South Africa ahead again

South Africa ended the second day of the Second Test in Pakistan on top once again, thanks to some unexpected resistance from Mark Boucher and Paul Harris, after which they broke a rollicking opening stand from Salman Butt and Kamran Akmal and proceeded to take 4 for 33, 2 of the wickets falling to the left-arm fingerspinner. Inzamam-ul-Haq, in his last Test, remains at the wicket and Pakistan will depend heavily on a goodbye present from him going into the third day if they are to stay in the match.

The South Africans had started the day 259 for 6, and with a long tail the hosts would have fancied their chances of wrapping-up the innings swiftly. They started well as Andre Nel was dismissed without addition, caught at short-leg off Umar Gul. The method of dismissal, however, seemed to dupe the Pakistan seamers – Nel had fallen to a short delivery, and many more were aimed at Harris. The batsman, though, had little difficulty ducking under the whole lot of them, never being suckered into playing as Nel had been. When he faced the spinners, Harris was happy to sweep, and eked-out plenty of runs with the stroke. Not once did the seamers aim a Yorker at him. Younis Khan did not help matters by dropping a catch at second-slip.

Boucher, at the other end, theoretically the senior partner, was outscored 35 to 46 in a partnership of 88, but refused to become frustrated at the slowness of scoring. The morning session was very much the tourists’, as they broke the 300 barrier which had seemed a World away at the start of play. They continued to nudge and nurdle into the second session, until finally Harris could not keep a drive at Gul down, giving an easy catch to Shoaib Malik at point. Harris’ 132-ball 46 had been an invaluable hand, however. Danish Kaneria dismissed Dale Steyn shortly afterwards with a beauty which turned violently to bowl the batsman around his pads. Boucher completed his half-century the following over with a top-edged six off Gul, but finally fell to Kaneria the following over, flogging a catch to Abdur Rehman at long-on. With 357, however, the South Africans had the best part of 100 more than they might have feared at the start of the day.

That total looked puny as Butt and Akmal – opening once again after Mohammad Hafeez was axed from the side – started like an express-train. Steyn’s opening over was a good one; his 2nd was pillaged for 19, and this was merely the tip of the iceberg; Makhaya Ntini’s opening 5 overs cost 36, and Andre Nel’s could not stem the flow either, as the tourists’ seamers repeated the mistake of the hosts in pitching far too much too short. It was Harris again who caused the problems. As in the First Test he was given a sole over very early in the innings purely because it was the last before a break. And off the final ball before tea, Kamran Akmal cut uppishly straight at Ashwell Prince at backward-point, who inexplicably floored the offering.

The South Africans applied the brakes effectively from the 12th over onwards. After 67 had come from the first 11, including 13 boundaries, the Pakistanis managed to find the ropes just once in the next 9, which cost just 18. Worse was to follow for the hosts, as Salman Butt failed to control a sweep from Harris, and lofted an easy catch to the captain Graeme Smith at short-fine-leg, who this time made no mistake. Just 2 balls later, Nel produced a superb delivery which pitched full, drew Younis Khan into the drive and darted back in through the gate to crash into the off-stump. Harris continued to loop his web, and shortly after Akmal had completed his half-century he was duped into driving away from the body at a slow, flighted delivery, and succeeded only in offering another low catch into the covers. Smith was there again, and made no mistake again. Suddenly, Pakistan had lost 3 for 9.

This brought together the old firm of Mohammad Yousuf and Inzamam. Steyn was immediately brought back to have a crack at the key pairing, and mixed short deliveries with attempted yorkers. Harris continued to drop the ball on a length at the other end, but Inzamam, keen not to waste his final 2 innings, played patiently, and Yousuf showed his class, waiting for the bad delivery that Steyn inevitably sent down before too long. However, in what turned-out to be the 5th to last over of the day, a short delivery from the Titans bowler kept extremely low, beat Yousuf’s attempt at a pull, and thudded into the pads. Even with the low bounce it still appeared slightly high, but Umpire Mark Benson upheld the appeal, and the South Africans had the most important wicket. Inzamam and his near-namesake Misbah played-out the next 5 overs, and at the end of the 36th the light was offered and taken. Pakistan should make the 18 they still require to avert the follow-on without difficulty tomorrow, but with just the captain Shoaib Malik and another very long tail to come, need plenty from this partnership to get back in with a chance to square the series.

South Africa 357
Jacques Kallis 59, Ashwell Prince 63, Mark Boucher 54
Danish Kaneria 4-114

Pakistan 140 for 4
Kamran Akmal 52

Pakistan trail by 217 with 6 first-innings wickets remaining

Leave a comment

Comments are moderated, and will not appear until they have been approved

More articles by Richard Dickinson