Pakistan’s hopes of making South Africa bat again in the third Test in Centurion were effectively ended shortly after lunch during a middle-order collapse of four for 21. That reduced the tourists to 114 for six and, despite some unexpected resistance from the lower-order, the match was won midway through the final session.
The win was Graeme Smith’s 50th as South Africa’s Test captain and wrapped up a clean sweep of Test wins for the Proteas this summer following their two-nil success against New Zealand.
Pakistan’s most technically proficient batsman Younus Khan had departed just half an hour into the day to spark hopes of a quick conclusion to the Test. However, Azhar Ali and Imran Farhat showed admirable resolve in the face of the potent South Africa attack. Farhat was the more aggressive for the two, while Azhar displayed a solid defence and was able to negate any movement that was found off the increasingly cracked surface.
Unfortunately, just after lunch, their partnership was brought to end by a flat throw from Steyn from fine-leg that had Azhar scrambling to make his ground. After that, the rest of the middle-order folded.
Farhat slashed at a widish delivery from Kyle Abbott, while Rory Kleinveldt was rewarded for a consistent line with the wicket of Misbah-ul-Haq in the next over. Asad Shafiq completed the mini-collapse by spooning Kleinveldt to Vernon Philander at mid-off.
It was only due to some fight from the tail that the match didn’t end before tea. Sarfraz Ahmed and Saeed Ajmal took Pakistan to the break without further loss, with Sarfraz, who has been a disappointment with the bat in this series, showing just why he has a first-class average in excess of 40. Unfortunately, just after the resumption, he lost Ajmal for 31 and was soon out himself, slashing Steyn to Dean Elgar at third-man.
Again, though, Pakistan’s tail prolonged things. The last-wicket pair of Mohammad Irfan and Rahat Ali may have looked completely clueless against Steyn and Abbott, both of whom were nearing milestones - Abbott a ten-wicket match and Steyn another five-fer - but both enjoyed themselves and displayed that characteristic trait of tail-enders of hitting every ball that was straight and missing everything that was just off line.
Rahat clubbed five boundaries in all, including driving a furious Dale Steyn through mid-on for four. Steyn threatened to boil over at one point when given the match-ending wicket of Rahat caught at short-leg only for the replay to show that the ball had come straight off the pad. It took the introduction of Robin Peterson’s spin to end things. Rahat padded up to a straight delivery in his first over, again reviewed it, but this time wasn’t so lucky - Hawkeye showing the ball would have clipped leg-stump.
And so, the Test leg of Pakistan’s disappointing tour of South Africa came to its conclusion. A series defeat had probably been expected but the manner of it was, at times, tame. Only during the second Test in Cape Town had Pakistan come even close to winning and that was mainly down to the impressive Saeed Ajmal, who had a rare off-game here in Centurion.
As for South Africa, they now have a series of seven limited-overs matches against the tourists, which should present a much stiffer challenge, before facing them again in a Test series in their ‘home’ conditions in the UAE in October.
© Cricket World 2013
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