Pakistan v South Africa, 2nd Test, Abu Dhabi, 3rd day November 22, 2010

Pakistan fight but South Africa retain control

  shares

Pakistan 317 for 6 (Ali 90, Misbah 77*, Shafiq 61, Steyn 3-78) trail South Africa 584 for 9 declared (de Villiers 278*, Kallis 105, Ahmed 6-120) by 267 runs
Scorecard and ball-by-ball details

Pakistan found a good time to put up one of their most resolute collective batting displays of the year, defying South Africa on an engrossing second day at the Sheikh Zayed Stadium. Three from the middle order made half-centuries as they edged closer to saving the follow-on, but South Africa did enough throughout to keep a door to victory open.

Two partnerships dominated the resistance, both centred most pleasantly around youth. The first was a 117-run stand between Azhar Ali and Taufeeq Umar that spanned much of the morning. Azhar was the centrifugal force. Rare among his younger countrymen in that he seems wired for Tests specifically, Azhar has been Pakistan's sleeper hit this year.

The impression he made in England solidified here with another well-judged vigil. There was more oomph to his third half-century of the series and not only because the fields were attacking and open. He took on Dale and Morne Morkel whenever the opportunity arose but was most impressive holding off the latter as he attacked his ribs. Azhar was jumpy but a thumping pull to bring up the fifty shortly before the first drinks break put paid to that plan temporarily. Later, as Morkel tried his luck again, he pulled him even more emphatically.

Off the backfoot, Azhar in fact is strongest and most elegant, as Steyn found in occasional punches through off. A first ton was there for Azhar's taking; instead he now has two nineties.

The second developed over the afternoon, a 105-run partnership between Misbah-ul-Haq and Asad Shafiq and it was the debutant who steered it. Quick of feet and hands, Shafiq has looked comfortable since his ODI debut earlier this year. His first Test yielded a similar sense. In at a genuinely tricky period soon after lunch when two wickets had fallen in two overs, Shafiq was particularly bright against spin.

To anything remotely short - and there was enough from Johan Botha - he leant back to cut. To much else he moved his feet to kill the length. Once he improvised, flipping Botha over his shoulder. One cut, off Paul Harris, made him the 20th Pakistan batsman to score a fifty on debut. Against pace he was less forthright and less willing to use his feet, so it was a surprise that he fell to Harris eventually.

And this is the thing about world-class attacks: they are never out of it. They may not be up to much for a session or more, but eventually their quality will out. Steyn was more world class than the rest, taking four pelts at the batsmen through the day. In the morning he probed rather than threatened. It had been the way since his return from injury in the last Test and the pace hasn't yet touched the peaks it can.

Lunch helped Steyn find some rhythm and swing, however; immediately he was tempting a restless Younis Khan into nibbling at delicious, late-blooming outswingers. A few overs later temptation became downfall. Younis squeezed a drive through gully but a ball later, reaching out again, drove straight to cover. It was infectious, for in his next over, Azhar drove loosely as well, straight to mid-off. It wasn't unplayable stuff, just good disciplines playing on the impatience of opponents and similar to his breakthrough performance against the same opponents in Karachi three years ago. This gave South Africa their first real peek.

The last spell mirrored the first, though given he had a fresh ball, it wasn't incisive enough. But by then he had Harris, looking every inch a cop from a 70s cop show, to fall back on. Like all left-arm spinners, he generally does well against Pakistan and he tied them down for much of the afternoon. Timely middle-order breakthroughs, from good bounce, in the last session ensured South African ascendancy.

It was needed, for Botha was poor, bizarrely starting his day's work as a seamer before belatedly resuming his day-job deep into the afternoon; seven expensive overs later, perhaps he should've stuck to seam-up. Morkel was never consistent enough with his lengths.

In this relentlessness it was left to Misbah to keep up the fight. He went nowhere to begin with but on a day of dismissals as soft as baby cheeks, his ability to stick around was admirable. He opened up on Botha and eventually the pacers as they tired; some of the pulls and clips, as well as the manner of work, was reminiscent of his Test peak in 2007-08 in India. More will be needed to avoid the follow-on.

Osman Samiuddin is Pakistan editor of Cricinfo