Pakistan keep Proteas at bay

Abu Dhabi – Azhar Ali strengthened his position as a reliable batsman with a resolute half-century to help Pakistan reach 129-2 at lunch on the third day of the second Test against South Africa today.

The 25-year-old was unbeaten on 75 along with senior team-mate Younis Khan, who was two not out at the break, in reply to South Africa’s mammoth first-innings total of 584-9 declared at Abu Dhabi Stadium.

Pakistan need another 256 runs to avoid the follow-on as the Abu Dhabi Stadium pitch gave no help to South Africa’s pace-cum-spin attack, which managed to get opener Taufiq Umer out for 43.

Umer, recalled for this tour after a gap of four years, failed to connect a pull off paceman Jacques Kallis and was caught by Hashim Amla at short mid-wicket. Umer hit five boundaries during his 105-ball stay.

Resuming at 59-1, Pakistani batsmen did not face any problems as the Umer-Ali duo put on 117 for the second wicket stand before Kallis provided his team with its only breakthrough.

Ali hit paceman Morne Morkel for his eighth boundary to complete his fifth Test half-century – his third consecutive in the series after hitting one in each innings of the drawn first Test in Dubai.

Ali then had a lucky escape when, on 64, he edged left-arm spinner Paul Harris towards forward short-leg where AB de Villiers juggled with the ball before dropping it.

Ali took full advantage off the lapse and has so far hit ten boundaries during his confident 148-ball knock.

South Africa’s big total was built around De Villier’s 278 not out – the highest Test score by any South African in Test cricket.

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