DURBAN, Feb 26: Pakistan batsmen once again failed to live up to their reputation on a batting wicket at Kingsmead they showed little resistance and slumped to be all out for 259 in their first innings of the second Test against South Africa.
But in that humiliation of a batting disaster they were once again salvaged by a man who seems to have taken a liking for the South African bowling. Azhar Mahmood was, of course, the man who mattered most when wickets began to tumble at regular intervals as South Africa won the toss and put the tourists in to bat. From 89 for 5 Azhar took on the challenge and was the last man out but not before he had notched up another century (132) in a Test, his third in a row against South Africa. In that saving grace he also shared an 80-run stand for the ninth wicket with Shoaib Akhtar.
South Africa, in reply, had made 23 for the loss of their opener Gary Kirsten before play had to be halted because of bad light and eight overs still remaining.
For the inept batting display Pakistan has to now make amends with the ball when play resumes to second day and they will have to field a lot better and than they did in the first Test to make this a challenging one or else there would be some hard grinding to come up against for the next few days.
The loss of Inzamam-ul-Haq because of a twisted ankle was of course too much of a disappointment. His replacement Yousaf Youhana, a talented batsman, was overcome with nerves as he saw Pakistan tumble to 70 for 3, having lost Aamir Sohail, Ijaz Ahmed and Mohammad Wasim. He like his senior partners committed the same mistake of nudging at a delivery to be caught. On a seemingly good batting pitch Pakistan failed to take advantage. Concentration should have been the key word for a respectable score but they floundered and gave away their wickets. Aamir Sohail was flashy and incoherent and paid the price for it as Mark Boucher took an easy catch off Shaun Pollock's bowling when the former was on 17.
Ijaz Ahmed seemed out of sort and he too offered a simple catch at wide gully to Fanie de Viliers off the same bowler when on 2. Saeed Anwar and Mohammad Wasim batted defensively to repair the damage and nearly succeeded in it as they put on 33 runs for the third wicket. At lunch Pakistan with 81 for 3 having lot Wasim to Allan Donald for 12 looked in danger of being out cheaply. Five wickets fell in the second session Yousaf Youhana was caught low down as he nudged one to slip to Jacques Kallis off Donald when 6. Saeed Anwar having made 43 with seven fours was out leg before to him. Pakistan struggling at 89 for 5 was then joined by Azhar Mahmood.
As if he was there all morning, Azhar settled down within minutes to play handsome looking shots with Moin Khan as his partner. The two put on 38 runs with flourishing drives and cuts before Moin played an ambitious shot at mid-wicket and was caught for 25 by Donald off De Villiers. Mushtaq Ahmed and Waqar Younis offered a much resistance as they could with Azhar taking on the South African attack on his own. There were exquisite drives and cuts as he reached his fifty. Also luck to be dropped when 53 by Kallis off Donald with Pakistan on 170 for 8. But the maintained his composure and concentration to take the ninth wicket stand with Shoaib Akhtar past fifty. Anything loose was punished with immaculate precision as he carved his way to his third century in ten innings. His hundred was reached with a hook off De Villiers in a stay of nearly two and half hours in which he had struck 19 fours an had faced 122 balls. His domination was such that in a stand of 80 for the ninth wicket he allowed his partner only 22 balls to face in an hour and half partnership.
Shoaib through a tail-ender showed tremendous temperament and had dug in well to frustrate the Donald who finished with 5 for 79 and other bowlers too as he defended strongly to let Azhar take most of the strike to establish a record ninth wicket stand at Kingsmead.
South Africa in six overs possible made 23 in reply before play had to be called off. The man out was Gary kirsten who was dropped off Fazal-e-Akbar by Mushtaq Ahmed in the first slip but the debutant soon found Kirsten faltering again to offer a catch to gully where Azhar the man of the day obliged him with his first wicket in Test Pakistan may regret in the end that they batted so sluggishly but at least they would have this satisfaction than in Azhar Mahmood they have discovered someone who can fly the flat.
Day 2: Shoaib's fiery burst gives Pakistan a marginal lead
DURBAN, Feb 27: In an absorbing day's play in the second Test at Kingsmead, Pakistan fought admirably to restrict South Africa to 231 in their first innings and take a marginal lead of 28 runs.
It could have been even much healthier had Shaun Pollock and his partner Allan Donald not allowed the freedom of a defensive field to share 53 valuable runs for the last wicket. Pollock was only 31 then and South Africa out of their wits were tottering at 178. Pakistan had this golden opportunity of a respectable lead but they squandered it as Pollock smashed his way to an unbeaten 70 and reduce the lead to a minimum.
The Pakistani openers later survived the two of the four overs possible before close on the second day to finish with an overall lead of 31 runs.
That does not, however, take away the credit from Pakistan bowling which was spearheaded by the fiery Shoaib Akhtar who though kept away during the morning session from the attack, blasted his way to his first five wickets haul in Tests to reduce the South African batting to tatters.
In an inspired spell he dented South African batting to such an extent that Pakistan's respectable 259 began to look very impressive and imposing. His 5 for 43 in 12 overs was a tremendous effort. Pace and nagging accuracy was his forte and in between when he slipped one with extra pace it worked because three of his victims were beaten all ends up and two were trapped in front of the wicket. It was only in the end that he started to look weary and tired but he had already done his job with remarkable authority.
To compliment the authority that Pakistan bowlers Shoaib Akhtar and Mushtaq Ahmed wielded during the day, the Pakistan batsmen now have to bat with a lot more application than they did in the first innings to try and take a firm grip on the Test and then dictate from that advantage. There were no dropped catches and rare misfields and that is indeed a good omen as far as the rest of the game is concerned.
Pakistan were able to have a quick success in the morning when Adam Bacher got an inside edge off Fazl-e-Akbar when 17 and was caught brilliantly by Moin Khan. Jacques Kallis and debutant Hylton Ackerman were together at lunch with South Africa on 65 for 2. The two dug in to keep their wicket intact and add 83 valuable runs for the third wicket. Their stand was ended by Shoaib Akhtar who came in for his first stint of the day. It was sheer pace that bowled Kallis as he lunged forward when 43 having survived for 219 minutes. His off stump was knocked off and next ball Andrew Hudson was leg before to a similar delivery. The hat-trick was averted by the captain Hansie Cronje but that was all he could do because Mushtaq Ahmed who had bowled throughout without much luck dismissed him not much later to make South Africa 120 for 5.
Suddenly South Africa had started to look vulnerable with 132 for 5 at tea. Ackerman still at the wicket, however, offered straight bat to everything short or overpitched and rarely showed any sign of nerves. He batted handsomely before being caught at silly point by Mohammad Wasim off Mushtaq Ahmed when 57. He hit 8 fours in a stay of 228 minutes having faced 155 balls. Pollock who had come at the fall of the fifth wicket then took charge and in a desperate bid to hit Mushtaq out of the attack drove him high at long on for a massive six. But Shoaib yorked Mark Boucher, disturbed Lance Klusener's stumps few minutes later and bowled Fanie de Villiers as well for 2.6 and 7 respectively to put Pakistan in a commanding position. He had taken 5 for 31 in ten overs and had done his job with perfect precision. Had Aamir Sohail kept the pressure on, the innings would have ended soon after but the last wicket pair enjoyed themselves as the Pakistan captain chose to spread the field instead of applying pressure. It was frustrating as the partnership progressed and the margin of lead started to shorten with Pollock in attacking mood taking most of the strike. But Mushtaq who bowled superbly like Shoaib did save the agony by having Donald leg before.
Day 3: Saeed Anwar's century fails to retain initiative
DURBAN, Feb 28: Pakistan should have ended the third day's play in the second Test in a commanding position after Saeed Anwar and Aamir Sohail had provided them with an opening stand of 101 but as is often the case, they failed to cash on it and instead were struggling to come back in the game.
At the close they were 222 for 8 and led South Africa by 250 runs by virtue of their marginal 28 runs first innings lead. The bulk of those runs had come though Saeed Anwar who made an attractive 118, his fifth century in Test but the rest struggled as Shaun Pollock in a spell of 43 balls took five wickets for 14 runs to clinch back the initiative.
Had bad light not curtailed play for the third time during the day and caused the abandonment of play with 14 overs remaining, Pakistan in all probability would have been all out.
The psychological advantage of a big lead which Pakistan should have taken has thus been lost and once again when play gets under way on the fourth morning the pressure will be on Pakistan. If they are lucky to add another 25 or 30 runs for the remaining two wickets, they may yet find themselves in a position to stage a comeback and strike with venom as they did in the first innings.
A lot will, however, depend on how well they bowl when South Africa bat for the last time. Mushtaq Ahmed who is unbeaten at 15 could be a key man with the ball and that is what Pakistan will be looking forward to. The wicket is not weary but has developed a tendency to keep low at one end and the weakness of the South Africans against spinners is well known.
Pakistan resuming the third day's play at 11 without loss had all the time in the world to build on to their first innings lead. The two openers Aamir Sohail and Saeed Anwar meant just that as they remained unseparated at lunch with Pakistan on 98. Anwar had already reached his fifty with nine fours and Aamir Sohail in one of his uncharacteristic innings had made 34.
They were soon past the 100 partnership to become the first pair to achieve this distinction against South Africa after their re-entry into international cricket. Allan Donald, however, ended that stand when the Pakistan captain in one of his loose moments played into the hands of the keeper Mark Boucher having stayed at the crease for nearly two and half hours.
Anwar not much later reached the landmark of 2,000 runs in Tests when he reached 81. Anchored well in the middle, he delighted the crowd with handsome looking drives and cuts as he progressed towards his century but on his way he also had started to lose his partners at regular intervals. He and Ijaz Ahmed put on 58 runs for the second wicket and that was the only stand worth its salt after the opening partnership. Once the stand was broken with Ijaz Ahmed bowled off leg break by Fanie de Villiers for 24, lightning had struck Pakistan.
The rout started with Mohammad Wasim being run out while taking the second run. He played at mid-wicket to take a single and as he turned he found Anwar reluctant and was sent back. Hansie Cronje having misfielded by then had recovered and threw at the bowlers end to end Wasim's innings.
At 176 for 3 at tea Pakistan still looked in an impregnable position because Anwar with 97 was still there. He reached his century immediately after the break having taken a single off Lance Klusener to third man. In 268 minutes stay he had faced 170 balls and hit 16 fours. The debutant Yousaf Youhana battled for 40 minutes for one run before offering a catch at the wicket off Pollock who then started the slide that Pakistan dreaded. With Allan Donald out of attack due to strained thigh. Pollock spearheading the attract then tore through Pakistan defences after the first stoppage because of bad light. Moin Khan was leg before to him for 5 and then Anwar's resistance was cut short by the same bowler who had him leg before for 118. Anwar had lasted for 312 minutes and hit 18 fours. Pollock by then had taken 3 for 20 in 23 balls.
Azhar Mahmood, the man in form ambitiously attempted to cut a rising delivery and paid the price as he edged it to the keeper off Pollock for 1. His first failure in the series.
Mushtaq Ahmed was dropped by Jacques Kallis off him when 9 but Waqar Younis lobbed one in the air at mid-on providing Pollock his fifth wicket. Pollock's last four wickets had come for seven runs in five overs. Mushtaq Ahmed played two handsome looking drives through the covers off Kallis and he looked very determined. If only he could do the same for a while on the fourth morning, Pakistan could still find themselves in a position from where they are able to take back the initiative. Anwar's hundred and Pollock's inspired spell, however, remained the feature of the third day of an absorbing Test.
Day 4: Mushtaq bags 6 for 66
DURBAN, March 1: Pakistan could have ended the fourth day with a remarkable victory in the second Test against South Africa at the Kingsmead. But a spirited ninth wicket unbroken stand of 53 runs between Mark Boucher and Fanie de Villiers and bad light, which caused the match to end with seven overs still remaining, deprived them of the privilege.
It could have been a remarkable win had they managed to achieve that after leg-spinner Mushtaq Ahmed had cast a spell on the South African batsmen with his superb bowling which fetched him six wickets for 66. But as luck would have it, the tail-enders once again proved that the game was not over till the last ball is bowled. Boucher and de Villiers managed to hang on and frustrate Pakistan as the bowlers worked hard for their first win over South Africa in a Test.
Set to make 255 to win, South Africa, from 133 for 8, had taken the score to 186 for 8 and were in a relatively happier position but not in what one could call safe. They still required 69 more runs to win. The final day will, of course, be an interesting one.
The sooner Pakistan is able to break the ninth wicket stand, the better it will be for them. Pakistan will also have the advantage of the new ball which is due and a night's rest for their bowlers will also make the difference. The balance of course is tilted in Pakistan's favour and if they squander their chances from here, they will only have to blame their tactics under pressure which has so far been quite mind-boggling. Under pressure they don' seem to come out well and it will indeed be an interesting morning when play resumes on the final day.
Pakistan resuming at their second innings at the overnight score of 222 for 8 could add only four more runs before being all out after Mushtaq Ahmed ran himself out and Fazl-i-Akbar was caught by Lance Klusener off Shaun Pollock who finished with 6 for 50. He bowled magnificently to reduce Pakistan's lead which at one time looked like being massive after the two openers Aamir Sohail and Saeed Anwar had put on 101 runs.
Even 255 runs the target that Pakistan set in the end was an imposing one because of the fact that South African batting seemed to have this tendency of sudden collapses in recent times. This was what Pakistan had to exploit when they started their second innings. Mushtaq Ahmed, the leg-spinner, in such circumstances, of course, could be the man who could dent them.
Weaving his web round the batsmen he exploited their weaknesses with such authority that South Africa after being 37 for one at lunch rarely recovered.
Adam Bacher was the first to be dismissed in the morning when he was leg before to Fazl-i-Akbar without scoring. Gary Kirsten was dropped by Aamir Sohail at cover off Azhar Mahmood when 21 but he added only four more runs after lunch to be caught at silly point by substitute Rashid Latif off Mushtaq Ahmed who also had the distinction of reaching the landmark of 150 wickets in Tests.
Jacques Kallis, who earlier was dropped when 14 by Mohammad Wasim off Mushtaq, departed shortly when he deflected one from Mushtaq in the gloves of Moin Khan who was brilliant behind the stumps all day. South Africa, at 49 for 3 and struggling, had little respite when bad light stopped play for 7 minutes.
But soon after resumption, Hylton Ackerman, who was totally at bay against Mushtaq, was leg before to leg-spinner and later Andrew Hudson lobbed one to Fazl-i-Akbar and was caught brilliantly.
Mushtaq, as predicted, had done most of the damage as South Africa went to tea at 91 for 5. Hansie Cronje, to atone for his first innings failure, had come in at a very precarious stage but did not survive long as he tried to cut a Waqar Younis bouncer and was taken by Moin Khan. And when Shaun Pollock dashed down the wicket and Moin took the bails off, the job was well done and victory seemed only round the corner.
Lance Klusener was also deceived not much later and Pakistan sensing victory became too enthusiatic. Instead of finishing it off, they experimented with astonishing bowling changes as Boucher and de Villiers flourished in the middle to add 53 runs for the unfinished ninth wicket.
The match is surely in a very interesting stage. Pakistan could go one up in the series and this would be historical because South Africa has not lost a Test at Kingsmead since 1964-65 against England.