CAPE TOWN: South Africa reeled off their modest victory target of 41 runs in 48 minutes on the fourth day of the second Test against Pakistan to clinch the series with a comprehensive nine-wicket triumph at Newlands on Sunday.
Opener Dean Elgar scored an unbeaten 24 as the home side added to their victory in Centurion last month and will be looking to sweep the series in the third match at the Wanderers in Johannesburg, starting on Friday, after sealing a seventh successive home series victory here.
South Africa lost a wicket and added another injury concern before Elgar struck part-time bowler Azhar Ali for two boundaries to finish the match.
Theunis de Bruyn, opening in place of Aiden Markram, who suffered a badly bruised right thigh while fielding, made only four before he was caught off his glove by Sarfraz while attempting to pull a bouncer from Mohammad Abbas.
Hashim Amla was forced to retire hurt on two after being hit on the right upper arm by a ball from Mohammad Amir which lifted sharply off a good length.
“We played very well,” South Africa captain Faf du Plessis, who was also named man-of-the-match for his first-innings century, said at the post-match presentation. “There is always something in the wicket here at Newlands and you need to be on form with the bat. We know if we get runs on the board, our bowlers will do the rest.”
Du Plessis felt the key to victory was restricting Pakistan to 177 in their first innings in what was the most difficult time to bat in the test on day one.
“I think day one was moving day in terms of the pitch, but it got easier to bat on and yesterday [Saturday] Pakistan were in a good position to bat on and get a 150 lead and then who knows what happens.
“I still feel there was enough in it for batters and bowlers. At times it was difficult but that’s Test cricket.”
The South African captain disagreed with Pakistan coach Mickey Arthur’s criticism of the pitches for the first two Tests, both won by South Africa in less than four days.
Du Plessis said lively surfaces and an attacking mindset, encouraged by Twenty20 cricket, had helped make Test cricket exciting.
“There are not a lot of Test matches that are going five days around the world anymore,” he said. “The speed [of play] has gone up tremendously. Test cricket has evolved and it is great for the fans. They are getting fours, sixes, lots of wickets and pace bowlers bowling. Test cricket for me the last few years has been the most exciting format of all.”
Pakistan will take positives from a Test in which they avoided an innings defeat with a stout batting performance on Saturday to force the contest into a fourth day.
Shan Masood, Asad Shafiq and Babar Azam all scored half-centuries as Pakistan produced their best day of batting on tour and scored more than 200 runs in an innings for the first time in the series.
They were eventually dismissed for 294, setting their hosts a modest target, which South Africa had hoped to knock off on Saturday but ran out of time and were forced to come back on Sunday.
Pakistan scored 177 in their first innings and were critical of the uneven bounce and cracks on the wicket at the iconic Cape Town venue but South Africa, with du Plessis scoring 103, replied with 431.
Touring skipper Sarfraz admitted a bad start, in which they lost five wickets in the first session, proved their undoing.
“It’s hard to recover if you’re losing five wickets in the first session, but the way our batsmen are batting, that’s how you learn in Test cricket,” he said, adding the team would have benefited from more warm-up matches ahead of the first Test.
“For me, playing two or three practice matches [is best] but we only played one match here. Our batsmen showed their courage, hopefully we’ll have confidence [into the third Test]. We are getting better day by day. We have nothing to lose and just have to play a positive game.”
Du Plessis felt Pakistan had missed a chance to put pressure on the hosts by failing to capitalise on a sparkling third-wicket stand between Shan and Asad on Saturday as the tourists reached 159 for two but were bowled out for 294, leaving South Africa an easy target.
“They had an opportunity to get 150 [ahead] on the board but we did really well after tea, making sure we did not let the opposition get back in the game,” he said.
Sarfraz’s problems were further compounded by what he described as a poor bowling performance.
“Our bowling was not up to the mark,” said Sarfraz. “Our bowling average speed was 130 [kilometres an hour], South Africa were bowling at 145. Our bowling was far better [in the first Test] in Centurion.”
Apart from being down on pace, Sarfraz said the Pakistan bowlers delivered too many loose balls to provide scoring opportunities for the South African batsmen.
The win at Newlands also took South Africa’s record to 10 victories in 14 Tests and 10 wins out of 12 at home since coach Ottis Gibson a man who appreciates fast bowling more than any other facet was appointed in late 2017.
“Not too long ago we were [ranked] No. 7 in the world and we lost a few Test matches and weren’t playing as well as we liked and we said home matches and home series, we need to take care of them,” du Plessis added.
Gibson has taken South Africa on just one overseas test tour, though, where the Proteas were whitewashed 2-0 on slow, turning surfaces in Sri Lanka.
“There lies the challenge in being better at touring,” du Plessis said.
PAKISTAN (1st Innings) 177 (Sarfraz Ahmed 56, Shan Masood 44; D. Olivier 4-48, D.W. Steyn 3-48).
SOUTH AFRICA (1st Innings) 431 (F. du Plessis 103, A.K. Markram 78, T. Bavuma 75, Q. de Kock 59; Mohammad Amir 4-88, Shaheen Shah Afridi 4-123).
PAKISTAN (2nd Innings) 294 (Asad Shafiq 88, Babar Azam 72, Shan Masood 61; K. Rabada 4-61, D.W. Steyn 4-85).
SOUTH AFRICA (2nd Innings):
D. Elgar not out 24
T.B.M. de Bruyn c Sarfraz b Abbas 4
H.M. Amla retired hurt 2
F. du Plessis not out 3
EXTRAS (B-4, W-5, NB-1) 10
TOTAL (for one wkt, 9.5 overs) 43
FALL OF WKT: 1-4. NOTE: Amla retired hurt at 23-1.
BOWLING: Mohammad Amir 5-2-17-0 (1nb, 1w); Mohammad Abbas 4-0-14-1; Azhar Ali 0.5-0-8-0. RESULT: South Africa won by nine wickets to lead three-match series 2-0. UMPIRES: B.N.J. Oxenford (Australia) and J.S. Wilson (West Indies). TV UMPIRE: S. Ravi (India). MATCH REFEREE: D.C. Boon (Australia). MAN-OF-THE-MATCH: Faf du Plessis. FIRST TEST: Centurion, South Africa won by six wickets. THIRD TEST: Johannesburg, Jan 11-15.
Published in Dawn, January 7th, 2019