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Faras Ghani in Karachi
October 5, 2007
South Africa's first Test win in the subcontinent against major opposition for over seven years (not counting a series win over Bangladesh) was a small matter of a job done extremely well.
Their preparations for the series were hardly ideal. Andrew Hall quit international cricket, Jacques Kallis resigned from the vice-captaincy and Mark Boucher was fined for his thoughts on the development. Missing the semi-finals of the ICC World Twenty20, a tournament many considered theirs for the taking and which they hosted, made South Africa equal, if not second-best for the Test in Karachi.
Further, they had all of five days in Pakistan to prepare for the Test, their pace attack threatened not only by the searing Karachi temperatures but also by a pitch tailor-made for spin. They lost Morne Morkel through injury and opted to rest the veteran Shaun Pollock. Not many would have bet on the visitors delivering as thorough a performance as witnessed, regrettably, by very few spectators.
No wonder then Graeme Smith, South Africa's captain, was so pleased with the win. "Most of us are very emotional in the dressing room as we have only a handful of wins in the subcontinent. To come here and win the first Test after only a few days in Pakistan and to have played better cricket in these conditions is very, very special for all of us."
A fully deserved win it was too for the tourists, who played much better cricket. "I think we played cricket with our brains and on the back of some great fitness levels and solid technique.
"We worked really hard throughout this Test match in order to get this victory. I've had some really good Test wins and some really good one-day wins in my career but this is certainly right up there."
Jacques Kallis, declared the Man of the Match for scores of 155 and an unbeaten 100, took the game away from Pakistan on the first day. Geoff Lawson, Pakistan's coach, called him the "difference between the two teams" and though Kallis played two contrasting innings, both hurt Pakistan equally hard. Not content with the damage he caused with the bat, Kallis took a stunning catch in the slips and chipped in with the ball.
Abdur Rehman, the debutant, outshone and outclassed Danish Kaneria, his senior partner, so it was that South Africa's lone spinner, Paul Harris caused Pakistan batsmen the most problems on a pitch prepared to "the home side's strength". It was Paul Harris' first time in the subcontinent and he took seven wickets.
It wasn't just their spinners. Umar Gul and Mohammad Asif managed only three wickets in the match - Asif surprisingly did not feature at all on day four - while the South African fast-bowlers, bar Makhaya Ntini, bowled with pace and aggression and obtained bounce, or lack of, at times, on a pitch that crumbled from day one and grabbed 13. Dale Steyn's pace stood out on the final day, picking up his third five-wicket haul, his second in the subcontinent.
"When you initially look at the wicket I don't think you can sum up how many wickets would you take," Steyn said. "Our whole game plan was to work around Harris. Eventually one or two balls stayed very low and things went our way and my way and we ended up with a win."
To round things off, as ever, the South Africans were sharper in the field. Kallis was dropped twice before reaching his hundred in the first innings while Hashim Amla added 69 after being dropped by Misbah-ul-Haq. Both batsmen paid Pakistan back, with interest, as Kallis took a blinder in the slips while Amla yanked out a stunner just before it hit the ground and took another good one on the final day.
Only a change in conditions await the South Africans as they head to Lahore for the second Test. With reports of overcast conditions up north, it will further please the visiting team and their fast bowlers. Pakistan meanwhile will scratch their heads for a suitable combination.
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