Aiden Markram and Rassie van der Dussen lifted the spirits in the Proteas visiting changeroom with a carefully crafted partnership at the end of day four against Pakistan.
Aiden Markram and Rassie van der Dussen lifted the spirits in the visiting changeroom, with a carefully crafted and as yet unbeaten second-wicket partnership of 94 to end the fourth day of the second Test in Rawalpindi on Sunday.
South Africa reached stumps on 127/1, with Markram on 59 and Van der Dussen on 48 with South Africa still needing 243 more runs to pull off an unlikely series tying victory.
Until the pair got together shortly before tea it had been a rough day for the Proteas who didn’t make the early breakthroughs they would have wanted and watched as Mohammad Rizwan’s hundred, stretched Pakistan’s lead from 201 that it was overnight, to 370.
Markram mixed patience with elegant strokeplay, scoring some delightful boundaries off the reverse swinging ball against Hasan Ali, while he manipulated the lengths of the spinners well, using his feet cleverly and on one occasion depositing Nauman Ali over long off for six.
There was a high percentage of boundaries in the South African second innings – certainly until the light faded in the last half an hour – which was an encouraging sign, that they were just looking – especially against the spinners to defend. Besides two sixes, Markram has hit nine fours and Van der Dussen eight.
Earlier Rizwan’s maiden Test hundred helped Pakistan to post 298 in their second innings, certainly a lot more than South Africa would have hoped for when day four started.
Rizwan was at the crease for eight minutes short of five hours, scoring 115 not out and faced 204 balls, hitting 15 fours. Crucially, he shared a series of partnerships with the tail that seemed to take the game away from the Proteas.
There was a 52-run sixth wicket stand with Faheem Ashraf, in which the duo absorbed significant pressure from South Africa on Saturday, then came a 53-run partnership for the eighth wicket with Yasir Shah on Sunday, when South Africa’s bowlers and fielders looked very flat.
A 97-run stand for the ninth wicket Rizwan shared with Nauman Ali appeared to be really deflating. All the while Rizwan smartly manipulated the strike, turning ones into twos, while he regularly found the gaps, for singles to retain the strike. His hundred was the first by a Pakistan wicket-keeper in six years.
South Africa’s mental state at that point was summed up by the decision to put a fielder into the long-stop position for Nauman, Pakistan’s No 10 batsman.
Perhaps that was a distraction because shortly afterwards Nauman went on the pull and was caught by a diving Dean Elgar at mid-on. Nauman made 45, an innings in which he was largely untroubled, confidently sweeping the spinners, hitting six fours and two sixes.
George Linde claimed a first Test match ‘five-for’ when he bowled the last man Shaheed Afridi for 4.
Linde, who had to adjust his grip on the ball to account for the lacerated pinky picked up while trying to stop a Babar Azam straight drive on the first day, bowled 26 overs, picking up 5/64.
His spinning teammate, Keshav Maharaj, completed another marathon spell, after bowling 45 overs in the first innings, he added another 38 in the second, claiming 3/118.
South Africa lost the wicket of Dean Elgar shortly before tea. It was an ugly end to what had been a short innings that contained a few beautifully timed drives.
However, he got into an awful muddle against Shaheen, neither defending nor attacking a delivery he really should have just left alone with the ball finding the edge giving Rizwan a catch.