Smith plans more pain for Pakistan
South Africa are not done yet. Graeme Smith has promised they will keep piling on the runs to try and set up a series-levelling innings win over Pakistan.
With Smith and AB de Villiers both well set and JP Duminy and Faf du Plessis to come, the South African captain said he wants to occupy the crease for the best of its batting time before putting Pakistan back in. "Ideally we want to bat once and allow the wicket to deteriorate a little more. It's pretty dry at the moment," Smith said.
"The goal for today was to get ourselves into a winning position. Our innings was still in the balance when Dale went. But then the way AB transferred pressure made my life easier and we are in a good position now. We've got to come out tomorrow and work ourselves into a position where we feel we can win the game."
Smith said he does not have a total in mind where that position will be reached just yet. With the lead already at 361, South Africa are likely to continue batting past an advantage of 450 which will require Pakistan to bat better than they have in over a year to save the match. The last time Pakistan scored in excess of 450 was against Sri Lanka in June last year but Mohammad Akram, their bowling coach, has reason to believe they can do it again.
"Winning the toss and batting first showed we were confident this was a batting pitch and will play very well for the next three days. The batsmen are optimistic they are can apply themselves as and bat for as long as possible in the next innings," he said.
Those words will not provide much solace to Pakistan fans who will wonder why, if Pakistan were so certain of batting out a long period, they imploded for 99 on the first day. Akram had no explanation for the dramatic turnaround from the way they played in Abu Dhabi.
"That has been the case for a long time and we do accept that," he said. "We are working on a lot of things and trying to overcome it but at the moment, that's how it is."
Akram's words are not that of a fighting man and one can hardly blame him for his slumped shoulders. His bowlers lacked the bite they did in the first Test and the few chances they created - like the one to have de Villiers caught off the first ball he faced - were squandered. Akram did not lay blame on his under-pressure attack, though. "The bowlers tried their best, especially Mohammad Irfan," he said.
Irfan bowled in the upper 140kph range throughout the day and ensured the South Africa batsmen were kept on the toes even though he had little reward. Irfan took the only wicket of the day and should have another in de Villiers, but instead Pakistan were made to toil. "When AB de Villiers is dropped, he makes you pay. It's very difficult to stop his runs on a batting wicket," Akram said.
He did not think there was a lack of ideas or an over-reliance on Saeed Ajmal just a case of unhelpful conditions and a batting line-up that came good. "In Abu Dhabi, it wasn't only Saeed Ajmal, everybody chipped in. The wicket was really good and both the players who were batting there are great cricketers," he said.
Smith agreed that South Africa were bound to get better after the 249 they made in the first innings of the first Test and was pleased to see how swiftly they turned their approach around. "We had to improve from there. 90% of the time this batting line-up produces the goods," he said. "I felt we were a little soft in Abu Dhabi but we've had some good chats, worked on a few things like reverse swing and it paid off."
Now he wants to see his bowlers tighten the screws and finish Pakistan off. First, though, there's a bit more batting to do.
Firdose Moonda is ESPNcricinfo's South Africa correspondent