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Amla takes SAfrica to 6-wicket win in 1st test vs. Pakistan

December 28, 2018
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Pakistan's bowler Hasan Ali, left, reacts after teammate dropped a catch off South Africa's batsman Hashim Amla on day three of the first cricket test match between South Africa and Pakistan at Centurion Park in Pretoria, South Africa, Friday, Dec. 28, 2018. (AP Photo/Themba Hadebe)

CENTURION, South Africa (AP) — South Africa won the first test against Pakistan on Friday as Hashim Amla held together a shaky run-chase to see his team to a six-wicket victory in a game settled on the third day but turned on its head in one session a day earlier.

Amla made 63 not out — his first half-century in 11 innings going back to March — to take South Africa to 151-4 and past the target of 149.

Opener Dean Elgar contributed 50 and shared a match-clinching partnership of 119 with Amla for the second wicket before Elgar’s departure a ball after getting to 50 sparked a flurry of wickets near the end.

South Africa steadied itself to take an early lead in the three-match series. It was all over well before tea on Day 3 after a green-tinged pitch at SuperSport Park provided lots of help to both teams’ fast bowlers and the batters duly struggled against the pace, bounce and movement.

Pakistan was bowled out for 181 in its first innings after taking the risky option of batting first — a decision that ultimately backfired. South Africa replied with not much more, 223 all out, in its first innings.

At 100-1 at tea on Day 2, Pakistan had forced its way in front. The tourists looked set to build a significant lead and put themselves in a position of strength only to lose nine wickets for 89 runs in a sudden, game-changing collapse that left South Africa with a modest score to chase instead.

“I felt that was probably the match-turning moment,” South Africa captain Faf du Plessis said. “Both teams were similar in the first innings, very good (bowling) attacks on a tough batting pitch.

“That period there when we got nine wickets, incredible effort from the bowlers.”

South Africa’s match-winner was Duanne Olivier, the fast bowler who wasn’t meant to be playing in the series-opener but was drafted in after injuries to fellow quicks Vernon Philander and Lungi Ngidi.

He finished with six wickets in the first innings and five in the second, bowling short-pitched, fast and hostile spells to collect 11-96 in the match and the 10th-best figures ever for a South African in a test. His wickets included four of the nine to fall in that crucial post-tea session on Thursday.

“We are definitely disappointed that we had our opportunity to put runs on the board and we didn’t capitalize after tea (on Thursday),” Pakistan captain Sarfraz Ahmed said. “And we lost too many wickets in one session.

“We have quality fast bowling ... they bowled really well but we have to score runs. If we don’t score runs, it’s not easy.”

South Africa’s victory also only came after a series of scares at the beginning and end of its second innings.

Opener Aiden Markram was out second over with no runs on the board, lbw to Hasan Ali.

And although Amla eventually played his way out of his dip in form — stroking 11 fours and batting for four hours — he was let off on 8 when an edge off Ali went straight to Fakhar Zaman at third slip and dropped out of his hands.

The next over, Elgar survived a contentious umpiring decision that ruled out a low slip catch that appeared to be good. Elgar was on 4 at the time. If both chances had gone Pakistan’s way, South Africa would have been 16-3.

“You need a bit of a luck and obviously there was a bit of luck for us there,” du Plessis said.

In the shaky finish, Theunis de Bruyn (10) was stumped off legspinner Yasir Shah after striding out of his crease to drive, the first and only one of the 34 wickets in the match to be taken by a spinner.

Du Plessis was caught in the deep for 0 trying to hook an over after de Bruyn departed. South Africa needed just 12 runs to win at that point and it meant a pair of ducks for the South Africa skipper in the test.

Temba Bavuma was 13 not out to take South Africa over the line with Amla.

The second test in Cape Town starts on Thursday, when Pakistan will likely have front-line fast bowler Mohammad Abbas back from injury, although captain Sarfraz said the batting needed more attention.

“We are very hopeful that if we work hard in the nets we’ll bounce back,” he said.

Incredibly, Olivier may miss the second match despite his career-best performance, with seamer Philander, whose record at his home ground in Cape Town is outstanding, expected to recover from injury for South Africa.

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