It was an entertaining day’s Test cricket with South Africa, now merely 41 runs away from a series win, when it comes in to bat in the second innings. The four-man pace attack – all right-arm fast to fast-medium – continued to assert their superiority over Pakistan batsmen. The wicket at Newlands could be termed lively and all thirty wickets, so far, have been claimed by fast men.
Stumps - Day 3
1st Innings 177/10
2nd Innings 294/10
1st Innings 431/10
Pakistan’s dismal batting on the opening day was set to haunt them as they fought for its survival on the third day of the 2nd Test at Cape Town. Three half centuries helped the second innings total to reach 294 but that took them just 40 ahead of its hosts, at the close. The tourists’ batting has slumped to such a level that reaching a total of 200, lasting more than 50 overs, avoiding innings defeat and taking the game into the 4th day, in South African conditions, would be considered, a huge achievement..
South Africa added 49 runs in just 8.1 overs to their overnight score of 382-6 to be all out for 431. The Pakistan batsmen, with a huge 254-run first innings deficit on their minds, showed they were under pressure. In no time Imam-ul-Haq and Azhar Ali were back in the pavilion. Pakistan team management promoted Shan Masood to open, allowing Fakhar Zaman, perhaps bit more freedom at number six. Shan had looked the best batsmen of the side against short pitch bowling and today again he got his head down to play another important innings, to resurrect his international career. His 132-run 3rd wicket stand with Asad Shafiq (88) lifted Pakistan spirits and showed their will to fight. Shan’s dismissal, caught behind off Dale Steyn, after scoring 61 in a stay of four minutes short of 3 hours, brought Babar Azam to the crease.
The fall of Asad at 88 with the score at 194-4, was a cruel blow for Pakistan’s best chance of surviving rested on his shoulders. After three low scores in the series Asad played a compact innings and reaching three figures would have been a personal milestone. It was not to be as his 118-ball knock which featured 12 fours and a six came to an end. With three middle order wickets falling in quick succession, Babar was again left with the tail-enders. His 72 off 87 balls with 15 fours simply delayed the inevitable as he pounced on to any scoring opportunities.
As the senior-most batsman on the tour Azhar Ali’s poor run of scores in the two Tests is a real concern. Few months short of 34, he is running out of time. After the joint retirement of Misbah-ul-Haq and Younis Khan in May 2017, Azhar has had additional responsibility to carry Pakistan batting. Having promoted to open the innings in 2016, Azhar had a triple hundred and a double hundred to his name in the 2016-17 winter but surprisingly either chose to or was asked by the management to revert back to the middle order.
Since then he has not been consistent at all. It is quite puzzling to see a senior batsman in the second half of his career, not being allowed to have a permanent batting position? If the latest change to drop down was Azhar’s own request, Pakistan has certainly been a loser for he is no longer his calm, authoritative best. His cheap dismissals do not seem to be hurting him as as much as one expects it to. Back in 2013, he did not have a great tour of South Africa but five years on he was expected to be much more prepared and determined. There has not been any evidence of that. His last three innings - 0, 2, 6 – might be a sign of slowing down of reflexes and a starting point of a steep decline?
South Africa - Aiden Markram, Dean Elgar, Hashim Amla, Theunis de Bruyn, Faf du Plessis(c) , Temba Bavuma, Quinton de Kock(wk), Vernon Philander, 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, Shaheen Afridi, Mohammad Abbas
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