South Africa v Pakistan, 2nd Test, Cape Town, 4th day February 17, 2013

Resilient South Africa take sixth series in a row


South Africa 326 (Peterson 84, de Villiers 61, Ajmal 6-96) and 182 for 6 (Amla 58, Ajmal 4-51) beat Pakistan 338 (Shafiq 111, Younis 111, Philander 5-59) and 169 (Ali 65, Philander 4-40) by four wickets
Scorecard and ball-by-ball details

A cracking match in Cape Town continued to be a great advertisement for Test cricket as it served up another yo-yoing session on the fourth morning which handed South Africa an advantage they never ceded, going on to complete their fifth Test win in a row and sixth consecutive series victory.

Azhar Ali enhanced his outstanding third-innings record - he scored his fifth successive fifty-plus, third-innings score - and in the company Asad Shafiq, seemed to be gradually pushing Pakistan towards supremacy in the first hour and a half. As always with Pakistan cricket, though, the unpredictable happened and four wickets went down for five runs, making South Africa front-runners and further embellishing Vernon Philander's astonishing Newlands record.

From looking at a tricky target of around 250, South Africa were left chasing a more manageable 182, which they hunted down thanks chiefly to yet another half-century from the world's No. 1 ranked Test batsman, Hashim Amla.

South Africa's high-tempo pursuit was in contrast to Misbah-ul-Haq and Ali's cautious approach at the start of the day, adding only 14 off the first eight overs. South Africa were hampered by the absence of Morne Morkel, who was sidelined with a hamstring injury, but with Robin Peterson holding up one end, they continued to be accurate, though not unplayable. Misbah fell trying to sweep Peterson out of the rough, top-edging a catch towards short fine leg, and was visibly frustrated at that unforced error as he trudged off the field.

Shafiq was more adventurous than either Misbah or Ali, attacking Peterson when he bowled too full or too short. Though Steyn had upped his pace and Philander was his nagging self around off, with Ali moving beyond 60 and Shafiq confidently slapping Philander over the man at point for four, Pakistan were effectively on 159 for 4.

That was a position of great strength, especially given that South Africa would have to face the befuddling spin of Saeed Ajmal in the final innings, but the match turned in the matter of minutes. Shafiq defended a Philander delivery, and couldn't react quickly enough to either kick the ball away or deflect it with his bat as it bounced towards the off stump.

If that was unfortunate, the next dismissal was unforgivable as Sarfraz Ahmed advertised his lack of batting ability by inexplicably not getting either pad or bat behind a Peterson delivery that spun, not too alarmingly, from the rough to crash into the top of middle stump. Philander then added two typical dismissals, getting Ali to edge to the keeper before Umar Gul completed a pair by nicking to a wide third slip. It was a team hat-trick, and Pakistan were suddenly down to 152 for 8. After lunch, Peterson bowled Ajmal round his legs before Steyn rounded off the innings five overs later to leave South Africa facing a target of 182.

Alviro Petersen could have fallen to Mohammad Irfan twice - surviving a close lbw call in the first over and reprieved in the third as the replays showed Irfan had just overstepped - but he couldn't capitalise, trapped lbw by Gul in the fourth.

If that strike buoyed Pakistan, they were then up against two batsmen who are masters in the final innings, Graeme Smith and Amla. Smith used his tried-and-tested method of working almost everything to the leg side, and Amla unleashed several of his fierce off-drives to push South Africa along.

If Pakistan were to have any chance of defending the total, it would need another herculean effort from their first-innings hero, Ajmal. He used every trick he had, subtly varying the length, getting the ball to spin either way, and got it to hurry off the pitch and even dismissed three of South Africa's big batsmen - Smith, Amla and Jacques Kallis - but lacked enough support from the other end.

Kallis hit some regal drives in a 21, AB de Villiers was his usual busy self and Amla top scored with 58 to make sure Pakistan never had more than an outside chance of victory. There was time for Ajmal to complete a richly deserved ten-for when he had Faf du Plessis lbw before South Africa reached the finish line with four wickets to spare.

Siddarth Ravindran is a senior sub-editor at ESPNcricinfo

Comments have now been closed for this article

  • Rickey on February 18, 2013, 1:21 GMT

    A little bit tired of all the Pakistan fans saying that Ajmal is the best bowler in the world. He has never been ranked No. 1. For all of his career, he has been considerably lower than Steyn (in ranking points, not in ranking position). In fact, Steyn has been ranked No 1 at the end of every month since June 2009. Almost 4 years as the ICC No. 1 officially ranked bowler! An absolutely astonishing record of consistency. And don't tell me that because Ajmal got the most Test wickets in 2011 that it makes him the world's best bowler. Alec Stewart and Mike Atherton (and another 39 guys) scored more Test runs than Bradman but they are obviously not better batsmen than the Don.

  • SAHIR on February 18, 2013, 0:43 GMT

    First of all congrats to SA fans to win 6th straight test series SA team has very professionely closed out the series performed well where and when it mattered comparing SA with the past great AUS or WI teams i am not sure about that, for that SA have to win a major ICC. championship and still visit sub-continent which is gonna be their final frontier in the quest of becoming the best,someone said that PAK never was up to the standard of SA if that is the case then the previous 5 teams were neither,and Ajmal has proved that he can create havoc outside the sub-continent too.PAK need to get rid of the management the player selection was very amateur you cant win test matches by scoring 169 runs as far as SAF is concerned right now they dont have a weak point may be spin

  • Haroon on February 17, 2013, 23:42 GMT

    Pakistan missed a trick. Looking back at Peterson's game, A Rehman could have had an impact with his slow left arm and ability to stick around with the bat. This was the only SA track to suit Pakistan strength.

  • salman on February 17, 2013, 23:41 GMT

    This is heart breaking losing this was close if we score 50 to 80 more runs, dnt know pakistan will eliminate these small problems to win matches from strong teams.

  • Harmon on February 17, 2013, 22:52 GMT

    @mahjut: You made that comment even though you know Pak themselves lost last 6 wickets for 22 runs? When ppl say cricket is a game of glorious uncertainties they more often than not refer to sudden collapses like these. SA suffered a mini-collapse in the 1st innings too, didn't they? Based on this empirical evidence, I don't think it is too wrong to say that with a few more runs to defend Pak could have won. Note that even a 1 run win would have made it 1-1. THAT is the diff I talked about that sometime exists between 0-2 and 1-1.

  • Shameem on February 17, 2013, 22:46 GMT

    @soso_killer: ONE man Ajmal single handedly and by that I mean without the support of his batsmen, umpiring luck, captain's decisions, et al- in short all that comprises a team like say, the SA team, bullied the SA team. Despite all their preparations, insider information from Imran Tahir (as reported by Ms Moonda), SA could not deal with him. Anywhere between 50-100 runs and he would have demolished this side you believe is better than the Aussies, by his lonesome. One guy.

    Salute Mr. Ajmal and move on. It is just a game. Okay?

  • Pulkit on February 17, 2013, 22:27 GMT

    The difference between the two teams is obviously, Saeed Ajmal but beyond him and a decent contribution by the middle order, I don't think Pakistan took much away from this game. Again, they buckled under pressure and bowled/batted erratically. One thing though, they have shown once again that they are a team of immense potential and if they had all their guns firing at once, the game could have been theirs.

    This is where they need to learn from SA - just never give in. It didn't matter that SA lost so much to Ajmal's great spell, they were always in the game because they kept trying. That's the sign of a great team. It doesn't matter if one of your major bowlers is out with an injury and the top order didn't perform well - just keep at it and give it your best. I only wish more teams could emulate this approach instead of getting carried away after every win and claiming that they're remarkable (England, I'm looking at you).

  • Dummy4 on February 17, 2013, 22:12 GMT

    India held sa for a 1-1 draw in 2010. That's the best performance by a foreign team in sa during recent times

  • fahad on February 17, 2013, 22:10 GMT

    Misbah was solely responsible for today's loss... Just 2 overs from hafeez, repeating gul and tanvir over and over again. He should have started the south african innings by giving hafeez the 1st over. He should have tried something different. Huge applause for ajmal for lonely battling the proteas.