December 28, 2002

South Africa on the brink of victory in Durban

A fine display of South African pace bowling has all but won the first Castle Lager/MTN Test at Kingsmead with Pakistan leading by 11 runs with two wickets in hand.

With the new ball due at the start of play on day four South Africa will not be put under too much pressure to take a 1-0 lead in the two match series, and take a step closer in heading the ICC Test Championship table.

Asked to follow on after being bowled out for 161, still 207 runs behind, Pakistan once again made a solid start with a patient but much-needed 50-run opening partnership in 28 overs between Taufeeq Umar and Saleem Elahi. They protected the remaining batsmen from the new ball, but once set should have gone on to bigger things.

With the departure of Elahi on 18, edging Makhaya Ntini to third slip, wickets fell regularly with no one able to build on a good start.

Umar on reaching 39, the same score he made in the first innings, might count himself unlucky to be given out leg before to Nicky Boje, but he was partly to blame having gone back to a ball that he should have been well forward to.

Younis Khan batted with some purpose to score 30, but with his team in trouble he should never have been chasing a Jacques Kallis bouncer well above his head. Inzamam-ul-Haq was just starting to free his arms when he scooped Boje into the covers.

Yousuf Youhana showed glimpses of the form he displayed in Zimbabwe but could not resist the short-pitched balls. Having twice mistimed pulls into the gaps, he fell cutting a high, wide delivery down the throat of third man. Having reached 42 he should have made sure of a big score.

Faisal Iqbal looked out of his depth, and it was only a matter of time before he played down the wrong line for Kallis to uproot his leg stump for 17.

Abdur Razzaq, having gone through to 1,000 Test runs, showed signs of class but once Youhana had gone he played one aggressive shot too many, pulling at another short ball from Mornantau Hayward. He may have the fleeting satisfaction of putting Hayward over square leg for six, but he should have shown more determination in fighting his teams' cause.

Saqlain, not picked for his batting abilities, fell in failing light to Shaun Pollock leaving Kamran Akmal (21) and Waqar Younis (2) to hold out until the close.

The South African bowlers once again held a good line and length. Having made quick work of bowling Pakistan out in the first innings they stuck to their task, taking ten wickets in the day's play.

Ntini was unlucky not to pick up five in the first innings, as both Akmal and Waqar were dropped off his bowling while Hayward picked up his first 5-fer in wrapping up the tail.

Ntini again engineered the breakthrough that started the regular fall of wickets in the second innings, but left the field late in the afternoon with what is thought to be a muscle strain.

Hayward, Boje and Kallis took two wickets apiece with Kallis the most impressive of the three, taking 2-30 from 17 overs. Barring any rain South Africa should have this one in the bag.