DUBAI // Bruised and battle-fatigued, Pakistan will have an Everest to climb on day five as they chase 451 for victory, a peak that has never been conquered in Test cricket before.
In the 133-year history of Test matches and 1,974 games, no team has ever chased more than 418 for a win, and Pakistan face the onerous task of improving on that against South Africa at the Dubai International Cricket Stadium.
They have scored 109 of the required runs, for the loss of two wickets, and need a further 342 on the final day of the first Test. Or they could opt for the safety route and try to doggedly bat out for 90 overs to save the game.
The highest successful run-chase in Test history is the 418 for seven that the West Indies scored in 2003 against Australia. There have been only three other successful run-chases in excess of 400 — South Africa’s 414 for four against Australia in 2008, India’s 406 for four against the West Indies in 1976 and Australia’s 404 for three against England in 1948.
Pakistan’s highest successful run-chase is the 315 for nine they scored against Australia in 1994 to win the Karachi Test. Since then, they have only three successful run-chases in excess of 200, all of them in 2003 — two at home against Bangladesh (217-3 and 262-9) and one in New Zealand (277 for three).
Their top score in the fourth innings of a Test match is the 341 for nine against the West Indies in 1988 to draw the game at Port of Spain. Given these stats, the “home” side will have a tough ask, and Waqar Younis, the Pakistan coach, admits a dreaming of a win would be unrealistic — a draw is their best option.
Having lost Mohammed Yousuf to injury even before the toss, Pakistan were a bowler short after day one following the injury to Wahab Riaz. Their limited recourses in attack were exposed on the fourth morning as they struggled to create an impression against Hashim Amla (118) and Jacques Kallis (135).
The two South Africa batsmen, blending caution with the need for quick runs, added 179 runs from 47 overs on the day, before Graeme Smith, the Proteas captain, declared the innings; the partnership was worth 242 in total.
This was Amla’s fourth century of the year and his 11th in the long form of the game. For Kallis, it was his 36th in Test cricket and also his fourth of the year for him. Together, the pair have seven partnerships in excess of 100, including two over 300.
The openers, Mohammad Hafeez (34) and Taufeeq Umar (22) have already been sent back to the pavillion. Indeed, Hafeez was the first wicket of the day as he nudged a Dale Steyn delivery to Johan Botha at first slip.
Umar followed, trying to drive the off-spinner Botha but finding a leading edge to that man Kallis at first slip. It leaves Azhar Ali (37 not out) and Younus Khan (11 not out) at the crease aiming to emulate the same feat of the Proteas batsmen, who batted brilliantly on day four.