South Africa poised for victory

South Africa virtually sealed the series on the fourth day at Gaddafi Stadium, Lahore, setting Pakistan an implausible 457 to win and square the series. Graeme Smith and, yet again, Jacques Kallis were the force behind the Proteas, taking their stand to 213 from its overnight 88, thus forming 78% of the total off their own bats. Kamran Akmal and Younis Khan played well in the final session to take Pakistan to 108 for 1 going into the final day, but it will take a miracle – and the highest ever Test run-chase – to pull-off the win.

Smith and Kallis’ partnership was not always pretty: Smith had not scored a Test century since South Africa’s visit to the Caribbean in 2005 – he has passed 50 just 6 times since – and found most of his runs in nudges to leg and careful placement into the off-side. Kallis, perhaps the less convincing of the two as he was dropped once again by Kamran Akmal off Danish Kaneria and also by Shoaib Malik at long-on, as ever played the game at his own tempo, refusing to allow anything to disturb his equilibrium. Kaneria and Abdur Rehman found turn and bounce, and were given ample opportunity to exploit it, as Mohammad Asif could not bowl due to an elbow injury and Umar Gul sent down just 9 overs in the two sessions; the spin twins ended-up bowling 86.3 overs out of the 110.3 in the innings; they were even given the new ball.

Thanks in no small part to their fielders, however, they could not prise out the wickets. Smith finally fell to Kaneria on 133, and Ashwell Prince played a strange innings of 11 off 38 which was neither here nor there; he appeared to have intent to score quickly, but never quite managed to. Eventually he fell to Rehman, and AB de Villiers faced just 8 deliveries before Smith called his men in. He had no need to do so, sitting on a 1-0 lead, but appeared anxious to make something of a game of it. If he achieves victory tomorrow, it will be seen as a fine move.

His team took the first step towards this when Makhaya Ntini slid one across Salman Butt and had the vice-captain held easily by Shaun Pollock, on the field as a substitute. No further breakthroughs could be forced, however, as Younis, with his customary aggression, and Akmal, with more restraint than he can usually manage, negotiated the rest of the session. Andre Nel could not find the length of the first-innings and constantly overpitched, being struck for 4 boundaries in his opening 2 overs by Younis, and later for 3 in his 6th by Akmal. Paul Harris, in his 10 overs, found a perfect spot once again and though he did not achieve the large rip of Kaneria and Rehman earlier, the threat remains that he may do on the last day. Certainly, his side hold all the aces.

South Africa 357

Pakistan 206

South Africa 305 for 4 declared

Pakistan 108 for 1

Pakistan require another 349 runs to win with 9 wickets remaining

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