Weather permitting, South Africa are all set to go one-up in the series on the third day of the Centurion Test, requiring 149 runs in the fourth innings.
Pakistan 181 (Babar Azam 71; Duanne Olivier 6-37, Kagiso Rabada 3-59) and 190 (Imam ul-Haq 57, Shan Masood 65; Duanne Olivier 5-59, Kagiso Rabada 3-47)
South Africa 223 – (Temba Bavuma 53, Quinton de Kock 45 ; Mohammad Amir 4-62, Shaheen Afridi 4-64)
At the Close - Pakistan lead South Africa by 148 runs
Pakistan, having fought so gallantly, with both ball and bat till the tea break, had its batting line-up shred to pieces by the relentless pressure created by South African pacemen. Duanne Olivier in particular, shone for the second day running and his match haul of 11-96 is an outstanding feat, for someone referred to as the ‘other bowler’.
In the opening session today, a wholehearted disciplined effort of the Pakistan pace attack, brought the tourists back in the game. Just like Pakistan, South Africa too relied on its lower half to reach a respectable total of 223. Once the ball gets soft, bowlers need to produce their best to get out of the surface. A gritty 53 from Temba Bavuma showed how to play on this wicket and his dismissal – caught behind off left-arm Shaheen Afridi – was the key moment in of the morning. Shaheen is certainly the find of the 2018 for Pakistan and he did his reputation no harm at all by finishing with 4-64. He was not shy either of dishing out the short stuff to the tail-enders.
By restricting South Africa first-innings lead to 42, in the absence of injured Mohammad Abbas and Yasir Shah, hit out of attack after just four overs, represented the depth in Pakistan’s bowling resources. Lot of credit for the team’s resurgence goes to Mohammad Amir, who after being left out of five Tests in UAE, was back in the hunt, and leading the attack. His experience and relatively decent record, outside the sub-continent., prompted to recall him in the side. His figures of 4-62 off 20 overs was well earned through clever use of pace and angles to both right and left handed batsmen and led to one of his best spells since his return to international cricket in 2016.
On a Centurion wicket a batman could never feel ‘in’, it demanded a battle and Pakistan openers did well to wipe out the first innings deficit. Fakhar Zaman after getting used to the pace of the wicket and the bowlers he was up against, was out to an uppish flick. With both Imam-ul-Haq and Shan Masood playing with more freedom, Pakistan 100-1 at tea was coasting along nicely and a talk of unlikely victory too was aired. Bit premature and realistically it required to leave South Africa, a minimum of 200-run target.. Could Pakistan really stretch the home side or was it just calm before the storm?
Immediately after tea, Olivier struck twice by removing Imam-ul-Haq (57) and Azhar Ali, without scoring. Suddenly there was a panic in the tourists’ ranks as both Steyn and Rabada, too upped their pace, and shared the bounty with Olivier, as the last seven wickets were claimed for 56 runs. Shan Masood top scored with 65 and was ninth out but had very little support from the other end. The departure of Asad Shafiq, Babar Azam and Sarfraz Ahmed in quick succession left Pakistan on the brink of another disaster. Captain Sarfraz, for the second time in the match, failed to score and was out to an irresponsible rash stroke. He is certainly running out of time and ever so close to be axed from the Test arena?
The South African trio of Steyn, Rabada and Olivier have exploited the conditions to share all 20 wickets to fall. Only a superhuman effort by its bowlers could see Pakistan defying heavy odds staked against their inevitable defeat.
South Africa - Aiden Markram, Dean Elgar, Hashim Amla, Faf du Plessis(c), Theunis de Bruyn, Temba Bavuma, Quinton de Kock(wk), Keshav Maharaj, Dale Steyn, Kagiso Rabada, Duanne Olivier
Pakistan - Imam ul-Haq, Fakhar Zaman, Shan Masood, Azhar Ali, Asad Shafiq, Babar Azam, Sarfraz Ahmed(c)(wk), Mohammad Amir, Yasir Shah, Hasan Ali, Shaheen Afridi
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