CENTURION, South Africa (AP) — An unbroken stand of 106 between AB de Villiers and Vernon Philander allowed South Africa to take the honors Friday after a fluctuating first day in the third test against Pakistan.
De Villiers was 98 and Philander on 45 when South Africa went to stumps on 334-6, while the home side was also indebted to Hashim Amla's 92 in recovering from precarious positions of 107-3 and 196-5.
Pakistan was left to lament an inconsistent day in the field at Centurion in which its bowlers produced some sublime deliveries but also failed to maintain pressure for prolonged spells.
South Africa was able to score at about four runs per over throughout the day, allowing the hosts to quickly recover from testing positions.
"There were times when they bowled well but then we would often get a loose ball and we could take advantage of that," Amla said.
South Africa captain Graeme Smith's decision after winning the toss was not a simple one, and he might have regretted opting to bat after Pakistan removed him and opening partner Alviro Petersen with just 38 runs scored.
"Overhead conditions suited batting," Amla said. "It was a 50-50 call to bat or bowl first. Everybody was undecided."
Rahat Ali made the initial breakthrough for Pakistan with Petersen trapped lbw, before debutant seamer Ehsan Adil took his first test wicket when he had Smith caught at second slip.
Amla put on 69 for the third wicket with Faf du Plessis in South Africa's first recovery of the day, but Du Plessis departed for 29 shortly after lunch when he edged a delivery from Adil.
Amla and De Villiers resurrected the innings in a brisk stand, but the balance swung again when Ali struck twice in consecutive overs. First he induced a tame edge from Amla, and then he trapped Dean Elgar lbw in his following over.
With Jacques Kallis missing the match due to a calf strain, South Africa was a batsman lighter than normal, but Robin Peterson and Philander weighed in with handy runs.
Peterson scored 28 in a 52-run partnership with De Villiers before he was run out by a direct hit from Mohammad Irfan, and Philander finished the day just short of a second test 50.
Kallis' injury, which was picked up while bowling in the nets on Thursday, allowed fast bowler Kyle Abbott to make his test debut for South Africa, while Pakistan made three changes.
One was enforced as Umar Gul had a sore throat and fever, giving Ali a second test, while opening batsman Nasir Jamshed was replaced by Imran Farhat and seamer Tanvir Ahmed by Adil.
Pakistan was dealt another blow in the final overs of the day when 19-year-old Adil limped off with a calf injury, leaving his participation in the remainder of the match uncertain.
"He will get 14 or 15 hours of rest tonight and we hope he will bowl tomorrow," Pakistan bowling coach Mohammad Akram said. "We brought him on this tour to give him some exposure. We started a policy to take young players with us since we do not have international cricket in Pakistan because then they can learn from being around the squad."