Sometime tomorrow, possibly early in the morning, South Africa will win the second Test. Victory against Pakistan will extend their winning sequence to seven consecutive home series conquests and the record will show that they have also won 18 of their past 20 Tests on Mzansi soil.
The fact that South Africa need to come back and score the 41 runs required was partially due to a comical last hour and the defiance of three top-order half-centuries from Shan Masood, Asad Shafiq and Babar Azam.
After showing neither the wit nor the will to play their way out of trouble in their previous three innings on this tour of South Africa, Pakistan’s batsmen dug deep to keep a rampant home team attack at bay.
It certainly was required after Dale Steyn and Kagiso Rabada had once again reduced the visitors to 16/2, which was light years away from making the home side bat again after the Proteas had earlier taken a 254-run first innings lead.
But Masood, who has been one of the tourists’ rare positives on this tour, and the experienced Shafiq batted with grit, resolve and no little flair to push onwards to a 132-run stand for Pakistan’s third wicket. It was also Pakistan’s first three-figure partnership of the series.
South Africa, though, knew that they only needed one breakthrough and they could climb into the Pakistan middle and lower order. The fact that it was Steyn (4/85) that engineered it was extra special though for the veteran fast bowler still prides himself on being captain Faf du Plessis’s “go-to-man”.
A little nibble from Masood to Quinton de Kock behind the stumps and South Africa were ready to complete their conquest in three days again. This looked even more likely when Fakhar Zaman hauled out a horrific pull shot against Rabada that reduced Pakistan to 201/5 – a deficit of still 53 runs with only five wickets remaining.
However, Pakistan’s lower-order were content to show their coach Mickey Arthur that they could counter not only the hostile South African bowling attack but also the pitch he berated just a day earlier.
At the forefront of this resistance was Azam as he rallied towards a second half-century of the series, and together with some wayward bowling towards the backend of the elongated afternoon session from particularly, Duanne Olivier, the visitors managed to eke out a lead.
There were opportunities for South Africa to close out the innings earlier when Rabada (4/61) spilled a regulation catch, and even more importantly Vernon Philander, overstepped the front crease with Pakistan leading by only 24 runs.
This would have left South Africa enough time to haul down the target, but the players already off the field they were hauled back to complete the innings, allowing the visitors to add a further 16 runs that ensured the second Test will indeed enjoy a fourth day regardless of how short it may eventually turn out to be.@ZaahierAdams