- South Africa v Pakistan, 3rd Test, Centurion, 1st day
AB de Villiers stars for South Africa
Scorecard and ball-by-ball details
Before the start of the Test Pakistan received the unpleasant news that two of their main bowlers won't be available - Umar Gul out due to a sore throat and Junaid Khan still recovering from the injury that kept him out of the Newlands Test - leaving their pace attack with a total of only two caps coming into the match. South Africa also had an injury-related jolt as Jacques Kallis was forced out with a calf problem he picked up during an optional training session.
Two sessions into the game, it was Pakistan who were dealing with the losses better than South Africa, having dismissed five of the home side's mighty batting line-up. They gave it away in the final session, though, with AB de Villiers marching towards an easy-on-the-eye 16th Test century and South Africa's lower-order again proving hard to dislodge.
Before De Villiers took charge of the innings, it was Hashim Amla who troubled Pakistan. Amla extended the form that made him the world's No. 1 Test batsman to serve up a stylish 92, and in the company of De Villiers, took South Africa to a position of strength before a double-strike from Rahat Ali lifted Pakistan, and denied Amla another Test hundred.
Rahat had also provided the early wicket after Graeme Smith won his third toss in a row and for the third time took the slightly unpopular decision, this time to bat. Rahat began with a wayward over, in which he was caned for a couple of boundaries by Alviro Petersen, bringing back memories of his ineffective Test debut earlier this month in Johannesburg. He made amends in his second over, though, as an incutter had Petersen lbw for 10.
The teenager Ehsan Adil, the third fast bowler to debut for Pakistan this series, had an even better start as he struck on the third ball of his Test career, getting Smith to nick a catch to a diving Younis Khan at second slip.
South Africa were 38 for 2, and with Kallis missing, they were a batsman light. Pakistan's raw attack, however, wasn't consistently threatening and offered plenty of freebies. Amla led the recovery with an innings filled with the whiplash drives and the high-risk strokes that he makes seem routine. He was involved in a couple of substantial partnerships, first with Faf du Plessis and later with De Villiers to keep South Africa motoring along at four an over.
The pressure Pakistan had applied through the early wickets quickly dissipated as their bowlers sprayed the ball around, regularly overpitching or providing too much width. There were plenty of boundaries and towards the end of the session, Du Plessis took Rahat for three fours in four deliveries as South Africa took 35 runs off the final seven overs before lunch.
Saeed Ajmal, Pakistan's hero in the Newlands Test, was unable to keep the runs down initially, but he exerted more control after lunch. With only two runs coming off the first three overs after the break, Du Plessis decided to try throw Adil off his length by skipping down the track but he could only nick the shortish ball through to the keeper.
Still, there was no let-up in the scoring as Amla and De Villiers provided a treat of shots. De Villiers was felled by a beamer from Mohammad Irfan, but that didn't prevent him from playing his usual inventive strokes, including reverse-sweeps and late dabs past slips. He also regularly picked up singles, and with Amla capitalising on the many overpitched, hit-me deliveries on offer, South Africa coasted towards 200.
Amla showed how confident he was by skipping down the track and launching Ajmal over mid-on for four to move to 80. There was a lull in his scoring after that and he survived a loud appeal for caught-behind even after Pakistan used the DRS. Soon after, though, he attempted a drive away from his body - usually not advisable, but Amla plays it perfectly often - and feathered to the keeper. Dean Elgar's dismissal soon after left South Africa at 196 for 5 and with their bowling allrounder Robin Peterson in the middle.
Peterson had been pivotal to turning the Newlands Test South Africa's way with a combative 84, and he again showed his value with the bat, playing sensibly to forge a 52-run stand with De Villiers. What wasn't sensible was his running between the wickets, and despite a loud call of 'No,' from De Villiers he didn't turn back from an attempted single till it was too late and was beaten by a direct hit from Mohammad Irfan.
If Pakistan were looking to wrap the innings up quickly after that, they came up against Vernon Philander, who has hassled them repeatedly with the ball this series, and now frustrated them with the bat. There were no desperate-tailender swings, as he worked his way to an unbeaten 45, highlighted by a couple of imperious pulls for four.
Towards the end of the day, there was plenty of interest around whether De Villiers could complete his century before stumps. He needed nine off the final over, and though he played a breathtaking upper cut for four, De Villiers ended unbeaten on 98.
It wasn't all one-way traffic, but yet again South Africa managed to find a way to emerge on top, as they have so often in recent years.
Siddarth Ravindran is a senior sub-editor at ESPNcricinfo