JOHANNESBURG: South Africa batsmen Aiden Markram and Hashim Amla both fell short of milestones on the opening day of the third and final test against Pakistan at the Wanderers on Friday but set the platform for a healthy score of 226 for three wickets at tea.
Markram fell on 90 and Amla on 41 but the pair put together a 126-run partnership in an attacking start after stand-in skipper Dean Elgar had won the toss and elected to bat.
Markram’s availability for the last test of the series was only confirmed after a late fitness test but he showed no signs of discomfort from a thigh injury as he rushed to 78 not out at lunch. He looked set for a fifth test century before getting a slight touch to Faheem Ashraf’s wayward leg-side delivery and being snagged behind.
Elgar was the first to depart in the second over of the day as Pakistan made a good start but Markram quickly put a top to that with forceful driving off both the front and back foot as the wicket quickly lost early movement to turn flat.
Amla provided solid back-up and looked to be set for a big score himself before he steered a rising delivery from leg spinner Shadab Khan to Asad Shafiq at first slip for Pakistan’s third wicket.
Theunis de Bruyn and debutant Zubayr Hamza were not out at tea.
De Bruyn, needing a good innings to keep his place in the team, was on 48 while Hamza showed little nerves in racing to 38 off 46 balls.
The 23-year-old Hamza was included in place of captain Faf du Plessis, suspended for the match for a slow over-rate in the second test in Cape Town.
South Africa have already won the series after a six wicket win in Pretoria was followed by a nine wicket win at Newlands.
(Reporting by Mark Gleeson; Editing by Greg Stutchbury and Christian Radnedge)