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South Africa in total control
02 Oct 2007
By: Richard Dickinson

South Africa ended the second day of the First Test against Pakistan in Karachi in a commanding position after reducing their hosts - already potentially a man down after vice-captain Salman Butt was taken to hospital with suspected gastroenteritis - to 127 for 5 in reply to their first-innings 450. The follow-on now appears an almost unavoidable outcome for Pakistan, whose top-order capitulated to a variety of different South African bowlers.

As on the first day, the Pakistani seamers Mohammad Asif and Umar Gul could find no assistance in the pitch, which allowed the overnight batsmen Jacques Kallis - dropped twice yesterday on 36 and 61 - and Ashwell Prince to bed in easily. When Kallis took 3 consecutive fours from Asif's 2nd over of the day, Shoaib Malik whipped him straight out of the attack and brought on the debutant Abdur Rehman, still seeking his first Test wicket. Before long Gul was also replaced by Danish Kaneria, and the spinners bowled in tandem for the rest of the session. Kaneria eventually elected to go around the wicket to aim at the widening footholds, and was instantly rewarded as Kallis, who had just completed his 150, attempted another back-foot drive - a stroke which had brought him many runs throughout his innings - and edged to the wicketkeeper. Finally, at the third attempt, he was held, and gone for 155.

AB de Villiers, an opening batsman by trade, adjusted well to having to begin against spin, and with the ball increasingly offering to turn. Prince, meanwhile, played as he so often does, milking the spinners with apparently little effort. Having struck just 2 boundaries in his 36, and with lunch less than 3 overs away, he sashayed down the wicket, spotted the googly too late, and ended-up offering a simple return catch that even Kaneria would have found difficult to miss. It was a fine way for the bowler to complete 200 Test wickets (although 34 of them have been freebees against Bangladesh), and initiated South Africa's slide from a seemingly impregnable 373 for 4 to 450 all out, a total smaller than they might have hoped for.

Mark Boucher struggled against both Rehman's spin and a renewed, invigorated Asif, who bowled with venom, sharp swing and a degree of movement off the wicket. He went without luck, however, and it was Rehman who, after a tortuous 25-ball single, picked-up the South African wicketkeeper with a fair degree of good fortune. Boucher attempted to sweep out of the rough, missed the ball, and saw it loop to Akmal off the pad. Umpire Mark Benson raised his finger, nonetheless, and Andre Nel followed not long after, pushing a simple catch to Misbah-ul-Haq at silly-point. He grabbed the wicket of Paul Harris in his next over, ripping the ball onto the outside edge and offering another simple catch to Akmal which he did not miss.

There followed, however, a splendid exhibition of how to farm the strike by de Villiers, on 39 when Harris was dismissed. He and Dale Steyn were together for 5.4 overs, during which 36 runs were added with Steyn needing to face just 6 deliveries. De Villiers refused singles, capitalised on Pakistan's slipshod ground-fielding to snatch twos, and struck an occasional massive blow, including a six off Rehman way over the long-on boundary to complete his half-century. Finally Rehman completed his demolition of the tail, bowling Steyn with a fast, flat yorker. Gul was brought back the following over and completed the job, firing in an even better yorker, complete with inswing, to remove de Villiers for a very fine 77 from just 101 deliveries.

Akmal walked out to open the innings with Mohammad Hafeez, and after a quiet first 8 overs which bridged the tea interval, the two sprung to life, clattering 41 from the next 6. Andre Nel's introduction had little impact, and it took Paul Harris (after being given a single over immediately prior to tea), reintroduced in the 15th, to break the stand then slow things down. Akmal (who had raced to 42 from 37 balls) was deceived by a beautifully bowled arm-ball and trapped plumb in front, and 4 overs later Hafeez played a late-cut to one which turned and bounced, but found Kallis' right-hand outstretched to the full and behind him to take the catch. Immediately, in Nel's next over, the bowler bowled a straight ball short of a length which barely bounced, and gave Younis Khan no realistic opportunity to get his bat down. Suddenly, at 84 for 3, Pakistan were in trouble.

Faisal Iqbal, whose last Test of his stop-start career was at Centurion last January, and Misbah-ul-Haq, now aged 33 and having not faced serious Test opposition since October 2002, weathered the storm for a time, and played carefully for 8 overs. Just as they were beginning to establish themselves, however, Faisal did what he has done so often in his career at international level, and threw it away inexplicably. This time it was an innocuous full delivery from Kallis, one which did not swing back at all, which he managed to drag into his stumps.

The captain Malik then joined Misbah in an even slower partnership, Harris doing a particularly effective job in combination with both the seamers and Graeme Smith of choking runs. Steyn, brought back initially to mix yorkers and short deliveries, finally found some away-swing in, curiously, a slower delivery, which nonetheless carried to Boucher following the nick. A hard-working knock from Misbah was nipped in the bud.

Rehman survived with his captain until stumps, but with no definite indication that Salman Butt will be able to bat tomorrow Pakistan remain deep in the mire and will need a near miracle to come back into this Test-match.

South Africa 450
Herschelle Gibbs 54, Hashim Amla 71, Jacques Kallis 155, AB de Villiers 77
Abdur Rehman 4-105

Pakistan 127 for 5
Paul Harris 2-18

Pakistan trail by 323 runs with 5 first-innings wickets remaining

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