South Africa remain in control

A spirited effort from Pakistan’s captain Shoaib Malik and the lower order ensured the home side avoided the follow-on in pursuit of South Africa’s 450.

At the start of the third day, Pakistan were ominously positioned at 127-5, but thanks to Shoaib Malik’s 73 and helpful contributions from Salman Butt and Danisk Kaneria, they had reduced the first innings deficit to 159, finishing 291 all out. It could have been worse for the Proteas, but for Paul Harris spinning his way to his first five wicket haul in Test cricket.

It was a day that saw Pakistan recover their position in the game to a certain degree, they even picked up the vital wickets of Graeme Smith, Herschelle Gibbs and Hashim Amla in the final session.

More worryingly, however, is the presence of Jacques Kallis, who remains not out, albeit only on 18. The tourists closed on 76-3.

On a deteriorating pitch, Shoaib Malik was only too aware of Pakistan’s need to post a decent first innings total, and he led by example today. He combined a tight and solid defence with controlled aggression.

Malik and Abdur Rehamn faced an opening attack consisting of Paul Harris and Andre Nel, probably South Africa’s most impressive bowlers today. Harris continued to probe with his excellent line and a good deal of turn, while Nel continued to run hard in an attempt to extract any possibly life out of this track. His wholehearted approach can only be commended and he bowled with typical fire in his belly.

Nel was rewarded in his fourth over of the day as he induced a hesitant push outside off stump from Rehman, that carried through, but only just, to Mark Boucher.

Salman Butt came in number eight, fit enough to bat today following his stomach problems, and played a decent support role with his skipper, and the pair saw Pakistan through to lunch. Malik completing his half century with a driven boundary down to long on off Harris. In the spinners next over, Malik skipped down the track effectively, and struck an elegant six, again over long on, this shot brought up his 1000th Test run.

Butt was removed after the luncheon interval for 24. He missed a delivery from Harris trying to turn the ball to the on side with the spin, the ball striking his back leg in line with the stumps.

Aware that he needed to up the ante, Malik came charging down the pitch to Harris, who fired the ball through a touch quicker, it turned and beat Malik leaving Boucher to complete the job and end a fine skippers knock.

The same combination struck again to remove Umar Gul, in a similar fashion. This wicket gave Boucher the honour of top spot in the most dismissals in Test cricket, hurdling Ian Healy’s paltry effort of 395.

Kaneria continued to slash at anything with a hint of width and to good effect, but the innings was brought to a close when Dale Steyn bowled Mohammad Asif. Kaneria stranded on 26 not out.

Smith and Gibbs then got the visitors off to a steady start, they saw off the openers, Gul and Asif, and Rehamn was introduced in the 11th over. He got the breakthrough for his side in his second over, when Smith could only edge an attempted cut shot into the gloves of Kamran Akmal for 25.

This will do the keeper’s confidence some good after dropping Kallis relatively early in the first innings. His place appears to be under scrutiny, mainly for his keeping rather than his batting, so an efficient display with the gloves will not do any harm.

He was in the action again overs later with a very smart piece of keeping that saw Amla return to the changing rooms without scoring. Rehamn beat Amla with the turn, and Akmal whipped off the bails with Amla’s foot in the air.

Kaneria, obviously feeling left out, got himself a wicket the following over, that of Gibbs. South Africa had slipped from 41-0 to 43-3, when Gibbs was snaffled at silly mid off by Faisal Iqbal.

Kallis and Ashwell Prince ensured no futher damage was done on the South African batting line-up, and played them safely through to the close.

With Andre Nel down as number eight, the hosts will feel a few quick wickets and they may have an end open. In reality South Africa will look to add a further hundred runs which would make certain of a comfortable enough cushion on a track where the indifferent bounce is becoming more and more apparent and problematic to bat on.

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

Pakistan 291
Shoaib Malik 73, Kamran Akmal 42
Paul Harris 5-73

South Africa 76-3
Graeme Smith 25
Abdur Rehman 2-25

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