Pakistan v South, 2nd Test, Lahore, 2nd day October 9, 2007

'We're heading in the right direction' - Arthur

Mickey Arthur: "I was really happy for Harry [Paul Harris] that the hard work paid off today" © AFP

If he's not careful, there's a danger that Paul Harris might become the kind of multi-skilled cog in the machine his country is so renowned for producing, rather than the uni-skilled square peg in a round hole everyone loves.

What other conclusion can be reached on a day when he first helped South Africa add valuable, unexpected lower-order runs with a career-best 46 and then took two wickets to halt an impetuous Pakistan start?

Harris' innings was built on brave, if awkward, foundations. He was struck on the head early, but eventually recovered to play some suspiciously well-oiled sweep shots and one on-drive that lit up the day. Mickey Arthur was asked whether he was surprised by Harris' innings, a laugh accompanying the query.

Decorum allowed Arthur only a little snigger, but he said, "Look I have to be honest, he's worked damn hard. With the team that we have gone with we have a pretty long tail and something we haven't had for a bit. I've given those players responsibilities and asked them to take it. It worked out well and I was really happy for Harry that the hard work paid off today."

With Mark Boucher, Harris put on 88 runs, each one sapping Pakistan's spirit a little more. It allowed South Africa to go past 350, when this morning 300 might have been wishful. "It was a fantastic partnership. We knew we needed one big partnership this morning. We needed someone to hang around with Mark as he was going to be the key for us. Harry did fantastic because not only did he hang around, he also scored."

But even Harris' uniqueness has been accompanied by solid contributions from the rest and it has been that way through the tour so far. Andre Nel and Dale Steyn have worked well with Harris and dominant though Jacques Kallis has been, he's gotten by with a little help from the other batsmen - Hashim Amla, Ashwell Prince, Boucher and even the openers. No changes in the script today and Nel, in particular, came in for some praise.

"Nel is giving us exactly what we've known and come to expect from him. He gives us two options and we can attack with him and defend with him. He's been fantastic for us through the series."

And that series is very nearly in the bag, though not quite, as Arthur was at pains to point out. "I certainly wouldn't say the series is wrapped up. We've done the right things apart from our burst with the new ball where we probably over-attacked and tried to take a wicket every ball instead of trying to sit in a more defensive pattern. Other than that we've done the right things in this Test and put ourselves into a good position. There's still a long way to go but we're heading in the right direction."

That Inzamam-ul-Haq, after a rusty start, was still standing possibly prompted the caution. Appearing in his final Test, Inzamam was given a guard of honour by the South African team as he walked to the crease, something the team had briefly discussed but was essentially a spontaneous gesture. "I was very proud to see our team do that and it was the right thing to do."

Sending him back early tomorrow, he will be equally proud of, however. "He's a quality player and will be hard to get out. We're going to have to execute our game plans against him pretty well to remove him. We know what he can do, we know what he's achieved.

"Anything can happen in a session so there is still a long way to go. This series has fluctuated through sessions. We just need to do the right things tomorrow, sit down, plan it and strategise tonight, come out and execute it. If we do that, we're heading in the right direction."

Osman Samiuddin is the Pakistan editor of Cricinfo