South Africa take firm grip with 235-run lead
Pakistan seized back some of the momentum in this Test on a riveting third day's play, first saving the follow-on and reducing the innings lead with some spirited batting from Shoaib Malik, the captain, and the tail, and then picking up three quick wickets in the last session. However, South Africa retained in the dominant position, ending the day with an overall lead of 235 and Jacques Kallis and Ashwell Prince at the crease.
Malik, who formed an 84-run partnership with Salman Butt, batting lower down the order due to a stomach ailment, combined solid defence with controlled aggression. He stuck to a bat-and-pad tactic against Paul Harris, who failed to get much turn and bounce in the morning, and hit the lacklustre Makhaya Ntini for six fours.
He brought up his half-century with a straight-driven four off Harris and reached 1000 Test runs with a huge six over long-on after jumping down the pitch. But Graeme Smith's decision to refuse the new ball and stick with Harris and Andre Nel paid off when Malik was stumped by Boucher off Harris when he looked set to take Pakistan to a decent total.
That dismissal led to some tension in the Pakistan camp as 13 runs were still required to avoid the follow-on with two wickets remaining. It was left to Kaneria's cameo of 26 to take Pakistan close to the 300-mark. He edged a few past the slips, slashed some over point and even flicked a wayward Dale Steyn over square leg to reduce the deficit as he added 53 runs with Nos. 10 and 11.
Harris, easily South Africa's bowler of the day, added three wickets to his overnight tally to end with his first Test five-for. None of the fast bowlers apart from Nel, who bowled with much pace and venom, caused the batsmen any problems on a deteriorating pitch.
Starting the day off with the ball, Harris stuck to an immaculate line as the batsmen were largely restricted to singles. His dismissal of Butt, leg-before playing across to a turning delivery, and Umar Gul, stumped by Boucher to break Ian Healy's record of most Test dismissals, were obvious proof of his commitment and a pitch providing immense assistance to spinners.
Although Pakistan were able to pick up three wickets in the final session of the day, albeit after a confident 41-run opening partnership between Smith and Herschelle Gibbs, the pitch is becoming more and more difficult to bat on. Pakistan's fast bowlers proved ineffective, much like their South African counterparts, though irregular bounce troubled the batsmen. That's why a target in excess of 300 in the fourth innings might just prove beyond the home team's reach.
Faras Ghani is an editorial assistant on Cricinfo