Cricket: Kirsten's fightback follows Pakistan's record day

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The Independent Online
Pakistan 456

South Africa 139-1

South Africa's batsmen fought back with admirable determination after they had watched Pakistan's last pair of Azhar Mahmood and Mushtaq Ahmed take their partnership to 151, which equalled the world record for the last wicket in Test cricket.

Azhar who was 72 overnight, went on to make 128 not out in his first Test innings and Mushtaq reached 59. With Ali Naqvi making 115 on Monday, this became the first time that two batsmen on the same side had made hundreds in their first Test in the same match. All this on a day when the players were presented to the Queen during the tea interval.

Both batsmen were quickly into their stride and the South Africans, who were still without Brett Schultz with his injured shoulder and who is to fly home, had no answer. Azhar set the pace, driving Allan Donald off his legs for four and hooking Shaun Pollock for another. When Pat Symcox took over with his off spin, he was also expensive.

Azhar's hundred came when he steered Brian McMillan, whose elbow had recovered, to third man and now Mushtaq, feeling that his main responsibility had ended, tucked into Symcox with a vengeance. One over, which included three sixes over long-on and a sweep for four of successive balls, produced 23 runs.

Azhar took 13 in an over from McMillan and there was only five minutes to go until lunch when Mushtaq slogged and edged Hanse Cronje into his stumps. They had equalled the record for the last wicket of 151 set by Brian Hastings and Richard Collinge for New Zealand against Pakistan in Auckland in 1973.

It was desperately important for South Africa to lay a solid foundation to their innings and Gary Kirsten and Adam Bacher did just that. They saw off Waqar Younis and Azhar who, on this extremely slow pitch were no great threat. The main problems were always going to be the spin of Mushtaq and Saqlain, but fortunately for the South Africans although the ball spun, the bounce on the third day was more even than had seemed likely.

Kirsten's policy was to sweep Saqlain when he got the chance, even though it was against the spin, and to cut Mushtaq, also against the spin, while Bacher was looking to come on to the front foot to drive and after tea began to use his feet with good effect against Saqlain.

They both had their moments, particularly against Mushtaq who was unlucky, but they got away with it. Waqar had two overs immediately after tea to see if he could do anything with his reverse swing, but both batsmen attacked him successfully and Mushtaq was recalled.

Kirsten reached his 50 just ahead of Bacher who then faced Saqlain and, pushing forward, was caught at silly mid-off from bat and pad. Jacques Kallis then managed to stay with Kirsten until the end of an extraordinary day when South Africa needed 118 more to avoid the follow on.

(Third day of five; Pakistan won toss)

PAKISTAN - First innings

(Overnight 345 for 9)

Azhar Mahmood not out 128

Mushtaq Ahmed b Cronje 59

Extras (b2 lb7 nb13) 22

Total 456

Bowling: Donald 33-3-108-3; Schultz 15-4-58-1; Pollock 37-13-74-3; McMillan 17-5-36-0; Symcox 46-11-130-2; Kallis 7-3-15-0; Cronje 7.5-0-26-1.

SOUTH AFRICA - First innings

G Kirsten not out 62

A M Bacher c Ramzan b Saqlain Mushtaq 50

J H Kallis not out 20

Extras (lb3 nb4) 7

Total (for 1) 139

Fall of wicket: 1-107

To bat: D J Cullinan, *W J Cronje, B M McMillan, S M Pollock, D J Richardson, P L Symcox, A A Donald, B N Schultz.

Bowling: Waqar Younis 7-1-24-0; Azhar Mahmood 10-1-19-0; Mushtaq Ahmed 21-5-47-0; Saqlain Mushtaq 26-11-46-1.

Umpires: S Venkatravagahn (India) and Javed Akhtar (Pakistan).