AB de Villiers broke records and Pakistani spirits as South Africa took control on the second day at the Sheikh Abu Zayed Stadium in Abu Dhabi. de Villiers compiled a monumental unvanquished 278, the highest individual score by a South African to help his side declare on 584 for 9. Pakistani resistance was by turns futile and worthwhile; debutante Tanvir Ahmed bagged a six-for by the close and an important unbroken 57-run stand between Azhar Ali and Taufeeq Umar allowed them to return to fight another day.
The story and direction of the Test so far was set by de Villiers. Initially his was a muted, inevitable progression; a continuation of the stealthy way in which he went along on the first day. At no point did he choose to cut loose and it was really a matter of choice, for at no point in the day did he look insecure.
A verbal dance with a luckless Umar Gul on the virtues or otherwise of walking - Pakistan thought de Villiers was out twice yesterday - was his highlight of the morning's first hour. He did break out 80 minutes in to the morning in one over against a tiring Ahmed, a delicious drive sandwiched by a pull and punch through midwicket; the last brought up 150.
The damage to Pakistan didn't seem apparent at first: 74 runs and two wickets in the morning, in fact, was even-stevens. But as the day wore on, de Villiers killed Pakistan gradually, orchestrating a succession of useful lower-order stands. He put on 73 with Mark Boucher, 42 with Johan Botha and, irritatingly for Pakistan, 59 with Dale Steyn.
Through them all were regular reminders of the simplicity of de Villiers' strokeplay, such as an easy glide through gully of Mohammad Sami. To bring up the double as tea approached, he first pulled Gul in front of square before guiding him through gully for another boundary.
Steyn's post-lunch cameo was where the fun really began. There were flick-pulls, drives hit as hard as concrete as well as a magnificent dance-down six over long-on. Paul Harris added a handy 35 but a grand humiliation was served up in an unbeaten 107-run partnership unbeaten with Morne Morkel. The stand broke the South African 10th wicket partnership record that had stood since 1929, when Tuppy Owen-Smith and Sandy Bell put on 103 at Headingley against England.
A flurry of boundaries as matters came to an end amply demonstrated de Villiers' complete and total superiority, as well as that of his side's. In the second session he scored an even 100. Two overs after tea, as he deftly took a single to midwicket, Graeme Smith stood tallest and loudest in the dressing room applauding as de Villiers went past his captain as holder of the highest individual Test score for South Africa.
By then Pakistan were dead men walking. de Villiers had drained them thoroughly and every tailend boundary was simply another prick on a numbed spirit. They had actually begun well, with Gul and Ahmed particularly tight. The latter struck first, a sharp, late inswinger surprising Boucher. The Flintoff-esque celebration was impressive and understandable. Another wicket later ensured the second-best figures on debut for a Pakistani, though by then the fizz had gone.
Even Sami bowled an outstanding spell pre-lunch, full of whizzing outswingers. One such caught the edge but two truths of Sami's career remained unchallenged: one, he has no luck and two, catching is not an Akmal family strength.
All things considered they didn't end badly either. Mohammad Hafeez went in the very first over, but Umar and Ali were firm in a session in which they probably weren't tested as they should've been. The latter looked particularly good, defending and driving with equal assurance. The proper ascent up the mountain will begin tomorrow.