First Test Match

Pakistan v South Africa

Brian Murgatroyd

At Lahore, October 17, 18, 19, 20, 21, 2003. Pakistan won by eight wickets. Toss: South Africa. Test debut: Asim Kamal.

Every match has pivotal moments but few are as dramatic and decisive as the one that occurred on the first day of this Test. South Africa were cruising at 159 for three midway through the afternoon session when Kirsten was forced to retire hurt after being struck by a Shoaib Akhtar bouncer. After that they were never again in control and Pakistan, showing the character so absent from their play in the second half of the one-day series, slowly, surely took charge.

This was a great Test with something for everyone: high-class batting, top-quality bowling from Danish Kaneria and Shoaib, bravery from Kirsten, the drama of Asim Kamal's agonising fall just short of a hundred on debut - and also controversy, with Shoaib being banned for the Second Test. The shame was that so few people watched it.

Anyone who did watch the first session and a half before Kirsten's injury would have been hard-pressed to believe Pakistan would end up winning the match with almost three sessions in hand. Without the injured Inzamam and with just one player - Yasir Hameed - remaining from their previous Test against Bangladesh six weeks earlier, they played like strangers and dropped three catches in the first session. South Africa, by contrast, looked largely untroubled.

Yet again, however, Shoaib demonstrated his ability to make things happen with his removal of Kirsten and the dismissal of McKenzie next ball, a wicked in-swinging yorker. Kirsten sustained a broken nose and left eye socket, and required ten stitches in his face when he missed an attempted hook shot. But the fractures were "undisplaced" and, amazingly, he was batting again on the fourth morning. "The pitches here are too good to go home," he joked afterwards. But with him out of action in the first innings, Pakistan ended the opening day the happier side despite Boucher's effort in taking the fight back to the bowlers.

The day also had a dramatic postscript. As Adams frustrated Pakistan's attempts to mop up the tail, he was sworn at by Shoaib and, although the remark was just routine playground language, South Africa decided, as a matter of tit for tat, to report the matter to the referee, Clive Lloyd. As the offence was captured by television cameras, Lloyd had little option but to ban Shoaib, a punishment that became more severe because it was his second offence within 12 months. It cost Shoaib one Test and two one-day internationals.

Pakistan's ascendancy grew on day two as, faced with a diet of innocuous seam bowling and Adams's assortment, the batsmen did much as they pleased. Chief among them was Taufeeq Umar, who registered his fourth Test hundred and his second in succession against South Africa on his return after a troublesome knee injury. He had a huge slice of luck on 17, when he played Pollock on to his stumps without dislodging the bails (one of three occasions it happened in the match). Otherwise Taufeeq looked immovable, driving and cutting impressively until deceived by Adams after batting for five hours and 22 minutes.

Kamal, who survived a massive lbw appeal from Nel first ball, settled quickly and seemed set to take Pakistan to an enormous lead until he edged an indeterminate steer on to his stumps to become only the third player to score 99 on debut (after A. G. Chipperfield of Australia in 1934 and R. J. Christiani of West Indies in 1947-48). And with Adams finally finding some semblance of control to return Test-best figures, Pakistan's lead was restricted to just 81.

It was a great effort by South Africa and, when they wiped off the deficit for the loss of just one wicket by the close, the match appeared to be back in the melting pot. Two collapses on the fourth day, however, tipped the balance decisively back to Pakistan. The first was induced by Shoaib, who stood tall in the first session to take three key wickets before limping off with a hamstring strain, and the second was the result of the persistence of Kaneria, who bowled unchanged for 28.3 overs from the University End and provided Pakistan with the priceless asset of control. None of South Africa's batsmen could read him with certainty and when he removed Kirsten, caught off a leading edge as he tried to work a wrong 'un to leg, it started a collapse in which the last four wickets went down for four runs in 13 balls.

Pakistan were left with a target of 161 and, after the openers had negotiated the new ball, they came close to securing victory that evening until bad light and Farhat's dismissal prompted discretion. Although Taufeeq was castled by an Adams shooter on the final morning, it was too little, too late for South Africa. By the end of the match, the bubble that swelled in the one-day series had well and truly burst.

Men of the Match: Taufeeq Umar and Danish Kaneria.

© John Wisden & Co