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South Africa on track for win
14 Jan 2007
By: Sudeep Popat

On a day where things could have easily gone the home side's way, South Africa barely edged ahead of Pakistan in the race to win the first Test at Centurion Park, reaching 69-2 in the second innings with 130 more runs left to be knocked off on the final day.

The home side looked even better off at one point of time in the Pakistani second innings, when the visitors were reduced to 199-7. However, the tail-enders battled their way through the Protean attack to help post a target worth defending. Shahid Nazir, Rana Naved-ul-Hasan and Danish Kaneria, all frustrated the bowlers, to lift the total to 302, thus setting a target of 199.

Pakistan got off to the worst of starts, for the day, as some tight bowling by Shaun Pollock accounted for the wicket of Younis Khan, found plumb in front of a delivery that nipped back sharply, in the very first hour, after adding just six runs to his overnight score of 32.

Makhaya Ntini troubled the opener Imran Farhat on more than one occasion, and even managed to find the edge of his bat twice, but without luck, as Jacques Kallis and Mark Boucher put down both the chances respectively. Farhat did fall, however, just before lunch, when he pushed a delivery from spinner Paul Harris to AB de Villiers at silly point, after a well-made half century.

The middle-order tried to play aggressively, but failed to bring about any fruitful result, as the next three wickets, those of Faisal Iqbal, Inzamam-ul-Haq and Kamran Akmal fell in a quick succession, within a space of 24, to have Pakistan reduced to 199-7, and staring right down the barrel.

From that point onward, Pakistan started their comeback, even though it wasn't without chances which could have gone either way, and in all likeliness could have folded up the innings prematurely. Nazir was the luckiest of all, being dropped by Pollock off Ntini before tea, and they getting away with two run out chances after the break. He was eventually dismissed by Ntini for 40, clean bowled, repeating a shot from the previous delivery which has found its way out of the ground.

Naved-ul-Hasan and Kaneria picked up from their with some meaty blows off the bowling of Ntini and Pollock. However, the re-introduction of Harris into the bowling slowed things up, and thus brought the carnage to an end, finishing the innings with figures of 4-46.

Pakistan carried on the momentum from the batting of their tail-enders into their bowling, as Mohammad Asif picked up AB de Villiers for 12, with the home side at 20-1, chasing 199, thus giving the tourists a sniff of a chance for something dramatic.

However, Graeme Smith and Hashim Amla steadied the innings with a 47-run partnership. Smith lost his wicket to part-time off-spinner Mohammad Hafeez just before the close of play, but it might have just come a bit too late for Pakistan, as South Africa look all set to knock of the runs on the final day.

Pakistan 313 and 302
Imran Farhat 60, Shahid Nazir 40
Shaun Pollock 3-60, Paul Harris 4-46

South Africa 417 and 69-2
Graeme Smith 32, Hashim Amla 17*

South Africa require another 130 runs to win.

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