Proteas left with mountain to climb in Karachi after late Day 3 wobble

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Aiden Markram (Pakistan Cricket Board)
Aiden Markram (Pakistan Cricket Board)

Yasir Shah’s and Nauman Ali’s crucial late wickets dragged Pakistan back into the game and possibly into the driving seat on the third day of the first Test against South Africa in Karachi on Thursday.

Yasir Shah (3/53) removed Rassie dan der Dussen (64) and Faf du Plessis (10) while Nauman (1/27) removed Aiden Markram (74) in the last 30 minutes of the day to leave South Africa tottering on 187/4.

SCOREBOARD - Pakistan v Proteas - 1st Test

SA had bowled Pakistan out for 378 to concede a 158-run deficit that Markram and Van Der Dussen did well to wipe off.

SA have a lead of 29 that Quinton de Kock (0*) and Keshav Maharaj (2*) have to improve on significantly if SA are to set Pakistan a proper fourth innings target.

SA were well placed at 175/2 in the 67th over, but when Van Der Dussen was dismissed by Shah, Du Plessis, who was dropped by Babar Azam at slip off Shah, was trapped in front by the leg-spinner, the mini-collapse was in motion.

Markram was then removed by Naumann to undo all of their hard work through the bulk of the day.

SA’s resistance through their opener and number three, whose 127-run second wicket partnership spanned 310 balls, was admirable considering that Pakistan’s last two wickets added an energy sapping 83 runs.

28 of those were between Hassan Ali and Nauman, but the former became Kagiso Rabada’s 200th Test wicket.

In Shah, Pakistan had a number 11 with a Test ton and it showed. The spinners added 55 irritating runs that made Pakistan’s lead formidable.

After all, Pakistan have only lost one out of 38 home games where they’ve had a lead of over 100.

This was daunting for the visitors, but they approached their task with cautious aggression on a pitch that looked to have died down, even though there were spurts of uneven bounce.

In putting together 48, Dean Elgar (29) and Markram compiled SA’s highest opening partnership in 19 innings in Asia.

Elgar, SA’s top-scorer in the first innings, was in the wars and when he was hit on the hand by a Shaheen Shah Afridi bouncer, he wasn’t the same.

He was out the following over when his ill-judged sweep off Shah was well caught by wicketkeeper Mohammad Rizwan.

Playing time more than anything else, Van der Dussen and Markram displayed the patience that was missing in SA’s first innings.

They also waited and put away the bad balls to relieve any pressure that Pakistan looked to build, even though Afridi and Shah bowled incisive, but unrewarded spells.

Markram’s and Van der Dussen’s stays weren’t chanceless. The latter had a leg-before decision that went against him overturned. The former was dropped on 27 by Pakistan’s captain Babar Azam at slip off Shah.

Their 50s were slow, with Markram’s coming off 158 balls with Van der Dussen’s at a slightly faster 138, but the job was to bat time.

Van Der Dussen, who’s now got five Test 50s, got over his early hairy moments against spin but fell to Shah when he misjudged the pace of a slower leg-break and prodded a sharp catch to Abid Ali at silly point.

His 151-ball knock was a brave one, but whether it enhances his credentials as a bona-fide Test match three remains to be seen.

As for Markram, his first Test 50 in Asia was much needed, especially with his dipping returns in the past 13 Tests after a barnstorming first 10.

What stood out in Markram’s knock was his decisive footwork, something that’s got him unstuck badly on tours to India and Sri Lanka.

There was nothing he could do when Naumann’s delivery spat at him, with Abid taking another catch at silly point.

It left SA with the mountain to climb on the fourth day and one that could prove to be impossible.

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