Pakistan’s spinners Yasir Shah and Nauman Ali grabbed three wickets in the space of ten runs to halt South Africa’s fightback on the third day of the first Test in Karachi on Thursday.
When it looked like South Africa would end the day at parity after wiping out Pakistan’s big 158-run first innings lead, Yasir struck twice and Nauman once to leave the tourists on 187-4 at close.
Nightwatchman Keshav Maharaj was unbeaten on two and skipper Quinton de Kock was yet to score, as South Africa now lead by 29 runs with six second innings wickets in hand.
Earlier, Pakistan scored 378 to take a crucial lead over South Africa’s first innings total of 220. Opener Aiden Markram, who scored a polished 74 for his 8th fifty, added 127 for the second wickets with Rassie van der Dussen who scored a solid 64.
But Yasir, with figures of 3-53, changed the scenario by dismissing Dussen caught and then trapped Faf Du Plessis leg-before for ten, while Nauman had Markram caught by a close-in fielder to trigger a three wicket collapse in 33 balls.
Markram, dropped on 27 by Pakistan skipper Babar Azam off spinner Yasir, also had a leg-before decision overturned on four.
Dussen also had a leg-before decision overturned on 56. Markram hit ten boundaries and Dussen five.
Both Yasir and Nauman will be major threats for South Africa on a fourth day National stadium pitch which produced 14 wickets on day one, four on the second and six on the third.
South Africa were off to a confident start with Markram and Dean Elgar defying Pakistan’s attack, and were 37 without loss at lunch.
Elgar, in visible discomfort after being hit on the left hand by a rising delivery from pacer Shaheen Shah Afridi, was caught by diving wicketkeeper Mohammad Rizwan off Yasir for 29.
South Africa had begun day three just as despondently as they had capped a dismal second day, allowing Pakistan’s tail to not so much wag as hop, skip and jump all the way to a potentially decisive lead. A 55-run partnership for the tenth wicket drove a stake deeper through the heart of the visitors’ chances in this Test as Pakistan wrapped up with 378 on the board, ensuring South Africa would have to fight hard just to make them bat again.
Shah’s innings may have looked casual with the ever-present smile on his face and the caution he threw to the wind along the way, but this was no laughing matter for South Africa’s bowlers.
After Pakistan began the day eight wickets down and 88 ahead, South Africa knew every run they added would tilt the odds further against them. They started off well enough when Kagiso Rabada knocked out Hasan’s middle stump in the second over of the day to reach to become the third-fastest to 200 Test wickets.
But there was little time to celebrate, especially as Nauman and Shah decided they still fancied a bat. The former crunched Rabada for four the first ball he bowled, while soon after, Shah drove him through the covers before perfectly placing a square cut for another boundary in the same over.
Pakistan brought up 350, with their lead touching 150 when Shah danced down the ground to deposit Keshav Maharaj over long-on for six.
The left-arm spinner did finally snare Nauman but not before Pakistan’s advantage had increased up to 158, as South Africa had an hour to negotiate before lunch. But the one thing they drew comfort from was Dean Elgar and Markram neutralising the new ball, which lay in the hands of Shaheen Afridi and Hasan.
But if the morning session was a bit liberal in allowing the rate at which runs were scored, the afternoon session spent all its time overcompensating. Two hours of grind later, the sides still remained locked into the same situation they found themselves in at lunch, with Pakistan still on top.—APP