The seamers held sway on another day of fluctuating fortunes between South Africa and Pakistan, which ended with the hosts well on top.
Pakistan began the day on 17/2 in reply to South Africa’s 262, with nightwatchman Mohammad Abbas partnering opener Imam-ul-Haq. They extended their partnership to a stubborn 47, helped by several dropped catches, before Abbas’ resistance was finally ended as he nicked off to Theunis de Bruyn at third slip off Duanne Olivier.
Asad Shafiq followed three balls later, ducking an Olivier bouncer without properly pulling his bat out the way and gloving through to the keeper. Having scored 53 from their first 25 overs, the pace of Pakistan’s innings quickened with the entry of Babar Azam, who has played several counter-attacking hands this series, and a succession of thrilling duels ensued.
He was beaten first ball by a swinging ball from Olivier which kept low, before being struck in the ribs by a ball from the same bowler which leapt off a length. The very next ball he nailed a pull shot for four, and the ball after he was beaten again. To round out the over, Babar crunched a cover drive for another boundary.
Dale Steyn, South Africa’s leading Test wicket taker, was soon introduced and Babar continued to exact punishment on the legendary quick, as he has done throughout the series, pumping him for consecutive fours. Ul-Haq fell in the next over, edging Vernon Philander to slip, and Sarfaraz Ahmed, the new batsman, looked intent on outdoing Babar, punching his first two balls for four.
The pair continued to attack, adding 75 runs in 10 overs, and briefly giving Pakistan the upper hand in the contest. But once their captain departed, edging Kagiso Rabada to Hashim Amla at slip for a 40-ball 50, the collapse was in motion, with the last five wickets falling for the addition of 16 runs.
Olivier ended with 5/51, his third five-for of the series, a short-ball barrage giving South Africa a lead of 77, which on a pitch already showing signs of uneven bounce, seemed plenty.
Aiden Markram, who made 90 on the opening day, dominated the early scoring, and the lead was past 100 before Pakistan struck. Mohammad Amir got the ball to swing back into Dean Elgar, who tickled an edge behind, the ‘not out’ decision overturned on review. Soon South Africa were four down, Abbas removing Markram, edging to the right of Sarfaraz who took a good catch, and Faheem Ashraf striking twice in an over to remove de Bruyn and Zubayr Hamza.
By stumps the hosts had recovered, first through Temba Bavuma – who edged Shadab Khan to Sarfaraz for 23 – and Amla (42*), and then through Quinton de Kock, who made a brisk unbeaten 34. They ended the day leading by 212 runs with five wickets in hand
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