Tea South Africa 281 for 4 (du Plessis 80*, Bavuma 60*) lead Pakistan 177 by 104 runs
Faf du Plessis bounced back from his pair at Centurion with a captain’s innings of 80 not out, and Temba Bavuma added a fluent half-century of his own, as South Africa ground out a significant first-innings lead on the second day at Cape Town to leave Pakistan needing snookers to revive their hopes in the second Test.
By tea, du Plessis and Bavuma had added 132 for the fifth wicket, to eke out a lead of 104 with ten sessions of the match still to come. Given that their opponents have yet to cross 200 in any of their three innings to date, another session of accumulation could well be enough to put the match beyond doubt.
And if that should come to pass, then Pakistan may well look back on a critical moment in the second hour of the morning session, when Bavuma, on 3 at the time, was reprieved by the third umpire, S Ravi, after a low edge to Azhar Ali at slip had been sent upstairs.
It was an excruciatingly close call, with Azhar’s fingers seemingly wrapped around the ball, but with the turf appearing to assist the completion of the catch. However, given that the on-field umpire, Bruce Oxenford, had given a soft signal of ‘out’, Pakistan had plenty reason to feel sore that the benefit of the doubt had again not gone their way.
Bavuma, who had only arrived at the crease in the previous over following Shaheen Afridi’s extraction of Theunis de Bruyn, grew in stature after his let-off, just as the wind appeared to go out of Pakistan’s sails. With his captain alongside him, Bavuma set himself for the long haul, with good awareness of his off stump and judicious use of the leave, but also with a keen eye for the loose delivery.
With Yasir Shah curiously under-used, Pakistan’s trio of quicks performed the bulk of the work in the first two sessions – a fact that doubtless contributed to Sarfraz Ahmed’s delayed call for the new ball in the final 20 minutes before tea.
And though Mohammad Abbas was his usual wobbly self, bowling Hashim Amla with a snorter in his first over of the day and threatening the edge regularly thereafter, neither of the left-armers, Mohammad Amir or Afridi, could find much to trouble Bavuma or du Plessis as they persistently angled the ball across their bows in search of reverse swing, but finding little deviation through the air.
Afridi did bag Pakistan’s other wicket of the day, when he drew de Bruyn into a loose slash at a wide ball outside off. Babar Azam at gully barely flinched as the ball fizzed into his upturned palms, and when Bavuma, one over later, edged Abbas into the cordon, South Africa had seemingly slipped to 156 for 5 – with deficit of 21 and a few jitters in store for the lower order. The third umpire’s decision, however, scotched that mini-revival, and neither incumbent looked back.
Du Plessis was the first to reach his half-century, from 111 balls with six fours, the majority crunched through the covers whenever the seamers overpitched. In between his bouts of introspection, Bavuma was more varied in his strokeplay, slashing a brace of cuts through point early in his stay before greeting Yasir with a gleeful lofted drive over long-on. Between them, they added 93 runs in the course of the afternoon session, to leave Pakistan with much to ponder at the interval.