Pakistan v South Africa, 2nd Test, Faisalabad, 4th day October 27, 2003

Kirsten steals the show

Wisden Cricinfo staff

Close Pakistan 348 and 8 for 0 (Taufeeq 6*, Farhat 1*) need 294 runs ro beat South Africa 278 and 371 for 8 dec (Kirsten 118, Smith 65, Razzaq 3-70)

Gary Kirsten: one more monumental innings for South Africa
(c) Getty

Pakistan survived a tense 20 minutes at the end of the day after South Africa declared 301 ahead, leaving 100 overs in the game. Gary Kirsten was the star of the day, making a pugnacious 118 - his 19th Test century - to play his team into a position of strength. Pakistan's bowlers struggled all day to make any breakthroughs, and most of their wickets came in the second half of the day, when South Africa tried to up the momentum.

The South African innings revolved around two partnerships that Kirsten put together - of 85 with Neil McKenzie and 90 with Jacques Kallis. The theme of the day was patience. Long spells by the slower bowlers came to nought as the batsmen played with great application, determined to claw one back in this series.

McKenzie batted with impressive restraint in the morning, watching the ball carefully, playing late, and letting everything outside off pass by uninterrupted. The only moments of aggression he showed were when he swept Danish Kaneria. He had scored a patient six off 65 when he slog-swept Kaneria twice, to pick up a four and a six.

Neil McKenzie: one slog-sweep too many
(c) AFP

He then went back into his shell, where he should have remained. After a slog-sweep off Shoaib Malik for a four to midwicket, he went down on his knee to Kaneria to repeat the shot, but the premeditation failed. The ball turned away from him - as it had been doing for much of the morning - and hit the toe of the bat, looping up behind the wicket. Taufeeq Umar at slip, who had taken four catches in the first innings, took his first of the second (213 for 4). McKenzie had 35 off 120 balls. Was this where things would unravel?

Not if Kirsten could help it. Batting with his customary ungainly efficiency, Kirsten frustrated Kaneria and Malik, who did the bulk of the bowling in the session, by refusing to be drawn into the slightest indiscretion. Most of the time he was shuffling slightly across or playing back, eyes on the ball till it was past him, or onto his bat. He nurdled more than he drove, and most of his runs came square of the wicket and behind. His resolve was impressive, and Kallis took a cue from him, blocking everything that came his way - except the ones he let sail harmlessly by.

Kirsten stepped out a couple of times against the slower bowlers, but was otherwise content to play the role of an anchor - until he reached his century. With the South African lead past 200, and five-and-a-half sessions left in the match, there was a need to accelerate, and Kirsten celebrated his 19th Test century by stepping out and tonking Mushtaq Ahmed over long-on for six. But he was out shortly after, trying to cut Abdul Razzaq and edging to Taufeeq at slip. Taufeeq fumbled with the ball once before holding on to his sixth catch of the Test - a Pakistan record (303 for 5).

Razzaq had bowled Mark Boucher in the first innings, and déjà vu struck. Boucher played across the line on the first ball he faced, missed and had his leg stump uprooted. Shaun Pollock kept out the hat-trick ball, and added 22 with Kallis, before Razzaq struck again. A low inswinger trapped Kallis plumb in front, and South Africa were 325 for 7. Kallis had made 43 invaluable runs, off 113 balls.

Pollock then kept one end up, and Robin Peterson and Paul Adams, with some lusty hits, brought up the lead of 300. Graeme Smith declared, leaving Pakistan a sporting target - they would need to bat for a day and a bit at three an over. They played out the bit - but the day still remained, and it promised to be quite a contest.