Hashim Amla’s 20th Test century held South Africa’s innings together on the opening day of the two-game series with Pakistan in the United Arab Emirates.
Three wickets for spinner Zulfiqar Babar, making his international debut along with opening batsman Shan Masood, limited the top-ranked Proteas to 245 for eight after they won the toss at Abu Dhabi's Sheikh Zayed Stadium.
Yet Babar, a 34-year-old left-armer, and his three fellow bowlers could not dislodge the majestic Amla, who was unbeaten on 118 having caressed 13 fours.
Amla came to the crease in the third over when Alviro Petersen was held at short-leg off Mohammad Irfan, who soon had Graeme Smith caught behind. Smith’s side were 43 for three when Junaid Khan likewise ousted Jacques Kallis.
Amla rebuilt, sharing fifty partnerships with AB de Villiers, who was run out for 19 while holding a defensive pose against Babar, and JP Duminy, playing his first Test for almost a year decimated by injury.
Duminy followed Amla to a half-century before being dropped by wicketkeeper Adnan Akmal off Saeed Ajmal, although he fell for 57 sweeping Babar in the next over.
Babar snared Francois du Plessis via a close catch and bowled Robin Peterson, just before Pakistan’s two used reviews were reset at 80 overs. One of those could not save Vernon Philander from falling lbw to Ajmal before the new ball was latterly taken.