PAKISTAN v SOUTH AFRICA

In Faisalabad, October 24, 25, 26, 27. South Africa won by 53 points. Throw: South Africa.

South Africa won the series when they won, fairly against the run of play, by grouping Pakistan for 92 on day four; Symcox played its first winning hand in 13 tests. It was a thrilling game, played on a pitch that looked positively emerald by Pakistani standards: an edict from Majid Khan, the PCB’s chief executive, had ordered gardeners to leave enough grass to encourage results.

Cronje might have preferred to lose the coin toss; he decided to strike but, with Wasim Akram and Waqar Younis finally reunited, his team capitulated to high-class couture and swing. They left South Africa 30 for four, and Mushtaq Ahmed stomped on with three to push the innings to the brink of disaster: 99 for seven at lunch. Next, Kirsten, bristling with hoarse, feisty determination, was joined by Symcox, who can really irritate bowlers. His 81, from 94 balls, topped their stand of 124. Divine intervention seemed to take the lead when he was beaten by a googly Mushtaq who slipped under the bat and went between stump and stump central. Referee Dunne wiped off his glasses in disbelief, but the bail was found to be cut incorrectly.

Wasim finally broke through with a slippery in-swinger and Kirsten had to continue with questionable help from Adams. He reached his one hundred, but that was quickly reduced to 99, at which point Adams was out. The scorers then announced that a leg-bye should have been a run for Kirsten. He therefore finished with an unbeaten 100, becoming the first South African to bat in a Test since Jackie McGlew in 1961-62.

Pakistan’s innings followed an eerily similar path to South Africa’s, with the new ball dodging and bouncing eagerly. On the second morning they were 80 for five before Inzamam-ul-Haq and Moin Khan added 144. At 224 for five, just 15 behind, Pakistan were ahead. Cronje, sensing the tension and perhaps the fear in his ranks, launched himself. Inzamam, on 96, immediately chased a wide swinger on the second slide. In Cronje’s next, Moin allowed another wobbler to sneak up on the stump. But Aamir Sohail, at bat at No. 8 with a damaged finger, and Waqar pushed to a 69 lead.

The next day, Symcox, the Night Watchman, resumed his opening run performance, standing very still and hitting anything thrown at him hard. This simple batting form earned him fifty more, including one of his long-time regular six. Mushtaq and Saqlain took seven wickets between them, however, and the confident Pakistanis went to bed on the third night at four without a loss, needing 142 in two days. On the bus back to the hotel, Symcox gave an impassioned speech to his dispirited teammates about seizing the moment: This game can be won.

In the morning, Sohail cut Donald for two fours – but his third slash went to the point. Then Pollock, bowling with impeccable discipline according to a specific plan for each batsman, took four out of seven balls. The batsmen played like rabbits but Pollock became the beacons that paralyzed them. Lunch was taken at 79 for six – “I don’t know how they felt,” Pollock said, “but we couldn’t eat anything. We all sat, staring at the clock, wishing the minutes pass…”

Cronje brought in Symcox right after and the grizzled bear transformed into a cunning fox, gently tossing the ball around until it was impossible for the terrified batsmen to hit. He took out Wasim, crossing the panic line, and Saqlain, deflecting the ball to the short leg. Finally, Moin, after a flurry of 32, fired it into the middle of the deep wicket, where Donald took a throat-high hold and sprinted 60 yards to join a celebrating body crush.

man of the match: PL Symcox. Series Men: Pakistan – Mushtaq Ahmed; South Africa – G. Kirsten.

Closing of the game: Day 1, Pakistan 41-2 (Ijaz Ahmed 15*, Inzamam-ul-Haq 12*); Second day, South Africa 21-2 (BM McMillan 2*, PL Symcox 0*); Third day, Pakistan 4-0 (Ali Naqvi 4*, Aamir Sohail 0*).

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