Proteas stay on track to win

The Herald (South Africa) - - Front Page - Khany­iso Tsh­waku

Pak­istan’s tilt at his­tory in terms of not only record­ing their first-ever Test win in Johannesburg but also pulling off their sec­ond-high­est Test run chase will go into a fourth day.

With their most ag­gres­sive batsmen in Babar Azam (17*) and Asad Shafiq (48*) at the crease and time on their side, 381 is faintly within their reach.

Pak­istan ended the third day on 153/3, 228 runs from their his­toric goal with only Sar­fraz Ahmed and a longish and frag­ile tail to fol­low.

Whether they have the req­ui­site pa­tience and com­po­sure to get there is an­other story.

How­ever, they dis­played the fight that was sorely lack­ing in the heat of first-in­nings bat­tles in all three Tests.

Then again, Pak­istan tend to play their best cricket when their backs are firmly against the wall.

Imam-ul-Haq (35) and Shan Ma­sood (37) gave the vis­i­tors a solid 67-run start after SA were bowled out for 303.

The open­ers were re­moved by the Quin­ton de Kock/Dale Steyn com­bi­na­tion but the exit of Ma­sood, who needed a re­fer­ral to get him on his back, elicited a dis­gusted re­sponse from the lanky left­hander.

Azhar Ali’s (15) mis­er­able se­ries came to an in­evitable end when his neme­sis Duanne Olivier bounced him out yet again.

Olivier has dis­missed Ali four out of six times this se­ries, deny­ing Pak­istan’s best and most ex­pe­ri­enced bats­man cru­cial crease time on a sur­face whose demons have grad­u­ally dis­si­pated.

Babar and Shafiq blazed their way to an un­beaten 49run fourth-wicket part­ner­ship that pretty much stands be­tween a land­mark chase and a cus­tom­ary col­lapse.

How they wish they could have a bats­man of Hashim Amla’s ilk who can not only stave off a col­lapse, but can also serenely get his team into a good po­si­tion while an­other bat­ting part­ner charms the crowd with sump­tu­ous stroke­play.

While on their way to set­ting Pak­istan the steep fourthin­nings tar­get, the far qui­eter but highly ap­pre­cia­tive Sun­day crowd was treated to a de­lec­ta­ble fourth Test cen­tury by De Kock.

It was a proper De Kock spe­cial, laced with bound­aries but also the in­tel­li­gent kind of place­ment and run­ning be­tween the wick­ets that is not al­ways as­so­ci­ated with big hit­ters. It came off only 121 balls and con­tained 15 fours.

When he holed out to Hasan Ali at deep fine leg off Shadab Khan (3/41), the stand­ing ova­tion was a warm one that recog­nised an un­fussed lower-or­der ton of the high­est class.

With the Proteas also need­ing their top-or­der big guns to come good ahead of the loom­ing five-match ODI se­ries against the same op­po­nents, the cen­tury was a timely one.

After all, De Kock also scored a very good 50 in the sec­ond Test in Cape Town.

An­other heart-warm­ing knock for the se­lec­tors was Amla’s 71.

He steered South Africa out of some very choppy wa­ters of 45/4 in the sec­ond in­nings.

He not only guided them from trou­ble, but dragged them through par­ity and into a po­si­tion of mean­ing­ful dom­i­nance.

It also pro­vided the needed re­as­sur­ance that he is in some sort of dom­i­nance that stands the na­tional team in good stead for the ODI leg that leads to the World Cup.

Kag­iso Rabada (21) showed his in­creas­ing ma­tu­rity at the crease, with his in­nings span­ning 62 balls, but this was not the case for Ver­non Phi­lan­der (14) and Olivier (1).

How­ever, Pak­istan’s chase re­mains a steep one de­spite the pitch’s easy na­ture and even though they started well they will need to sum­mon their shal­low bat­ting re­serves if they are to sal­vage some­thing from this game. –

Pic­ture: GOR­DON ARONS/GALLO IMAGES

BAT­TING LES­SON: SA’s Quin­ton de Kock puts away a classy bound­ary dur­ing his cen­tury knock on day three of the third Test against Pak­istan at the Wan­der­ers Sta­dium in Johannesburg on Sun­day

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