Fives all round for Ajmal and Philander
Saeed Ajmal’s five wickets left Pakistan’s second Test against South Africa intriguingly poised.
The spinner was at his brilliant best on a Newlands surface that has yet to show signs of the deterioration expected later in the game.
He single-handedly dismantled the Proteas top-order, with subtle variations making up for the little assistance on offer.
The upshot was the world’s number-one side, 1-0 up in the series, stuttering to 139 for five in response to Pakistan’s 338.
Ajmal’s exploits came after Vernon Philander had continued his exceptional start in Test cricket by helping dismiss the tourists, who resumed on 253 for five.
It is fair to say that a bowler with nine five-wicket hauls in a 15-Test career seemingly has an affinity with all grounds, yet that is especially true at Cape Town for Philander.
Figures of 5-58 took his tally in four five-day encounters at the venue to 26 at a measly average of only 12.3.
Philander got the ball rolling with his first delivery this morning, having Asad Shafiq taken at slip for 111.
Sarfraz Ahmed did not last much longer, brilliantly snaffled, diving one-handed in the cordon by Alviro Petersen off Philander – who completed his haul by trapping Umar Gul in front.
Tanvir Ahmed responded outstandingly, playing some lovely strokes en route to 44, which was aided by Ajmal’s 21 not out.
The former was eventually caught trying to strike over mid-off against Robin Peterson, who bowled debutant Mohammad Irfan.
Things started badly for Pakistan in the reply as Younus Khan put down Graeme Smith at slip off Gul.
But that did not matter too much as – after debutant Irfan, the tallest bowler in Test history at 7ft 1ins, had impressed – Ajmal trapped the South Africa skipper in front sweeping, albeit with the help of a review.
Petersen was next to go, taken at short-leg and, having enjoyed some fortune, Hashim Amla departed lbw playing back, Pakistan again profiting from a good decision to review.
The DRS system was again in play as Jacques Kallis went leg before; this time the batsman chose to go upstairs to no avail.
Ajmal completed his five-wicket haul by having Francois du Plessis, who battled for 28, caught at slip off an excellent doosra.
AB de Villiers survived a tight leg-before appeal reverse-sweeping before seeing the Proteas to stumps, at which point he was 24 not out.