The Proteas picked up seven wickets in the third session of play to bowl Pakistan out and leave themselves needing just 41 runs in the morning to secure a second Test win, and with it an unassailable 2-0 lead in the series, writes SIMON LEWIS.
With Pakistan seven wickets down and still 30 runs away from making the Proteas bat again, the camera panned to Pakistan coach Mickey Arthur, who stood up from his chair and walked into the change room, disgruntled.
It would not have been too much of a stretch to imagine Arthur coming back with a white towel in hand to call his players back to the safety of the change room. That is the level to which they have been outplayed and outmuscled in this Test series.
The last straw would have been watching a fired-up Dale Steyn bouncing Yasir Shah out, the ball carrying down to long stop where substitute fielder Zubayr Hamza took the catch. Hamza had formed part of a unique catching ring for the Pakistan tail as Steyn and Duanne Olivier charged in hoping to mop up the stragglers.
Faf’s field included Hamza at long stop, a ring of slips, gully and leg slip, as well as two men behind square leg for the catch.
From their position of 177-3 at tea, Pakistan would have hoped to push slowly towards the 350-run mark in order to give their bowlers something to defend on the fourth and even fifth days, but the Proteas came back refreshed and firing from their steaming cup of Rooibos, knocking over Asad Shafiq shortly after the break with the score on 194.
Shafiq (88 off 118 balls,12×4, 1×6) was caught behind by Quinton de Kock to give local hero Vernon Philander his first wicket of the innings, Fakhar Zaman following with the score on 201, caught and bowled by Kagiso Rabada off a steepler.
Babar Azam scored an entertaining 72 off 87 balls (15×4) as he did his best to farm the strike and push Pakistan past the total required for South Africa to bat again, but Rabada finally induced an edge which Hashim Amla held nicely at first slip.
Mohammad Abbas skied a catch which Rabada held on to to send the Proteas openers scurrying for the change room … until the third umpire spotted that Philander had bowled a no-ball.
Steyn persevered in search of his five-for, Shaheen Afridi skying a swirling catch which Olivier did well to get to but couldn’t secure, the second dropped catch off Steyn following an earlier drop by Rabada.
Rabada picked up his fourth wicket to end the innings, Vernon Philander holding the catch to remove Shaheen Afridi for 14 with Pakistan’s score on 294 off 70.4 overs.
Steyn finished with excellent figures of 4-85, and Rabada 4-61, taking their match tallies to seven and six wickets respectively.
South Africa need to score just 41 runs tomorrow to win the Test and secure the series 2-0.
The Proteas have played their hand to perfection at Newlands, and for Pakistan it was a gruelling experience they had to endure against arguably the world’s most deadly pace attack.
It has also been a bitter pill for Arthur to swallow, considering he has previously coached the Proteas, having worked so hard to build the Pakistan side into a competitive cricket unit. His Pakistan side have great talent within their ranks, but they simply have not fired in South Africa, and possibly inadequate preparation time and the facilities provided have counted against them.
For the Proteas, the imminent victory should be seen as a triumph of teamwork, bold selection, application and good old-fashioned ‘true grit’. While they have statistically rolled Pakistan with ease, the truth is they have had to fight hard each step of the way to gain and maintain their advantage in this Test, and it is a tribute to the players that they are in this position of dominance at Newlands.
Photo: Shaun Roy/Gallo Images