Pakistan v South Africa, 1st Test, Abu Dhabi, 3rd day October 16, 2013

'We are focusing on fourth-day finish' - Shafiq

Asad Shafiq has warned South Africa they could have less than 24 hours left in the Abu Dhabi Test match as he predicted a result in Pakistan's favour by tomorrow. Shafiq said that more turn from day four could bring a speedy end to the match in which Pakistan have dominated South Africa in eight of the nine sessions played so far.

Only the middle session of day one, when South Africa scored 86 runs for the loss of just one wicket, belonged to the visitors. Hashim Amla, the batsman who held things together in that period, is already out and Shafiq is anticipating the Pakistan spinners to give South Africa's middle and lower-order a working over.

"We have been playing on this wicket for the last three series and we have a fair idea that it will turn on the fourth and fifth day. Day three is very good for batting but it will start turning more tomorrow," Shafiq said, underlining the fact that South Africa may have squandered their best opportunity to score runs on the third afternoon.

Turn was evident from day one, with Pakistan's spinners generating it early on. South Africa's spinners could not match that but as soon as Pakistan were back in the field, the threat returned. Saeed Ajmal troubled Smith, who looked to sweep against the turn, and Zulfiqur Babar took a wicket with his first ball, turning from around the wicket and taking the edge off Hashim Amla's bat.

With Mohammad Irfan still extracting steep lift and Junaid Khan causing problems with his angle and movement, Shafiq thinks Pakistan hold all the aces in pursuit of a quick finish: "We know how to exploit conditions, especially here, and our bowlers have done very well. That (a day four) finish is what we are focusing on."

Having only lost to Pakistan three times in 21 Tests, the last one six years ago, South Africa remain hopeful of staging an Adelaide-style comeback. In that game against Australia in November 2012, South Africa were 162 runs behind and were eventually set a target of 430 to win. They batted for a day-and-a-half and had Faf du Plessis to thank for saving the game.

But doing that in far more testing conditions will require different technique and perhaps an even stronger mindset. "We can't hide from the fact that we haven't batted well in the first innings and at the start of this one," Vernon Philander admitted. "We need to try and get one or two big partnerships, and try and get between 150 and 200 ahead. Then we can maybe set up something for day five. It might be difficult to try and draw the game from here but if we get them four down, their tail starts quite early, you never know. It's going to be hard work but we do bat fairly low down."

From the sounds of it, Philander is eyeing bowling again, a task he was more successful at than some expected. In his first Test in subcontinent conditions, Philander picked up three wickets and felt comfortable adjusting.

"It's a lot different to what we are used to be back home and there's not as much assistance as I've experienced around the world up to now," Philander said. "I was expecting that. I didn't change too much, maybe just slightly straighter than normal. It's a pretty tough challenge but I am always up for a challenge."

South Africa's error on day two was an overuse of the short ball, which they rectified on the third day. They still struggled to maintain pressure because "We kept going at four an over," Philander said. "It was difficult to hold an end up which also made it difficult to strike because usually you dry one end up and strike from the other."

South Africa are not used to being bullied in this fashion. They last time they lost a Test was in December 2011 against Sri Lanka. The last time they lost a Test away from home was in 2010, against India. Philander was not part of either side.

He hadn't made his debut when the Kolkata defeat came - which was also the last time South Africa conceded a lead this big - and he sat out the Sri Lanka game with an injury. Of the 17 Tests he has played, South Africa have only lost one. It's no wonder he still has belief enough to imagine being back to defend a target on day five, despite Shafiq's words.

He said the squad will enjoy Jacques Kallis' 38th birthday before turning back to their task with renewed energy tomorrow. "Cricket is not going to take over your life. We will still have a drink with him," Philander said. "This is the first time we find ourselves in such a tough situation. But we hope we can find a way out."

Firdose Moonda is ESPNcricinfo's South Africa correspondent