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South Africa were 159 for four at tea after Graeme Smith, captaining a team for the 100th time in Test matches, won the toss and decided to bat in what were always likely to be challenging conditions on a pitch with pace and bounce.
Smith and Alviro Petersen saw off the initial bursts by Junaid Khan and Umar Gul but a switch of ends for both bowlers brought the wickets of both opening batsman.
The left-armed Junaid squared up Petersen and had him caught at third slip for 20 with the total on 46. Four balls later, without addition to the score, Smith was caught behind for 24 when he tried to work Gul to the leg side.
Jacques Kallis hit 50 in a third wicket stand of 79 with Hashim Amla before he mistimed a pull against Gul and fell to a superb diving catch by Asad Shafiq at deep midwicket.
With Junaid and Gul having had a heavy workload, Pakistan captain Misbah-ul-Haq brought on Younis Khan to bowl his occasional medium-pacers.
Amla slashed hard at Younis? third ball and Azhar Ali took a blinding catch at gully, prompting joyous celebrations from the Pakistan players.
Kallis looked in fine form before his dismissal, hitting nine fours during a 78-ball innings, while Amla was content to play a supporting role. Amla made 37 off 67 balls with six fours.
Umar Gul took two for 34 while Junaid Khan, whose first six overs cost only four runs, had one for 32 from 16 overs.