Proteas on even keel

2013-02-16 15:46

Pakistan: 338 and 25/2 (Azhar Ali 19*, Younus Khan 5*, Philander 1/11, Steyn 1/14)

South Africa: 326 all out (Robin Peterson 84, De Villiers 61, Du Plessis 28, Saeed Ajmal 6/96, Mohammad Irfan 3/86)

Pakistan leads by 37 runs

Robin Peterson’s half century left the Proteas on even keel and two early wickets left Pakistan in familiar early strife.

South Africa was subjected to their biggest fight since the fifth day of the second Test in Adelaide.

Robin Peterson’s feisty innings, along with some help from Vernon Philander and Morné Morkel, spared the blushes of the middle-order collapse.

It was a case of Pakistan getting more than their fair dosage of the lower-order medicine they gave out to South Africa early on day two.

Then Philander and Dale Steyn preyed on the Pakistan openers, wrenching two leg-before decisions.

Those were of Mohammad Hafeez and Nasir Jamshed, who did not trouble the scorers. Younus Khan and Azhar Ali took Pakistan safely to tea.

It also showed how well South Africa bowled on day two and how toothless the ball became once it lost its shine.

This was an innings very much needed by Peterson, who is a very capable batsman.

He has not had many chances to showcase his wares but what made the innings good was how it was executed when Pakistan were bearing down on the Proteas.

It didn’t help that South Africa’s tail, once the most feared in the world due to its inability to give in when the chips were down, had a marshmallow look that required the intervention of a number-seven batsman.

Dean Elgar did not make much of an impression but the last four wickets added 162 runs.

That’s more than the top six put together.

That’s the sign of a top test side.

To their credit, Pakistan did not lie down but the 67-run partnership between Philander and Peterson seemed to knock the stuffing out of them.

Even though Saeed Ajmal continued to bowl well, he was targeted by the ruthless Peterson, who stroked 15 fours in his 106-ball innings.

After day two’s strangulation, it was the type of remove-the-yoke cavalier innings that was required.

It was full of sweeps and judicious drives. More importantly, the gaps were picked with impunity and ease.

Philander was content to pick up singles and contributed a few boundaries, including a wonderful pull off the gangly Mohammed Irfan, whose figures did not do justice to his accurate bowling.

He did get Philander in the end, when he surprised him with a delivery that spat off a length.

Nasir Jamshed hared in from gully to take a good catch.

Steyn also hung around but he became Irfan’s third victim, unable to resist one that went across him.

Peterson, who reached his 50 off 73 balls, went into overdrive with a lot of clean hitting.

He chanced his arm once too often, though holing out to Umar Gul off Mohammad Hafeez.

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