Pakistan reels from attack
There is an element of greatness about the South African bowling attack at the moment.
In the past 18 months, they have subjected three test teams to totals of less than 50.
Since 1970, this feat has only been achieved 15 times, but on tracks that are covered and consistent in bounce, it is a considerable achievement, and a testament to the bowlers’ ability and ruthlessness.
In its sub-50 ransacking, Australia was the first to go in a test that could only be described as weird.
New Zealand never had a showing on the second day of the year and, yesterday, Pakistan was torn asunder in a display of high-quality swing and seam.
With accuracy, pace and a pitch showing signs of bipolar disorder, what looked like a dismal South African first innings suddenly seemed insurmountable.
The one Achilles heel was Pakistan’s batting, and its corpse was surgically dissected and stripped to the bone.
Even the marrow was sucked out.
It is Pakistan’s lowest test score, but they should not be embarrassed.
Their second-lowest score – 53 – came at the hands of a Shane Warne-inspired Australia in the heat of Sharjah Stadium in 2002.
It seemed there was a feeling of low standards threatening in the Proteas’ dressing room when on Friday, Faf du Plessis said 320 would have been a challenging total.
It could have tempted South Africa to enforce the follow-on, but with the Highveld sun widening the already treacherous cracks and minimal moisture to slow the pitch, batting last is not the best of propositions.
The highest fourth-innings total chased down at the Wanderers is 310.
Pakistan will have to make more than that, and South Africa will ensure the door is tightly shut and the key thrown away for posterity.
There was not much to separate the bowling attacks, except for the fact that South Africa’s batting dealt adequately with the Pakistan bowling.
Pakistan’s batting has been at its most settled and is best equipped technically to deal with overseas conditions, probably since the 1992 touring side to England, but the adjustment from low, slow wickets was a bridge too far for them.
Besides Asad Shafiq and Misbah-ul-Haq’s dismissals, which were a show of surrender and malice, it was an exhibition of high-class fast bowling.
Dale Steyn’s attack was absolutely irresistible – his stars were aligned and his wrist seemed to be welded in one position, with a consistently hooping swing that must have had the Pakistanis thinking the track had evolved into the N1 with wildly swerving Bugattis traversing it.
They could not get their bats out of the way. At the other end, they were stonewalled.