South Africa in control after Pakistan's batting collapse
A middle-order collapse inspired by Paul Harris gave South Africa the upper hand at the end of the second day of the first Test in Karachi. Mohammad Hafeez and Kamran Akmal, who was opening the innings due to Salman Butt's illness, put on 71 in 14 overs before five wickets fell for 49 runs to leave Pakistan trailing by 323 runs on a pitch assisting spinners immensely.
Pakistan looked set to emulate South Africa with the bat as Akmal and Hafeez, their ninth opening combination in the last 16 Tests, began with some lovely drives on either side of the wicket. Makhaya Ntini and Dale Steyn built up a good pace and a few anxious moments were witnessed when Akmal played away from his body and edged either past the diving slips or between gully and point.
The slide began when Harris replaced Ntini, who was driven and cut past point for boundaries by Akmal. Getting sharp turn with his loop and quick bounce by pitching it slightly short, Harris had Akmal stretching forward to an arm ball and struck plumb in front. It was not only the batsmen that Harris troubled with his bounce - he hit Mark Boucher on the cheek with a ball that spun and beat the batsman.
Harris then accounted for Hafeez, brilliantly caught at first slip by Jacques Kallis, whose day only got better when he removed a shaky Faisal Iqbal off an inside edge. Pakistan's batsmen, missing the cue from Kallis' splendid innings, failed to apply themselves - Misbah-ul-Haq edged a slower Steyn delivery way outside offstump - and played loose strokes away from their bodies. Pakistan will need a spirited performance from Shoaib Malik, their captain, and the tail to avoid the follow-on.
South Africa, meanwhile, had looked all set to post a 500-plus total in their first innings before the debutant Abdur Rehman, who bowls left-arm spin, utilised the crumbling pitch to pick up four wickets.
Bowling unchanged after lunch, Rehman varied his length well while using the bowler's footmarks outside the right-handers' leg-stump to force the batsmen into a defensive mode. It was this tactic that got rid of Mark Boucher, who swept outside leg stump and gave Akmal an easy catch as the ball popped up in the air. His probing length was rewarded once again as Andre Nel prodded forward and gave a simple catch to Misbah at silly mid-off.
Danish Kaneria, Pakistan's other spinner, was brought into the attack in the sixth over of the day and managed to pick up his 200th Test wicket, and the prize wicket of Kallis for 155. Kallis looked good for his first-ever double century, clipping Mohammad Asif for three fours in his second over as the bowler failed to get any movement off the seam.
Using his feet well against the spinners, he swept with authority as the well-spread field provided ample scoring opportunities. His innings ended when Kaneria, who was getting immense turn, decided to come round the wicket. Kallis tried to cut off the back foot but Akmal, who had dropped him on 36 yesterday, made no mistake this time.
AB de Villiers then took matters in his own hands, refusing singles - although Pakistan's dismal ground fielding did allow him several twos - and alternating between power and placement. Dispatching Rehman into the sightscreen for a six to reach his 50, de Villiers twice pulled Kaneria fiercely as the legspinner pitched it short. His innings, and South Africa's, was ended by a searing Umar Gul yorker and the home side headed for the dressing room with sighs of relief. Not for long though, as it turned out, and they now face the threat of a follow-on on day three.
Faras Ghani is an editorial assistant on Cricinfo