Latest Sport News: Misbah and Shafiq lift Pakistan spirits


Latest Sport News: Misbah and Shafiq lift Pakistan spirits

Pakistan 183 for 4 (Misbah 44*, Shafiq 53*) and 49 need 297 more runs to beat South Africa 253 and 275 for 3 dec (de Villiers 103*, Amla 74*, Smith 52)

Starting a series with a total of 49 leaves a low base for improvement, but Pakistan’s second innings showed them in a far better light as they ensured the Test would enter a fourth day. At 82 for 4, chasing a huge 480, a swift conclusion was still on the cards before Misbah-ul-Haq and Asad Shafiq combined in an unbroken century stand including a wicketless final session

There will be no concern over the scoreline from Graeme Smith, but maybe just the odd glimpse towards weather forecasts. They are unpredictable, especially for Johannesburg, although do suggest a greater threat of rain over the last two days. Having not enforced the follow-on with Pakistan on the ropes yesterday he will not want any hiccups.

South Africa could have been closer to victory, and perhaps savouring a celebratory drink already, if it had not been for two spurned chances in the final session. Firstly Shafiq, on 40, edged Vernon Philander to first slip only for replays to show a clear no-ball. In the next over Misbah cut Jacques Kallis to backward point but Robin Peterson dropped a relatively straightforward chance. Smith started chewing on his gum just that little bit harder.

The chances should not remove the fact that Misbah and Shafiq provided an important lesson for the remainder of this series. Pakistan will, weather permitting, still lose here but it was vital that the aura around South Africa’s attack was at least pierced a fraction. The surface had lost some of its spite, and the ball grew softer, but the principles they showed of sound judgement and solid concentration will serve batsmen well in any conditions.

It was a proper rearguard from the pair as they dug in either side of tea. The hard work brought rewards, particularly against the slightly erratic Morne Morkel, although both batsmen nearly lost concentration against Robin Peterson when their eyes lit up at something slower.

Shafiq is an impressive young batsman, already with an average over forty, had enjoyed a solid 2012 with runs against England and Sri Lanka. He does not mind soaking up the dot balls, but also has a range of shots to take advantage of loose deliveries. His ninth boundary, a square cut, took him to his half-century from 117 balls.

He was partnered by a player who adores the chance to drop anchor. Misbah was tested by Dale Steyn in a spell after tea but he left the ball well and drove strongly through the off side. He was less convincing on the pull and, ten minutes before the close, nearly top-edged to deep square-leg. It would have been a horrid waste of his diligence.

There was another encouraging performance in the shape of Nasir Jamshed who dominated the early scoring after losing Mohammad Hafeez, caught down the leg side, in the fourth over. He was strong on the drive and through the leg side but had some uncomfortable moments against Morkel before, sensing another boundary for a maiden fifty, pulled Steyn to mid-on.

Kallis’ productive match with the ball continued when he trapped Azhar Ali lbw, the batsman wasting a review which bordered on the selfish. The ball was full, nipped back, and struck him in front of middle.

Younis Khan could only contribute 15 – and he already survived a mighty close review for lbw on 11 – when he tried to leave Morkel and provided a very thin edge to the keeper. Younis walked and Hot Spot showed a small white mark, but this time the focus was on Morkel’s front foot which was close to a no-ball.

South Africa’s innings had lasted for a further nine overs during the morning as Hashim Amla and AB de Villiers added 68 more. De Villiers was at his expansive best, taking balls from outside off through the leg side and also reverse sweeping Saeed Ajmal. The concerns about his workload have certainly been helped by the ability of South Africa’s quicks to skittle a team at least once in a Test.

His 11th boundary, slotted through the covers, took him to his hundred from 117 balls. The applause had just died down when Smith stood in the dressing room and waved his batsmen in to begin searching for a quick finish. It did not quite work out that way.

Andrew McGlashan is an assistant editor at ESPNcricinfo