A day of fluctuating fortunes and rousing fightbacks from both South Africa and Pakistan left the second Sunfoil Test match poised on a knife edge after three days at Sahara Park Newlands on Saturday.
The tourists closed the day on 100-3 in their second innings, a lead of 112, but it could have been so much better – or worse!
Robbie Peterson scored a career-best 84 in the morning session to repair the Proteas first innings which was in tatters overnight at 139-5, a huge deficit of 199, although the rebuilding work started with AB de Villiers (61) and Dean Elgar who added 55 for the fifth wicket.
Elgar become mystery spinner Saeed Ajmal’s sixth wicket when he edged a drive to slip but there was to be no more success for Ajmal who finished the innings with the excellent analysis of 42-9-96-6.
De Villiers miscued giant left arm seamer Mohammad Irfan to mid on with the total on 210 but Peterson jumped at the chance to play the senior role and counter-attacked with a combination of great skill and courage, particularly against Ajmal whom he ‘switch-hit’ for one of 15 fours during his 106-ball innings.
Vernon Philander’s contribution of 22 was dwarfed by the importance of the 67 runs he added with Peterson before both he and Dale Steyn (10) were dismissed by Irfan who ended with 3-86 from 21 overs.
Peterson, in search of the long-dreamt of Test century, holed out to long on but could reflect on a game-changing contribution nonetheless. A deficit of just 12 runs felt like a lead to the Proteas.
The momentum gained from their batting was carried over in emphatic fashion when Pakistan batted again when Steyn and Vernon Philander trapped openers Mohammed Hafeez and Nasir Jamshed lbw without a run to either of their names. When veteran and first innings centurion, Younis Khan, was bowled off an inside edge, the tourists were in disarray at 45-3.
Captain Misbah-ul-Haq (36*) showed once again that he is game for a fight and, with Azhar Ali (45*) digging in, the fourth wicket pair survived intact until the close of play to set up the most intriguing of fourth days.
The Proteas would be feeling a great deal more confident about their chances of dismissing Pakistan cheaply had Morne Morkel not limped from the field after bowling just 19 deliveries. A left hamstring strain seems likely to prevent him bowling again in the match.