GRAEME SMITH produced one of the monumental recoveries from a long-term injury in the history of the game to consolidate the Castle Lager Proteas commanding position on day two of the second Test match against Pakistan at Dubai on Thursday.
By the close of play he had batted for the best part of 10 hours to record the fifth double century of his international career and establish a new record fifth wicket partnership for his country – an unbroken 326 with AB de Villiers.
The previous record was 267 between Jacques Kallis and Ashwell Prince against the West Indies in 2005 while the previous best against Pakistan was 213 by Prince and Herschelle Gibbs in 2007.
In all South Africa scored 332 runs in the day off 85 overs for the loss of just night watchman Dale Steyn’s wicket six runs into the day’s play. The remarkable thing about this batting display was that Pakistan did not bowl badly. After Mohammad Irfan had bowled Steyn in the seventh over of the day one of the crucial moments arrived when he had De Villiers dropped behind the stumps first ball.
That was the difference between the Proteas struggling at 134/5 and being 360/4 by the close of play.
It was Smith’s 27th Test match century, putting him joint 13th on the all-time list with another illustrious captain, Allan Border of Australia, and, when he reached 225, he had made the highest Test score this year, going past MS Dhoni’s 224. He finished the day on 227 (367 balls, 16 fours).
De Villiers made his 17th Test century and it was also the 50th time he had gone past 50 in a Test innings.
Smith had had virtually no cricket in the middle since his five-month injury lay-off that included serious surgery but, as always, he was at his best when the pressure was intense both on himself and his team. In the process he also reached the landmark of 9 000 Test runs.
De Villiers’ contribution (157 not out off 262 balls, 16 fours and a six) was also immense. Over the years he has developed an outstanding batting technique again spin bowling and, when he moves his feet as well as he did today in spite of cramp, it is difficult for the bowlers to know where to bowl to him.
He is now the fourth leading runs-scorer in the world this year in spite of having played relatively few Test matches at an average bordering on 90.
It was De Villiers fourth Test century against Pakistan – the same number as for Smith.
The Proteas now have a lead of 361 runs and Smith will no doubt time his declaration so that Pakistan only have a 10 minutes break between innings. There are still three full days to play so the Proteas still have plenty of time in hand to plan the second half of the match.