Innings break Pakistan 185 (Sarfraz 50, Olivier 5-51) trail South Africa 262 (Markram 90, Ashraf 3-57) by 77 runs
There was no mistaking the potency of South Africa’s pace attack, even if the team’s catching on the second day at the Wanderers left much to be desired. Having created more than enough chances to bowl out Pakistan before lunch, they kept hammering away with enough purpose to finish the job an hour into the afternoon session.
Duanne Olivier continued his prolific series, twice taking two wickets in an over and finishing with 5 for 51. Pakistan briefly thrived after the interval, as Sarfraz Ahmed raced to a 38-ball half-century, but despite reinforcing their lower order for this Test once again the innings fell away – Faheem Ashraf’s golden duck, splicing an attempted pull gently to short leg, seemed almost designed to support Mickey Arthur’s mid-series assertion that he could bat no higher than No. 8 in the Test side.
Aside from the poor fielding, South Africa also had concerns over Dale Steyn, who seemed to be experiencing regular pain in his troublesome right shoulder; pain that was added to when he returned to the field only for Babar Azam to thrash him for five boundaries in two overs, as the Pakistan batsman continued to win their personal duel.
Babar and Sarfraz counterpunched either side of lunch, adding 78 for the sixth wicket in 10 overs of fluent strokeplay. South Africa put down their fifth catch of the day, this one the most difficult, when Dean Elgar could not hold on to a flying edge when Sarfraz had made 8, as the game threatened to run away from them again. Sarfraz’s aggression saw him overtake his partner, despite a 29-run headstart, but he departed two balls after reaching his fifty when fencing once too often at Kagiso Rabada.
Becalmed after his volley against Steyn, Babar fell in the next over, top-edging a hook to fine leg for 49, and South Africa sniffed their opportunity. Olivier’s short-ball attack immediately did for Ashraf and Mohammad Amir also fended to Zubayr Hamza, under the helmet, to give the bowler his third five-for of the series.
Pakistan had made it through the morning session via a combination of luck and no little fortitude, especially from Imam-ul-Haq but also the nightwatchman Mohammad Abbas. Imam, who was dropped on 13 and 33, was a picture of calm stoicism amid the chaos of South Africa’s efforts in the first hour. He produced only his second double-figures score in his team’s first innings of a Test before finally succumbing to Vernon Philander in the penultimate over before lunch.
His partnership with Abbas, who walked out with Pakistan on 6 for 2 the previous evening, was ultimately worth 47, though its value seemed even greater as South Africa squandered numerous opportunities to separate them. Abbas made 11 from 51 deliveries, dutifully getting into line as Steyn repeatedly rasped the ball past his outside edge, before Olivier finally benefited from a catch being held in the cordon.
Olivier made it two in four balls, when Asad Shafiq attempted to evade a short delivery but only succeeded in deflecting it through to Quinton de Kock off the glove. South Africa clearly had the firepower to wrest control, though they had been their own worst enemies during the opening exchanges.
If de Kock could be forgiven for missing a sharp leg-side stumping off Imam when standing up to Philander, there was little mitigation for Temba Bavuma when a thick edge from Abbas flew straight to him at gully. The catch was at shin height and he got both hands in position, only for the ball to inexplicably pop out.
Worse was to follow in the next over, as Theunis de Bruyn, diving across from third slip, managed to deflect a regulation catch away from Elgar at second. Instead of swallowing the chance, Elgar wore the ball on the chest. Steyn was the bowler, and he should also have removed Abbas shortly after, only for de Kock to shell the chance going one-handed to his right, with the ball seemingly headed for Hashim Amla at first slip.
The frustrations of seeing two chances missed off his bowling would have been minimal next to the possibility of his injury problems resurfacing – Steyn angrily punched the hoarding on the tunnel on his way up to the dressing room – and although he was able to return for another short burst with the ball, the shoulder seemed to be causing him regular discomfort.
Rabada, too, could have removed Imam, when de Kock again could only get fingertips on a low catch to his left. With Imam ball-watching and Abbas halfway down the pitch looking for a run, Rabada was then off target with a shy at the non-striker’s after collecting the throw from Elgar (who had picked the wrong end to target).
Babar survived a crushing blow to the ribs from an Olivier delivery that kicked viciously before he had scored, and edged just wide of gully on 9, but although he produced a number of sparkling strokes to push back the hosts it was not long before carnage returned to the Bullring.