South Africa sense swift finish
South Africa are one wicket away from wrapping up the second Test swiftly according to AB de Villiers. Despite Pakistan being only four wickets down at the end of the third day, de Villiers said one more scalp would open them up.
"With the new ball around the corner we just need to be patient tomorrow. We feel if we get one more and then we have the wicketkeeper in there, we can run through them," he said.
Apart from Misbah-ul-Haq, who is at the crease on 42, Pakistan do not have much in the way of solid batting to come. Still trailing by 286 runs, they will need a massive effort from their captain and healthy contributions from the lower order to bat out at least a full day if they hope to avoid an innings defeat.
On a pitch that is expected to become more difficult for batsmen during the last two days, that would seem nothing more than fanciful but Saeed Ajmal was able to remain optimistic. "The wicket is not that bad," he said. "It's still good for batting. There was a bit for the new ball bowlers and it's spinning a little bit but there are still runs in the pitch.
"Although we didn't perform well in our first innings, we saw South Africa put on over 500 in their innings. If we can bat the whole day, runs will come slowly. We hope our batting can be as good as our bowling."
But de Villiers was not convinced that they would be up to task, especially when reflecting on how South Africa's lower-order coped on the third morning. They lost their last four wickets for 31 runs and struggled against the spin Ajmal was generating. "That shows you how well Graeme played. It's not easy," he said.
Smith added only seven runs to his overnight score and de Villiers increased his score by the same number but their quick dismissals barely had an impact on the state of the game. The hard work had been done the day before, when Smith and de Villiers shared in South Africa's highest fifth-wicket stand and wore down Pakistan's attack.
They swelled the lead to 361 by the end of the second day and only wanted a little more on the third morning. "We talked about declaring somewhere after lunch. That didn't happen but we still wanted the runs we wanted to," he said. "We wanted the lead over 400."
South Africa were bowling six minutes before lunch and took two wickets in that time, creating expectation for a third-day finish. Dale Steyn found considerable swing but the house of cards did not collapse as quickly as the early incisions suggested.
Instead of frustration, de Villiers said it was an important lesson for South Africa's bowlers. "We like to finish a Test in two days if we can," he admitted. "But it's important to remind the bowlers that you need to be patient to get wickets on this pitch."
He also did not expect lightening to strike twice for Pakistan's line-up. "I don't know if they played really poorly in the first innings. There were maybe a few soft dismissals. I think they will be quite angry with themselves," de Villiers said. "But it's not over. We still respect the game and the opposition a lot."
Niceties aside, de Villiers seemed certain South Africa will square the series on Saturday. "We missed a trick early on in Abu Dhabi and sometimes, the minute things turn on you it's difficult. Pakistan played too well," he said. "This time around we were a bit more ruthless."
Firdose Moonda is ESPNcricinfo's South Africa correspondent