Younis Khan reminded Pakistan just what they had been missing as his 17th Test hundred guided them to safety on the final day in Dubai. Together with another returnee, the new captain Misbah-ul-Haq, the pair combined to defy South Africa for 57 overs, sharing an unbroken stand of 186 to pull off a result which looked unlikely after Pakistan conceded a 132 first-innings deficit.

Shorn of Younis' services since July last year, the brittle Pakistan line-up have struggled against Australia and England but his resilience alongside Misbah, playing his first Test since the Sydney debacle, ensured a satisfying return. Younis will rightly take the plaudits, anchoring the rearguard with third hundred against South Africa but, as Misbah himself acknowledged, it was the he who was under most scrutiny.

"This feels like a win. The team put in a wonderful effort under pressure," he said. "I was under quite a bit of pressure before this Test but I think my performance today will make it easier for me."

Pakistan's first-innings collapse from 176 for 2 to 248 all out underlines just how important Misbah's contribution was, all the more so given that the next man in was Umar Akmal. It ensured that the "fresh start" Misbah promised on the eve of the game ended well and he singled out praise for his partner. "On the second day the bowlers brought us back into the game the plan today was to be positive and not just try to stick it out. Younis' knock today was a special one."

Returning as the senior batsman in a volatile side, Younis could have been forgiven for feeling the burden of responsibility. Yet after a cautious start his increasingly expansive and certain strokeplay betrayed a man just relieved to be back where he belongs.

"There wasn't any pressure on us because the wicket here is different to those in the subcontinent," he said. "It didn't have the kind of uneven bounce that causes the ball to bounce up off the pads. On this wicket it was possible to bat positively and that's what I was trying to do. I was trying to hit the bad balls for boundaries."

Both batsmen, impressive as they were, had some generous South African fielding to thank. Younis was put down twice, on 16 by Mark Boucher and again by Jacques Kallis when on 70, and Misbah got a slice of luck when Hashim Amla spilled a chance at short leg just before lunch.

It meant another final-innings disappointment for South Africa after twice being denied by England last year but on a flat track Graeme Smith was happy enough with his side's performance.

"We knew it was going to be hard because on this wicket once the batsmen get in it was tough to get them out," he said. "The wicket got slower and slower as the Test went on. Credit must go to Pakistan, especially to Younis, he played really well.

"Missed chances are always costly but nobody does it on purpose. It was unusual for those guys to miss those chances because they have been stalwarts of the team for a long time. So obviously they are disappointed with that. But we've played good positive cricket throughout the game and we'll take that into Abu Dhabi."