Aiden Markram and Rassie van der Dussen led South Africa’s strong response on Day 4 after Mohammad Rizwan’s maiden Test ton set the visitors a steep target of 370 to win the second Test in Rawalpindi. Rizwan was the driving force behind Pakistan’s total of 298 in the second innings, with George Linde’s spirited bowling helping him finish with his first five-wicket haul. The visitors then lost an early wicket but an unbroken partnership worth 94 runs between Markram (59) and van der Dussen (48) helped South Africa to 127 for 1 at Stumps on Sunday (February 7), still needing 243 to square the two-match series.
South Africa were steady at the start of the chase with Dean Elgar’s four fours off Hasan Ali helping them get a move on while Markram wasn’t in any hurry to get off the mark. When he finally scored his first runs, off his 23rd ball, it was thanks to his good footwork as he came down the track to send a Nauman Ali delivery over midwicket for a four. The next ball was glanced away fine by Markram who survived a leg-before review in the same over before coming down the track to the left-arm spinner to send the ball over the long-on fence. The opening stand, however, came to an end just before Tea when Elgar chased a delivery outside off from Afridi and nicked it behind.
The magnitude of the chase coupled with South Africa’s propensity to throw away starts and a Day 4 wicket aiding some turn, meant there was plenty of pressure on the South African batsmen. But Markram and van der Dussen did not let that get the better of them as they played their shots confidently. Hasan came under some stick from Markram who also showed good footwork against the spinners, while van der Dussen was looking in good touch – solid with his defence and assured with his strokeplay. A half-century stand, Markram’s fifty and South Africa’s 100 were a few mini-milestones reached during the first hour after Tea
The cover drive and the punch down the ground that van der Dussen played off Faheem Ashraf in the final hour of the day, staying low and playing close to the body, was proof of the technical capabilities of the batsman who appeared untroubled during his stay, against both pace and spin. Pakistan’s bowlers were also guilty of erring with their lines on occasions, allowing some easy runs. The scoring rate dipped a bit leading to the day’s close but both batsmen remained unbeaten, keeping South Africa interested in the game.
Earlier, Rizwan batted superbly with the lower order to help Pakistan set South Africa a stiff challenge. Starting the day at 129 for 6, Pakistan were in danger of being bowled out cheaply. But Rizwan showcased his skills under pressure, and had confidence in both Yasir Shah and Nauman with whom he added 53 and 97 respectively for the eighth and ninth wicket.
With the precarious situation that his team was in, Rizwan mixed caution with calculated aggression and ensured that Pakistan’s innings did not stagnate. Hasan fell early to Keshav Maharaj but Rizwan received support from Yasir, who capitalised on a couple of reprieves, to score three fours during his knock of 23 that came in a half-century stand with Rizwan. The partnership eventually came to an end before the Lunch break when Yasir was caught behind off Linde, who bagged his fourth wicket.
South Africa, though, had to endure more toil and frustration as Nauman supported Rizwan in a ninth wicket stand that took the game further away from the visitors. It was Nauman who set the tone in the post-lunch session by getting on one knee to send a Linde delivery over the square leg fence. He later went on to score another six off Linde, this time over cow corner. In between, there were many fours scored by both Rizwan and Nauman as a weary South African attack watched on helplessly hoping to catch a break as the lead kept growing.
Battered and bruised, the bowlers couldn’t do much as the batsmen helped themselves with regular boundaries. Rizwan also reached a personal milestone as he became the seventh Pakistan wicketkeeper-batsman to register three figures in Test cricket. Meanwhile, coach Misbah-ul-Haq and the rest in the dressing room cheered and enjoyed every moment of Nauman’s entertaining batting, which came to an end five short of fifty when he fell to Kagiso Rabada. Linde, whose spirit overshadowed pain, aptly ended Pakistan’s innings with the wicket of Shaheen Afridi. But a lot of damage was done before that, thanks to Rizwan’s unbeaten stay for 204 deliveries.
Brief Scores : Pakistan 271 & 298 (Mohammad Rizwan 115*, Nauman Ali 45; George Linde 5-64, Keshav Maharaj 3-118) lead South Africa 201 & 127/1 (Aiden Markram 59*, Rassie van der Dussen 48*; Shaheen Afridi 1-22) by 242 runs.