Centurion: DeanElgar and Hashim Amla hit half-centuries as South Africa beat Pakistan by sixwickets inside three days in the first Test at SuperSport Park on Friday. Thepair survived some early scares and put on 119 for the second wicket beforeElgar was caught behind off part-time medium-pacer Shan Masood for 50, one ballafter reaching his half-century. Amla finished a year in which he seldom foundtop form by making 63 not out.

Thevalue of the partnership between Elgar and Amla was shown as Theunis de Bruynand captain Faf du Plessis both fell cheaply before Temba Bavuma swept YasirShah for four to take South Africa past their target of 149 shortly before teaon the third day. Both captains, Du Plessis and Pakistan’s Sarfraz Ahmed, made‘pairs’ by being dismissed without scoring in both innings. Pakistan made anideal start when Hasan Ali trapped Aiden Markram leg before wicket before a runhad been scored. Hasan and Mohammad Amir did not concede a run off the batuntil Amla clipped Hasan for four in the sixth over.


Therewere two crucial incidents with the total on 16, either of which could haveswung the game in Pakistan’s favour. Amla, on eight, was dropped by FakharZaman at third slip off Hasan when he slashed hard at the ball, which flew atchest height to the fielder. In the next over, Elgar, on four, edged new bowlerShaheen Shah Afridi low to first slip where Azhar Ali appeared to take a divingcatch. On-field umpires Bruce Oxenford and Sundaram Ravi conferred beforereferring to television umpire Joel Wilson with a ‘soft’ signal of out,indicating they thought it was a clean catch. After looking at several replays,including super-slow close-ups, Wilson ruled the ball had bounced and Elgar wasreprieved.

Thedecision clearly astonished the Pakistan players and coach Mickey Arthur wasseen leaving his place on the players’ balcony and going to the adjacent officeof match referee David Boon. Television commentator Michael Holding criticisedhis fellow West Indian Wilson. “I’m convinced he was out,” saidHolding. “I think the third umpire made a mistake. The protocol says youhave got to be 100 percent sure the decision was wrong to change it.”             

Ina similar situation, Indian captain Virat Kohli was given out in the recentsecond Test against Australia in Perth when television umpire Nigel Llong foundno conclusive evidence to overturn a ‘soft’ signal from the on-field umpires. Elgarand Amla survived some testing bowling from the Pakistan seamers and graduallybegan to lift the scoring rate on a pitch which favoured bowlers throughout. SouthAfrican fast bowler Duanne Olivier was named man of the match for his matchreturn of 11-96. The second Test begins in Cape Town on January 3.

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