The Proteas needed 48 minutes on the fourth morning to score the 41 runs needed to win the second Castle Lager test match against Pakistan by nine wickets at PPC Newlands in Cape Town on Sunday.
Dean Elgar (24 not out) and Faf du Plessis (3 not out) saw their side to victory with an unbeaten 20-run stand for the third wicket after Theunis de Bruyn (4) had been caught behind by Sarfraz Ahmed off the bowling of Mohammad Abbas (4-0-14-1) and Hashim Amla (2 not out) had retired hurt after receiving a blow on the body from Mohammad Amir (5-2-17-0).
De Bruyn opened the innings with Elgar after Aiden Markam had injured his thigh while fielding on day three during Pakistan’s second innings and during the seventh over from Amir, Amla raised his arms to a short-pitched delivery which bounced more than anticipated and clattered into his right arm.
Du Plessis had won the toss on Thursday and had no hesitation in asking Pakistan to bat first on a green wicket. South Africa’s four-pronged pace attack duly delivered, reducing the visitors to 75 for five at lunch before bowling Pakistan out for 177 in their first innings at tea on the first day.
“We are a team that focuses on being mentally tough. For us it is about fronting up to whatever is in front of you, whatever comes our way, whatever pitch comes your way, whatever conditions we want to make sure that we are the stronger team,” stated Du Plessis at the post-match press conference when asked about the current state of pitches being prepared in South Africa.
Duanne Olivier, who had claimed 11 wickets and the man of the match award at Supersport Park in the first test, was chief destroyer claiming 4-48 in 15 overs while Dale Steyn (3-48), Kagiso Rabada (2-35) and Vernon Philander (1-36) all contributed to the cause.
“There is a big difference between our bowling and their bowling. Our bowling is not up to the mark in these test matches because we are bowling at an average of 130km/h where their bowlers are bowling at 145km/h, and you will not get wickets with this type of bowling here,” said Sarfraz Ahmed after the test match.
“For me, I think they are much fitter than us,” added the Pakistan captain.
Sarfraz (56) spent two hours at the crease and found little support except for Shan Masood (44), Asad Shafiq (20) and Amir (22 not out).
“We are not bowling well and if you look at Centurion, we thought we would bowl far better here so we were hopeful of getting wickets here but we did not have enough runs on the board and if we bowled them out for 250 or 300 then it would have been a different story but we did not capitalise,” said Sarfraz.
In response, South Africa closed out the first day on 123 for two with Elgar (20) adding 56 for the first wicket with Markram (78), who then fell on the last ball of the first day. The Proteas began the second day trailing Pakistan’s first innings by 54 runs and lost the wickets of Amla (24) and De Bruyn (13) before Du Plessis (103) and Temba Bavuma (75) carried their side to lunch with a lead of 11 runs.
“Temba will be the first guy to say that he has had opportunities to go on a get hundreds where the wickets were good enough to cash in so he is a very motivated cricketer. But the value on the runs he has scored for the team over the last two or three years in positions where the team has been in deep, deep trouble has been of the utmost importance,” said Du Plessis of the diminutive middle-order batsman.
The day belonged to South Africa with the hosts closing out the day on 382 for six with Du Plessis scoring his ninth test century and first against Pakistan while Bavuma notched up his 13th test fifty. Bavuma and his captain toiled hard during the day’s play, scoring 156 runs for the fifth wicket. Quinton de Kock (59) made batting look easy and saw out the day with Philander (6 not out).
The second day was characterised by the grit and determination of Du Plessis, who spent six less than six hours at the crease while striking 13 boundaries in 226 balls. Bavuma’s knock was fortuitous at times, having two leg before decisions referred to the third umpire while a catch by Azhar Ali in the slips was overturned in a replica of the incident at Centurion.
“For me it was a good test. I have been batting really well over the last year, technically I have felt the best that I have felt for a very long time and then going into a test where you get a pair, it’s amazing how quickly, as a human, you go into that place of ‘oh dear’ but I am mentally strong and I was hungry to put in a big performance,” said Du Plessis after the test match.
“It was tough on day two but we scored close to 400 runs and even though it is tough on younger guys trying to make a name for themselves, it is still possible to score runs,” added the Proteas skipper.
The third day was action packed as South Africa resumed on 382 for six, a first innings lead of 205 but Amir (4-88) claimed three quick wickets as De Kock, Philander (16) and Rabada (11) were sent packing before Shaheen Afridi (4-123) closed out the innings by dismissing Steyn (13) as South Africa were bowled out for 341 and an overall lead of 254.
Pakistan fought hard in their second innings with Shafiq (88), Babar Azam (72) and Masood (61) all providing sterner resistance than in the first innings, but Steyn (4-85), Rabada (4-61) and Philander (1-51) broke the standsand the rest of the lineup crumbled and Pakistan were bowled out at the close of day three for 294, leaving South Africa needing just 41 runs to clinch the series 2-0 with one match to be played at the Wanderers in Johannesburg.
“We did really well to get eight wickets after tea, and that boils down to us using our opportunities and making sure that we do not allow the opposition get back into the test match,” said Du Plessis.