The desert is supposed to be a parched, arid place but runs flowed freely as water for South Africa on first day of the first Test against Pakistan in Dubai. Graeme Smith and Alviro Petersen put on their first century opening partnership, Smith became the highest run scorer as a Test captain, Hashim Amla fell 20 short of an 11th Test century and Jacques Kallis is unbeaten on 53 going into the second day.

The scorecard doesn't reflect it, but the going was tough for the South African batsmen early on. Both Smith and Petersen survived early chances, with Petersen edging twice in two overs. He admitted that batting was difficult early one. "The wicket was quite slow upfront. Graeme and I had to graft hard for our runs," Petersen told ESPNCricinfo. The openers added 101 before lunch, with only 36 of those runs coming in boundaries. "We capitalised a lot on the singles and manipulating their field placements and slowly accumulated the runs."

It's the method of acquiring runs that pleased Smith most. "What we did well throughout today was taking a lot of singles. I think we rotated the strike well, so we managed to maintain a good rate," Smith said. South Africa scored 114 singles in their first day total of 311 for 3.

Smith himself started out tentatively. He had hit just one four in his half-century but loosened up after lunch to smack another seven before reaching his hundred. It was his 22nd Test century, during which he became the leading run-scorer as Test captain. He now has 6664 Test runs as captain, 41 more than previous record holder Allan Border managed while leading Australia. "It wasn't something I thought about before but it's an honour to be among the greats. I am proud of the record," Smith said. Border has also moved down a place to sixth on the all-time Test run scorers list, after Kallis moved past his tally of 11,174.

With South Africa's run-machine rolling steadily on, it vindicated the preparation they had done ahead of the series. "We've executed our game plan well," Smith said. "I think from a batting perspective our top six have been very good at that over the past three years."

Firdose Moonda is ESPNcricinfo's South Africa correspondent