ABU DHABI // One match on from losing a Test to Zimbabwe, Pakistan stand on the verge of a remarkable triumph against the top-ranked side in world cricket.
Another compelling day of cricket, with another handy crowd in, saw South Africa reduced to 72 for four, still needing another 121 runs to make Pakistan bat again.
The day was built first on a long-awaited fourth Test hundred from captain Misbah-ul-Haq, his first since May 2011.
At 39, it made him the oldest Pakistani to make a Test century and the oldest anywhere since Englishman Graham Gooch made one in June 1994 athe ripe old age of 40.
Then, as South Africa batted again, Pakistan came at them with their all-sorts bowling attack. Every one of their bowlers picked up a wicket and given the strength of the visitors’ batting, each one of them felt monumental.
Pakistan’s performance through the Test, as Asad Shafiq pointed out, has been that of a side well-versed enough with conditions here to call it home. They have bowled the right lengths and batted with the right kind of intent.
Shafiq lit up part of the day with an accomplished fifty, after overnight centurion Khurram Manzoor had gone in the morning session; his 146 was the highest score by a Pakistani against South Africa.
But Shafiq helped Misbah maintain Pakistan’s charge and a little cameo from Adnan Akmal took the lead to 193. “We are in a good position,” Shafiq said later.
“We’ve been playing here for the last three-four seasons and we can exploit those conditions. We played on the same wicket, we had an idea about it and knew it would be good for batting today.
“The position we are in we can win comprehensively but we need to be cautious because things can change.”
South Africa’s bowlers were better yesterday. Vernon Philander, who was expected in some quarters to struggle on slower wickets here, ended with three wickets. But he acknowledged the difficulties the batsmen faced and will do in trying to salvage anything from the game.
“Their spinners were able to restrict us and not allow us to play shots,” he said. “We need to try and get a couple of partnerships going and try and do something tomorrow.
“It will be obviously difficult to win from here, but, still, we can come here tomorrow with a positive state of mind and have a good hit.
“It will be hard work and the batsmen will have to do it for us.”
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