Aiden Markram, Rassie van der Dussen’s resistance keeps Pakistan bowlers at bay

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Aiden Markram, Rassie van der Dussen's resistance keeps Pakistan bowlers at bay


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South Africa scored only 47 runs in the afternoon session at the loss of Dean Elgar’s wicket

Lunch South Africa 220 and 84 for 1 (Markram 34*, van der Dussen 17*, Shah 1-22) trail Pakistan 378 (Alam 109, Ashraf 64, Azaher 51, Rabada 3-70, Maharaj 3-90) by 74 runs

If the morning session was a bit liberal in terms of the scoring rate, the middle session spent all its time overcompensating. Two hours of grinding cricket later, the sides remained locked into the same situation they found themselves in at lunch, with Pakistan still on top while South Africa continue to cling to hope.

The visitors lost only the wicket of Dean Elgar – and possibly his involvement in the second Test if X-rays on his hand reveal the worst – but managed just 47 runs in a session that at one juncture saw them manage just four across eight overs.

Yasir Shah carried the greatest threat to the batsmen all session, and might at times feel he could have had more than just the one wicket if the Rassie van der Dussen and Dean Elgar hadn’t shut up shop against him. He found turn from the rough from around the wicket, but with lbw taken out of the equation, Aiden Markram and van der Dussen were content to pad him away. If it were to be converted into a game of patience, South Africa don’t appear like losing it.

But while Shah was responsible for Elgar’s wicket, it came only after a rearing delivery from Shaheen Shah Afridi had crunched him on the little finger that required extended treatment from the physio. It looked at one stage he might come off temporarily, but Shah – and a brilliant catch from Rizwan -ensured it was permanent. Elgar tried to sweep and the ball scooped up off the glove, with Rizwan completing a diving catch that ended up with him on the pitch.

South Africa had begun day three just as despondently as they had capped a dismal second day, allowing Pakistan’s tail to not so much wag as hop, skip and jump all the way to a potentially decisive lead. A 55-run partnership for the tenth wicket drove a stake deeper through the heart of South Africa’s chances in this Test as Pakistan wrapped up with 378, bloating the lead to 158 and ensuring South Africa would have to fight hard just to make Pakistan bat again in this Test.

Shah’s innings may have looked casual what with the ever-present smile on his face and the caution he threw to the wind along the way, but this was no laughing matter for the visitors. After Pakistan began the day eight wickets down and 88 ahead, South Africa knew every run they added would tilt the odds further against them. They started off well enough when Kagiso Rabada knocking out Hasan Ali’s middle stump in the second over of the day to reach to become the third-fastest to 200 Test wickets.

But there was little time to celebrate, especially as Nauman Ali and Shah decided they still fancied a bat. The former crunched Rabada for four the first ball the South African bowled. Soon after, Shah drove him through the covers before perfectly placing a square cut for another boundary in one over. Pakistan brought up 350, and the 150-run lead when Shah danced down the ground to deposit Keshav Maharaj over long-on for six.

The left-arm spinner did finally snare Nauman but not before the lead had stretched to 158, and South Africa were given an hour to negotiate before lunch. The one thing they might draw comfort from is Elgar and Markram managed it better than Pakistan had dealt with the last hour on the first day, neutralising the new ball in the hands of Afridi and Hasan.

Markram might have been walking off when trapped in front by Afridi but was saved when the review found the ball had pitched outside leg. He withstood a Pakistan review for lbw a few overs later, one that replays showed was missing the leg stump. These, however, were just a couple of small wins for a South African side that needs plenty of big ones to keep their head above water.

Danyal Rasool is a sub-editor at ESPNcricinfo. @Danny61000



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