|South Africa’s bowlers waited for Pakistani batsmen to make mistakes and were rewarded [AFP]|
A fightback by the middle order batsmen took Pakistan to 317-6 at Monday’s close against South Africa, but Misbah-ul-Haq’s side was still in trouble and trailing by 267 runs at the end of the third day of the second and final test.
Half centuries from Azhar Ali (90), captain Haq (77 not out) and debutant Asad Shafiq (61) were still not enough for Pakistan at the Zayed Cricket Stadium following South Africa’s mammoth first innings total of 584-9 declared.
At stumps, Haq and Abdur Rehman, who was yet to score, were at the crease. Dale Steyn and Paul Harris took two wickets each, while Jacques Kallis got one of the five wickets to fall on the day as South Africa looked to take both the match and the series after the opening test was drawn.
Resuming at 59-1, Pakistan needed some big-scoring partnerships to really get back into the match, but the team never got going.
In the session between lunch and tea, Ali and Younis Khan, the batting mainstay of the team, followed the earlier lead by overnight batsman Taufeeq Umar in the first session by falling prey to soft dismissals just when they appeared to have got themselves well set.
In the morning, Ali brought up a third successive half-century while he and Umar produced a steady 117-run partnership for the second wicket.
However, an impatient Umar failed to get a pull shot off Jacques Kallis right and was caught by Hashim Amla at square leg.
That wicket prompted the bowlers to dig in and wait for the batsmen to make mistakes on a pitch that did not offer much assistance, even to the spinners.
South Africa coach Corrie van Zyl defended the tactics considering the pitch conditions. “I think the Dubai wicket gave us a little bit more on the first three days and then sort of remained the same and did not deteriorate,” he said.
“I would like to see this pitch to deteriorate a little bit more. But there is some balance in it at times.”
After lunch, Ali was the first to go as he played early into a Steyn delivery and spooned an easy catch to Graeme Smith at midoff. Two overs later, Younis Khan recklessly went for a cover drive after having scored a boundary in the previous delivery off Steyn and ended up only holing out to Amla at short cover.
Shafiq and Haq then built up the second solid partnership, this one of 107 runs, to avoid a collapse by what is a relatively inexperienced line-up. The duo kept the boundaries coming, especially off Morne Morkel and the spinners.
Haq even hit Harris for the lone six of Pakistan’s innings on the last ball before tea. However, Harris took his revenge with two wickets towards the end to swing the game again in South Africa’s favour.
Shafiq was caught by Kallis in the slips and Adnan Akmal failed to take his partnership with Haq beyond 46 runs when he gave a sharp bat-and-pad catch to Amla at short leg.
Shafiq was satisfied with his first taste of test cricket, saying: “It was difficult out there but test cricket is all about hard work. I could have got a hundred but I am happy with the debut score.”
“My coach and my captain asked me to just play my natural game that is why I played some shots early on and carried on. Hopefully the wicket stays the same and Misbah carries on the good work.”