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Ken Borland


SA make 311-7 as Wanderers pitch flat like Sharjah & then seaming & turning

Posted on March 08, 2023 by Ken

Tony de Zorzi was ruthless through square on the off-side.

The Wanderers pitch went through several character changes on Wednesday, the opening day of the second Test between South Africa and the West Indies: for much of the day it seemed as flat as one of those batting beauties in Sharjah, but it ended with medium-pacer Kyle Mayers toying with the batsmen with movement off the seam, while the pitch had also been spinning.

Through all that, having won an important toss and batted, the Proteas closed on 311 for seven. That solid total was built around an excellent display by the top-order, which took them to 247 for two at tea. The final session belonged to the West Indies as Mayers claimed two late wickets and the South African middle-order again faltered.

The opening hour, under overcast skies, saw the new ball move around, but the West Indies did not bowl particularly well and Dean Elgar and Aiden Markram’s positive approach saw them prosper.

As the skies cleared and the moisture burnt off, Elgar and Markram took control. They added 76 for the first wicket to go with their 141 on the first day of the first Test, and it was totally against the run of play when Elgar was dismissed for 42. It was a fluent rather than a fighting innings by the left-hander, coming off just 54 balls with seven fours.

Elgar’s propensity to get himself out in this series will worry him a little, and on Wednesday he swept a delivery down leg from left-arm spinner Gudakesh Motie to short fine-leg diving forward.

The best batting of the day then followed as Markram, driving and pulling imperiously, and Tony de Zorzi, ruthless through square on the off-side, added 116 for the second wicket in a little more than an hour-and-a-half.

Markram was on the brink of a second successive century midway through the second session and was so dominant he probably felt he could get to three figures with some cute improvisation. Trying to scoop-sweep Motie, he did not connect properly and Jermaine Blackwood ran from slip to the leg-side to take the catch. Markram was out for 96 off only 139 deliveries, having struck 17 fours, another innings of undeniable class as the 28-year-old resurrects his Test career.

De Zorzi, the youngster of the batting line-up, batted for longer than anyone else on the first day: 219 minutes. He saw, and adapted to, all the challenges of the changing pitch. Having scored 85, he was in position to push for a maiden Test century in just his third innings, but Motie obtained some sharp turn to bowl the left-hander through the gate as he looked for an aggressive drive.

It was an innings that showcased defiant defence as well as some fine strokeplay, evidence that this former SA U19 captain has a game that is now maturing.

“Obviously it was a good opportunity to get a hundred, Dean and Aiden having given the innings a nice base,” De Zorzi said after the close of play. “So I was disappointed not to get over the line, I just tried to be too greedy against that particular ball.

“The pitch did change through the day, it was a bit soft in the morning because of the moisture, but after lunch it was harder because of the sun and a bit quicker, and the nicks started carrying. There was also a bit of turn.

“From my SA U19 days, a lot has changed. I may have been the captain but I was not the star of that side and I went back to club cricket afterwards. It’s been a long process and I’ve done a lot of dirty work to get there. Things are starting to happen and I’m just really happy to be here,” De Zorzi said.

From 247 for two, the rest of the day became a bit like hard admin for the Proteas. Temba Bavuma (28) notched the third successive fifty partnership as he put on 56 for the third wicket with De Zorzi.

But Bavuma then suffered a misjudgement, shouldering arms to a Jason Holder delivery that pitched on the large bare patch at the Golf Course End and was trapped lbw.

Ryan Rickelton scored 22 but then tried to cut an Alzarri Joseph delivery that he should have left with the second new ball imminent.

Then Mayers returned to produce two beautiful deliveries and two late wickets that left the West Indies feeling good about the last session in which they claimed five wickets for 64 runs in 27.2 overs.

Wiaan Mulder (12) was bowled through the gate by a ball that zipped back into him, while Simon Harmer (1) received a wobble-seam delivery that nipped away just enough to find his edge and have him caught behind for a single, off what became the last ball of the day.

Heinrich Klaasen will be batting with the tail on Thursday morning, having reached 17 not out.

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