Shoaib back on Pakistan’s day

16 wickets fell today, with just 259 runs scored. It was dominated by two fearsome spells of fast bowling, one from Makhaya Ntini, and another from a resurgent Shoaib Akhtar. Both were tidily supported by the rest of their respective attacks, but the batsmen can be less proud of themselves.

With Graeme Smith having no hesitation to bat after winning the toss, it was Shoaib who got the chance to do some damage first. However well he was bowling, his first wicket was a gift. AB De Villiers tried to pull one from outside off stump that was wide enough to cut, and edged to Kamran Akmal. Hashim Amla was his next victim, gloving down the leg side.

Following Shoaib’s initial burst, Danish Kaneria was brought into the attack early. He rewarded Inzamam Ul-Haq quickly, with the wicket of Graeme Smith. Mohammad Sami also grabbed a crucial wicket, Ashwell Prince slashing to slip. Kaneria soon had a second wicket, Herschelle Gibbs with the racism charge hanging heavy over his head.

Mark Boucher and Jacques Kallis offered a little resistance, scoring 35 and 24 respectively. Kallis was ousted by Shoaib returning for another spell, in which he also claimed Shaun Pollock. Boucher hung around with the tail, and shared the biggest partnership of the innings, 31 with Andre Nel. There was no salvage of the innings by the lower order, and South Africa had capitulated to a miserable 124.

Faced with a meagre total, Pakistan suffered an early setback. Imran Farhat prodded his second ball from Ntini to slip. Ntini followed this up with two more scalps before the tea break. Mohammad Hafeez was dismissed in a similar fashion to De Villiers, and Yasir Hameed was snapped up in the slips.

A lean period followed after that though, as Younis Khan and the returning Mohammad Yousuf added 60. With the pitch not the minefield the score would suggest, they looked to be getting in and setting up for the long haul. Shaun Pollock produced the crucial wicket of Yousuf though, trapping him lbw, though replays showed height may have been an issue.

Kamran Akmal was next in, Inzamam was unable to bat to a shoulder injury sustained fielding. He scored a lively 33 to take Pakistan into the lead, but South Africa struck two crucial blows in the last two overs. Ntini and Nel dismissed Khan and Akmal respectively, to leave Pakistan 11 ahead with four wickets remaining.

The match is set up for some enthralling cricket over the next few days. If Pakistan can get a good lead tomorrow, South Africa may be all but finished, but if they are finished off quickly, there will be barely anything between them.

South Africa 124
Mark Boucher 35
Shoaib Akhtar 4-36, Danish Kaneria 3-36

Pakistan 135-6
Younis Khan 45
Makhaya Ntini 4-18

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