Africa preserve away record in Test series


South Africa’s unbeaten run in Test series on the road will extend even further after their victory in Dubai, which allowed them to share the spoils of this two-match rubber with Pakistan. The last time South Africa lost a Test series abroad was in Sri Lanka in 2006. Since then, they have become the No. 1 ranked Test team and they will stay there, but their lead will be cut by four points by virtue of the drawn series.

Pakistan have risen to No. 4, thanks to their victory in Abu Dhabi, but were unable to protect fortress UAE, losing in their adopted home for the first time since moving here in 2010. They went down fighting though, with Asad Shafiq notching up his highest score in Test cricket and sharing in a 197-run fifth wicket stand with Misbah-ul-Haq, which kept South Africa in the field for much longer than they would have anticipated.

On the fourth evening, AB de Villiers said the team felt they were one wicket away from running through Pakistan. That dismissal came 20 minutes before tea as Misbah, who had treated South Africa’s attack with the caution of someone handling a shipment of crystal glasses, gifted Dean Elgar, the part-time spinner, his first Test wicket. In Elgar’s second over, Misbah attempted to slog him out of the park, but got a thick outside edge which Jacques Kallis collected at first slip.

That ended a vigil in which Misbah had ushered Shafiq to his second century against this opposition, and the fourth of his career, and seen off the second new ball to put Pakistan in a position to frustrate South Africa even further. They had only one wicket-taking opportunity before Misbah’s lapse in concentration, when Shafiq was given out lbw in the fifth over to a Vernon Philander delivery that pitched on leg-stump and hit him on the front pad. He was on 36 at the time and reviewed with replays showing the ball would have missed leg stump.

Shafiq survived and went on to play a balanced innings combining defence with attack, particularly against the spinners. His footwork against Imran Tahir and JP Duminy was excellent, typified by the shot of the day – a spank over midwicket off Tahir.

Misbah was more stoic, nudging the ball into spaces and encouraging Shafiq to keep the scoreboard moving, but not too quickly. They both brought up half-centuries off 121 balls before slowing down as the second new ball came. Once comfortable against it, Shafiq pushed past his captain after lunch. He danced into the nineties with a boundary off Duminy and brought up his century with a square drive off a full and wide ball from the same bowler. Encouragingly for Pakistan, once the milestone had been reached, Shafiq kept going.

Misbah will be furious that he did not do the same. Although South Africa’s attack did not lapse into the lazy short-ball showing they put on in Abu Dhabi, they seemed to be running out of ideas. After trying everything from having two short midwickets in against the spinners – between whom Shafiq threaded the ball through – to having two short covers in for the quicks, Smith turned to Elgar to buy time.

Smith would probably not have imagined getting a wicket off the tactic, Elgar’s delivery was innocuous as well, but once Misbah ran out of patience, the result was a foregone conclusion. Pakistan’s tail proved pesky to remove even though they were without Zulfiqar Babar, who did not bat because of the torn webbing on his right hand.

With a ball short of 10 overs remaining in the day, Shafiq, after resisting for seven hours, was stumped off JP Duminy, to give him the same number of wickets as Tahir in the innings – three.

On this day in 1952 Pakistan won their first Test, beating India in Lucknow. They did not have reason to celebrate on their anniversary but they did enjoy some positive signs as they dragged the Test late into the fourth afternoon and pushed South Africa as much as they could given their first innings failing.