Wanderers, Johannesburg

 South Africa won by 211 runs

Test Cricket Framed

On the first day of a momentous test match- where Graeme Smith became the first ever captain to lead a team in 100 tests- Pakistan’s ever-changing ever-evolving bowling attack came to the party. Not that there was any doubt, but they sealed themselves as a team whose bowlers- however new and inexperienced- are feared the world over. They seem to find replacements for banned bowlers on a whim, literally from streets and villages- a far cry from their sub continent neighbours that have struggled for generations to produce seam bowlers of worth. While India and Sri Lanka struggle to find any sort of bowling consistency, Pakistan’s new hope Junaid Khan continued his rise- and combined with Hafeez to wipe out a very strong South African batting lineup in less than a day.

A 50 in his 100th Test as Captain

A score of 253 in the first innings of the 1st test of this tour had set tongues wagging about how even this contest can be- what with two of the best bowling attacks in the world facing off on helpful pitches.

As always, many judged the value of the ‘low’ score based on just one side batting. Pakistan are notorious for their middle-order collapses, but they went one up and crashed top to bottom- falling victim to one of the better seam bowling spells in test history. Who else, but Dale Steyn. Matched only by his recent IPL blasts and his test blast against Tendulkar at Durban, 2011- Steyn produced astounding figures of 6-8 by the end of the innings, and put their own 253 into perspective.

Misbah gets a Steyn special

Pakistan were bowled out for 49 without so much as a whiff of recovery. The writing was already on the board, and it was only a matter of time before South Africa were 1-0 up in the series. Along the way, somehow, AB De Villiers, who has been riled for his dual role of wicketkeeper-batsman, equaled the world record of most catches (11) in a match. He also became the first ever keeper-batsman to score a century while pouching over 10 in the same match. South Africa drove home their ascendency with an aggressive second innings 275/3 at over 4 an over- much like ruthless champions brushing off their first-day troubles as a mere flash in the Pakistani pan.

Any other team, at this stage, would have probably scored over 300 to give Pakistan an unreachable target of over 500 over 3 days. But South Africa, as confident as any dominant force over the years, set Pakistan 478- an ode to Smith’s leadership, that has always weathered the storm and settled into a permanent pattern.

He’s a Keeper!

After another lung-busting blast of 11 overs by Steyn to finish off the test with 11 wickets, with some resistance offered by Pakistan’s middle order, South Africa continued their successful Summer with another test win, going 1-0 up in what was to be a potentially tough series. Smith won his 48th test as captain out of 100, equaling Ponting’s win-record (in 75 tests)- needing 1 more to become the most successful captain of all time. That Waugh managed 43 wins in only 57 tests in charge also underlined how South Africa have been a force under work for over a decade- always maintaining a high level, but never really challenging for outright no. 1 till now (coincidentally, after Kirsten took over as coach).

Whatever the situation, this South African team are beginning to resemble one of those long-time dominating forces in a sport- that could show no signs of stopping or slowing down, with a perfect system in place, until…World Cup 2015.

Or could they get the ICC voodoo off their back finally? It’s about time, one must imagine.

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