South Africa 262 (Aiden Markram 90, Theunis de Bruyn 49; Faheem Ashraf 3-57) and 135-5
Pakistan 185 (Duanne Olivier 5-51)
At the Close - South Africa lead Pakistan by 212 runs with 5 wickets remaining
They owed it to Hashim Amla’s calm artistry to recover from 45-4 to end the second day on 135-5, ahead by 212 runs and on its way to completing third win a row. Amla’s unbeaten 42, included eight silky boundaries and he is set to play another vital innings in his great international career. His partner, Quintin de Kock, took full toll of some ordinary bowling in the last 45 minutes of the play, to finish with 34 not out off 35 balls. The Saturday crowd, singing and dancing on a hot afternoon, created good atmosphere whilst admiring the fighting qualities of their batsmen.
Pakistan resumed on 17 for 2 this morning and had it not been for at least half a dozen reprieves by South African fielders, the innings might have been over sooner than it did, an hour after lunch for yet another dismal first innings total of 185. Most frustrating scenario for the team management, more so with two of its proven batsmen – Azhar Ali and Asad Shafiq – both out without scoring. Azhar got a beautiful out swinger last night, which he edged behind but Asad’s second ball duck was utterly daft cricket. Whilst ducking against Duanne Olivier, he allowed the ball to brush his glove on the way to de Kock and fourth Pakistan wicket had gone down with only 53 runs on the board.
The 78-run 6th wicket stand between Babar Azam and Sarfraz Ahmed was a counter attack that worked for a short period. An accomplished bowling attack very rarely let up the pressure and with that in mind the stroke play was entertaining but not without desperation. With all due respect to Pakistan batting techniques, in the present South African conditions, there have been few cameos but not worth arresting the initiative. Imam-ul-Haq needed plenty of luck in his 149 minutes stay in which he accumulated 43 runs but on this particular Johannesburg wicket, was not able to ride over the bounce.
Babar’s 55-ball knock included 10 fours, five of Dale Steyn, who was off colour today due to a shoulder niggle. His top-edge hook landed in the hands of Kagiso Rabada as he became one of five victims of Olivier, who finished with 5 for 51. The bowler will be the first one to admit that he was helped along the way by some ordinary batting skills that led to soft dismissals. Each of the ten Pakistan batsmen were out to catches and in a sorry scorecard, the innings was all over in 49.4 overs. Captain Sarfraz hit a breezy 50 off just 40 balls with 8 fours, but was left to lament a tame exit, handing the advantage to the opposition. Pakistan needed to reach 250 mark to stay in the game but ended up handing South Africa 77-run first innings lead. The three bowling all-rounders – Shadab Khan, Faheem Ashraf and Hasan Ali – just contributed five runs with the bat.
Uneven bounce has started to come into play and it was evident when Pakistan bowlers too were able to run through the top half in South Africa’s second innings. Faheem Ashraf, out first ball himself earlier, bowled a double-wicket maiden, including trapping Zubayr Hamza, leg before for a second-ball duck. South African lead was only 122 at the time with six wickets in hand. The bowlers repeatedly hampered with midges flying in their eyes, did not lack in determination. Pakistan hopes were raised briefly but not much went its way after that and realistically it could be chasing 300 plus runs in the fourth innings.
A dramatic day’s cricket at Wanderers, produced 303 runs with the fall of 13 wickets but can South Africa, now having won five successive Test series at home, can afford to carry on with matches not lasting the distance and very rarely going into the final day? Lively and exciting but set to have a negative impact on the traditional 5-day duration of Test matches, all around the world.
South Africa - Aiden Markram, Dean Elgar(c), Hashim Amla, Theunis de Bruyn, Temba Bavuma, Zubayr Hamza, Quinton de Kock(wk), Vernon Philander, Kagiso Rabada, Dale Steyn, Duanne Olivier
Pakistan - Imam ul-Haq, Shan Masood, Azhar Ali, Asad Shafiq, Babar Azam, Sarfraz Ahmed(c)(wk), Shadab Khan, Faheem Ashraf, Mohammad Amir, Mohammad Abbas, Hasan Ali
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