There remains little to separate South Africa and Pakistan after three days of the second Test in Cape Town. After another day which swung this way and that, Pakistan lead by 112 runs, having lost three second innings wickets.
At the start of the day it was the tourists who would have held hopes of taking the advantage, leading as they did by 199 runs, but by the end, and following the exploits of Robin Peterson, Dale Steyn and Vernon Philander, Pakistan were probably relieved just to be still standing.
Peterson had been South Africa’s early saviour and hit a career-best 84 to limit South Africa’s arrears to just 12. Dean Elgar had departed relatively early on to give Saeed Ajmal his sixth wicket out of six and keep hopes of all 10 alive. However, Mohammad Irfan benefited from a loose stroke from AB de Villiers to claim his maiden Test wicket when he chipped to Umar Gul at mid-on to scupper those.
At that stage, South Africa still trailed by well over 100 runs and Pakistan might have reckoned on a sizeable first innings lead. If they had, then they would have done so without bearing in mind Peterson’s ever-improving batting ability. He showed the value of being a spin bowler that can bat and made up for his innocuous performance on day one with the ball by striking a sprightly 84 today.
Not since his debut, almost a decade ago against Bangladesh in Dhaka, had Peterson passed 50 in Test cricket, but today he shepherded the tail with aplomb, unleashing the reverse sweeps and switch hits that are rapidly becoming his trademark at just the right moment.
An eighth-wicket stand with Vernon Philander (22) was worth 67, while a ninth with Dale Steyn (10) yielded 26 and a tenth with Morne Morkel (8 not out) 23. He was finally last man out to Mohammad Hafeez 16 short of what would have been a well-deserved Test century.
Disaster then struck for Pakistan as they lost both openers for ducks. Steyn and Philander would find enough movement to cause problems for all of the Pakistan top-order, but ironically, it was a ball that held its line that did for Hafeez. He played around his front pad and was struck in front of all three to depart second ball.
Philander, too, struck in his first over; this time getting the ball to shape back in and strike Jamshed on the pad. After a lengthy consultation with his partner Azhar Ali, he decided not to review, which was just as well as Hawkeye had the ball shaving the bails.
Azhar and Younus Khan then took Pakistan to tea on 25 for two, but it wasn’t long before Steyn struck again. After pushing Younus back with a smattering of shorter deliveries, he pitched one up which Younus, trapped on the crease, dragged on. A pumped up Steyn then proceeded, generously, to show the first innings centurion the way back the pavilion.
At this point, South Africa were beginning to take control. However, they would be thwarted for the remainder of the evening session by the dogged Azhar and the doughty Misbah-ul-Haq. Azhar had begun his innings fluently, but got rather bogged down against Peterson’s left-arm spin, which became a fixture of the final couple of hours of play after Morne Morkel limped off with a hamstring injury in his fourth over. Misbah, though, plonked Peterson over his head whenever he overpitched and took the pressure off his junior partner.
Azhar did attempt to take Misbah’s lead on one occasion by advancing a little down the pitch. Unfortunately, he only succeeded in drilling the ball back at Peterson, who put his hands up instinctively - thankfully protecting umpire Bruce Oxenford from a painful blow in the process - only to see the ball bounce off them. That was about the only time either Azhar or Misbah offered anything resembling a chance as, apart from a couple of thick edges through the gully, they batted solidly against an ageing ball and a tiring pace attack shorn of its tallest member.
Azhar reached the close on 45 off 134 balls, with Misbah on 36 off 81. The run rate for the final session had been stuck at around two throughout, but Pakistan won’t mind. South Africa are a bowler down and it is still 36 overs until they have to once again face the prospect of Steyn and Philander with the new ball. By that stage, they will hope to be over 200 ahead and in a strong position.
© Cricket World 2013
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