Pakistan stand on the threshold of victory
Close Pakistan 401 and 137 for 1 (Taufeeq Umar 61*, Imran Farhat 58) need 24 runs to beat South Africa 320 and 241 (Gibbs 59, Kaneria 5-46, Akhtar 4-36)
Danish delight: Danish Kaneria celebrates one of his five wickets
Pakistan stand on the threshold of a famous victory after an engrossing day at Lahore. Set 161 to win after Shoaib Akhtar and Danish Kaneria combined to shoot South Africa down for 241, Pakistan were within 24 runs of victory when the light closed in. A late wicket for Graeme Smith persuaded the batsmen to go off with the target tantalisingly close. But barring a downpour, Pakistan should complete their win early tomorrow morning.
South Africa had held most of the aces when play began, and it required the shock-and-awe bowling of Akhtar and the guile of Kaneria to alter the script. Akhtar mainly concentrated on bouncing the batsmen, and in his second over nearly had Boeta Dippenaar lbw when he pitched one up. In the next over, Dippenaar, trying to fight fire with fire, attempted to pull a wide one, got a top edge and was easily caught by Yousuf Youhana at midwicket (104 for 2).
Gibbs had reached 59 when he received a peach of a bouncer that climbed and kissed the glove before hitting his shoulder and lobbing up to Taufeeq Umar at first slip. Jacques Kallis drove with a flourish during his short stay, but he too was undone by an Akhtar short one. The bouncer homed in on him, and Kallis, trying to pull, was hit on the shoulder as the ball zoomed through to the keeper. But the umpire thought it had touched the bat, and sent Kallis packing (149 for 4).
Akhtar had to leave the field shortly lunch with a hamstring tweak. It was at first reported that he would be out for three weeks, then this gloomy diagnosis was replaced by a chirpier one suggesting he might be fit to play in the second Test - if his appeal against his ban is successful and he is allowed to play.
But the damage was done, and Kaneria stepped into the breach. He bowled unchanged from the start of play, and stuck to a probing line, but didn't claim any wickets during Akhtar's spell. But eventually Neil McKenzie surrendered his wicket, playing a premeditated paddle-sweep and being embarrassingly bowled around his legs (159 for 4).
Mark Boucher was swinging the bat aggressively, and Gary Kirsten (46) showed real grit as they looked to rebuild the Akhtar-bulldozed ruins. Kirsten played a memorable knock, considering the facial blow he received in the first innings, and the way he went after every bouncer hurled down at him was a lesson in courageous batting.
Shoaib Akhtar: unstoppable
Trying to score off every ball is fraught with risk, as Boucher learnt when he pushed at a good-length ball without negotiating the bounce, and only lobbed a catch to forward short leg (192 for 6). Then Kirsten, unusually aggressive, tried to break the shackles by smashing Kaneria out of the ground. But he only managed a leading edge, and Yousuf Youhana gratefully gathered the steepler (237 for 7).
And then the procession really started. Paul Adams didn't read the straighter ball that crashed into his back leg, and was plumb lbw (238 for 8). Mushtaq Ahmed - in his first over of the day - bowled Andre Nel through the gate, and Shaun Pollock was also flummoxed by Kaneria's googly, which sneaked and bowled him. South Africa lost their last four wickets for four runs - to four googlies.
The openers, Taufeeq and Imran Farhat, started the chase for 161 as if possessed. Farhat was the more dominant, and slashed his way to a powerful 58. He had shown glimpses of some powerful back-foot play in the first innings, but this time he wasn't going to throw it away. The bowlers served him delicious balls that were short and wide and he feasted on them with a swirling bat. Taufeeq, though not as cavalier, made sure he swatted the loose balls to the fence as well.
Nel bowled a testing, pacy spell, and Pollock was treated with respect, but the rest were disposed of with disdain, mainly to the square fence. Finally, with the winning post in sight, Farhat holed out (a rare Test wicket for Smith), and the players trooped off for the light. The final rites will be enacted tomorrow, but the turning point came early today, with Shoaib Akhtar's sensational speedy spell.