Determined pair extend Test to day 4
South Africa: 253 and 275/3 declared (De Villiers 103*, Amla 74*, Smith 52, Umar Gul 2/58, Saeed Ajmal 1/74)
Pakistan: 49 and 183/4 (Asad Shafiq 53*, Nasir Jamshed 46, Misbah-ul-Haq 44*, Steyn 1/26, Kallis 1/27, Philander 1/39)
Pakistan need 297 runs to win
The grim determination of Asad Shafiq and Misbah-ul-Haq ensured that Pakistan extended the first Test to a fourth day. In the South African summer, that has been a rarity.
But the Pakistani captain and his young foot soldier had varying amounts of luck. Shafiq earned a reprieve from a horrible drive wide outside off stump off Vernon Philander, only to find out the Proteas seamer had overstepped the popping crease. Robin Peterson’s grassing of Misbah off Jacques Kallis smacked of overconfidence and lack of concentration as the game drifted along.
Batting did become easier as the ball got older and their 101-run partnership lent respectability to the Pakistani chase, which still looks futile.
Their stand helped fixed a roller-coaster period after lunch where they lost Nasir Jamshed, Azhar Ali and Younus Khan in quick succession. Jamshed’s dismissal, pulling tamely to Peterson at short midwicket, was disappointing considering how easily he had adapted to the conditions. He was fluent and left very well but perhaps the pressure of getting to a maiden 50 on test debut somehow got to him. It was a good knock nonetheless.
Azhar tried to sparkle but seemed to have problems getting around his front foot, especially when the ball moved in. The prodigious ball deviation which had bedevilled the visitors in their first innings was missing, meaning the Proteas had to rely on other means to unsettle Pakistan, which included a vicious short ball attack from around the wicket by Dale Steyn on Azhar. It was fierce stuff with thunderbolts above 140km/h being hurled at the Pakistan number three, but Azhar’s willpower came through. He fell to Kallis leg-before, with a review not being enough to save him.
Khan is only second to Graeme Smith with regard to fourth innings heroics and much was expected of him. His fidgety mannerisms and constant shuffling give an impression of early vulnerability. He was unable to repeat his past successes as his nominally fancy leaves were too fancy, with the ball taking the outside edge on its way to AB de Villiers from Morne Morkel, who had bowled well but without much success.
His dismissal laid the platform for a mini-recovery. Misbah and Shafiq are not the most glamorous of players, but their drives were top class and laid into anything full or short. Their let-offs aside, they provided a morsel of optimism that Pakistan will not lie down without a fight. Shafiq moved to a grinding but well-played half century which needs to be converted into something substantial.
A Proteas victory is all but assured but for a change, a Test match was able to see the start of a new work week.