the back foot after a promising start and showed how a player can develop throughout a long career.
"I think probably in the last three or four years I have scored lot quicker than the previous part of my career," he said. "The batting line-up scores runs consistently which allows me to play with a lot of freedom and transfer a little bit more of the pressure. I just play every game as freely as I can and play by instinct."
South Africa will hope the Abu Dhabi surface continues to offer some assistance to the quick bowlers throughout the game after their victory push in Dubai was thwarted by a pitch which became slower and lower. However, it again looks like a situation where the new ball will be vital but Kallis is confident South Africa have the attack to prosper.
"It's certainly done a little for bowlers and that can help the bowlers throughout along with inconsistent bounce to add to that," he said. "I am positive that if we can put a lot of pressure on Pakistan it's not going to be easy especially in the last innings. There is always something for the seamers and it is hard work batting. We want to get around 400 and put the pressure on Pakistan and it would be good if our bowlers can exploit the conditions."