Butt defends attacking approach
Three hundred and five runs ahead, eight wickets in hand and two days to go: not many avenues remain to go down in this Test. Pakistan have been outdone by South Africa on just about every front in Lahore and on the third day at the Gaddafi Stadium, the only question that really remains is whether Pakistan can save this Test.
Paul Harris has done a little more than most to steer the match and series towards South Africa's direction and he can't quite believe his luck at the wickets he has been handed. Speaking a day after another impressive bowling performance from the visitors, he was in no doubt about the balance. "We're very confident about this Test," he said. "The pitch is really up and down now, there's more turn and more rough as well. Chasing any target will not be an easy feat on this track."
Given the likely size of the eventual target, the pitch might not matter as much as the psychological pressure of saving the game. "You'd have to ask the captain about the likely target," Harris said. If it were up to him, he added, it wouldn't be anything under 500.
That would still be over 200 more than anything Pakistan have reached in this series. Salman Butt was part of a quick start yesterday that saw Pakistan reach 90 in the 21st over, but was adamant in defending the decision to attack.
"We needed to score fast to win this Test," he said. "That was the only way we were going to do it, to get a lead and put pressure on them. We just didn't capitalise on that start."
Though he felt Pakistan were capable of saving the Test, he acknowledged the performance had been poor, possibly a result of playing too much Twenty20. "To be fair, the Test has been in their hands. The overall team performance has not been satisfactory because we've been playing Twenty20 cricket and prior to that we played a limited-over series against Sri Lanka. The guys were coming back to Test cricket after a long time."
Surprisingly, perhaps, given just how much Pakistan have been dominated, Butt chose to criticise umpiring decisions as one of the reasons for the situation. "There have been a few decisions where I feel we were unlucky. I think [Mohammad] Yousuf was not out yesterday and when you get one such decision against your premier batsman it does affect you."
A recurrence of an elbow injury to Mohammad Asif compounded a miserable day for Pakistan. Already burdened with a light, unbalanced attack, Asif left the field after bowling only four overs leaving Pakistan with three frontline bowlers, two of whom are spinners.
"We're missing Asif now, but the plan was to prepare spinning wickets," Butt said. "Maybe our spinners didn't bowl to expectations. South Africa have played them well, but we have had fielding lapses as well. On the whole, we haven't performed well as a team."
Osman Samiuddin is the Pakistan editor of Cricinfo