Third Test Match

Pakistan v South Africa

At Faisalabad, October 24, 25, 26, 27. South Africa won by 53 runs. Toss: South Africa.

South Africa took the series when they won, quite against the run of play, by bundling Pakistan out for 92 on the fourth day; Symcox played his first match-winning hand in 13 Tests. It was a thrilling game, fought out on a pitch which looked positively emerald by Pakistan's standards: an edict from Majid Khan, the PCB chief executive, had instructed groundsmen to leave enough grass to encourage results.

Cronje might have preferred to lose the toss; he decided to bat but, with Wasim Akram and Waqar Younis reunited at last, his side capitulated to high-class seam and swing. They left South Africa 30 for four, and Mushtaq Ahmed nipped in with three to shove the innings to the brink of disaster: 99 for seven at lunch. Then Kirsten, bristling with scratchy, scuffling determination, was joined by Symcox, who can really irritate bowlers. His 81, from 94 balls, dominated their stand of 124. Divine intervention seemed to take a hand when he was beaten by a Mushtaq googly that slipped under the bat and passed between off and middle stump. Umpire Dunne gave his spectacles a disbelieving wipe, but the bail was found to be badly cut.

Wasim finally broke through with a slippery in-swinger and Kirsten had to bat on with the dubious help of Adams. He reached his hundred, but this was promptly adjusted back to 99, at which point Adams was out. The scorers then announced that one leg-bye should have been a run for Kirsten. So he finished with an unbeaten 100, becoming the first South African to carry his bat in a Test since Jackie McGlew in 1961-62.

Pakistan's innings followed an eerily similar path to South Africa's, the new ball side-stepping and bouncing eagerly. On the second morning, they were 80 for five before Inzamam-ul-Haq and Moin Khan added 144. At 224 for five, just 15 behind, Pakistan were on top. Cronje, sensing tension and maybe fear in his ranks, brought himself on. Inzamam, on 96, immediately chased a wide away-swinger to second slip. In Cronje's next over, Moin allowed another wobbler to sneak on to off stump. But Aamir Sohail, batting at No. 8 with a damaged finger, and Waqar pushed on to a lead of 69.

The following day Symcox, the night-watchman, reprised his first-innings performance, standing very still and hitting hard anything pitched up to him. This simple form of batting earned him another fifty, including one of his customary sixes over long-on. Mushtaq and Saqlain took seven wickets between them, though, and the confident Pakistanis bedded down on the third evening at four without loss, needing 142 in two days. On the bus back to the hotel, Symcox delivered an impassioned speech to his downcast team-mates about seizing the moment: This game can be won.

In the morning, Sohail carved Donald for two fours - but his third slash went to point. Then Pollock, bowling with impeccable discipline to a specific plan for each batsman, took four in seven balls. The batsman played like rabbits but Pollock became the headlights which paralysed them. Lunch was taken at 79 for six - "I don't know how they felt," said Pollock, "but we couldn't eat a thing. We all just sat, staring at the clock, willing the minutes to go by. . ."

Cronje brought Symcox on straight afterwards and the grizzled bear turned cunning fox, tossing the ball up to sweetly it was impossible for the terrified batsmen to hit. He removed Wasim, swatting across the line in panic, and Saqlain, deflecting the ball to short leg. Finally, Moin, after a gusty 32, pulled him to deep mid-wicket, where Donald took a throat-high catch and sprinted 60 meters to join a celebrating crush of bodies.

Man of the Match: P. L. Symcox. Men of the Series: Pakistan - Mushtaq Ahmed; South Africa - G. Kirsten.

Close of play: First day, Pakistan 41-2 (Ijaz Ahmed 15*, Inzamam-ul-Haq 12*); Second day, South Africa 21-2 (B. M. McMillan 2*, P. L. Symcox 0*); Third day, Pakistan 4-0 (Ali Naqvi 4*, Aamir Sohail 0*).

© John Wisden & Co