Pakistan in SA
AB: New ball will wrap it up
Johannesburg - The Proteas are confident of wrapping up the first Test against Pakistan on Monday, despite an unbroken century stand between Misbah-ul-Haq and Asad Shafiq on day three giving the tourists a small glimpse of a record-breaking victory.
The pair took Pakistan to stumps on 183-4, still 297 runs short of an unlikely win, after batting through the first wicketless session of the match after tea.
Misbah was unbeaten on 44 and Shafiq had 53, but with the second new ball due in just five overs, South Africa remain heavy favourites to go 1-0 up in the three-match series.
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"No team has scored more than 400 on this deck and we don't think they will," South Africa's AB de Villiers said.
"The wicket is playing better, the ball is not going around as much as it was on the first two days, but we have a new ball coming up tomorrow and we hope that will speed things up a bit. There are a few cracks opening up and it will swing," the wicketkeeper added.
De Villiers expected his bowlers to finish the job off relatively early on Monday.
"Pakistan will be looking to get through the new ball and then from 20-30 overs start to be positive again. We will be aware of that. Hopefully we can finish the game somewhere after lunch (on Monday)."
South Africa would already have been a couple of steps closer to their fourth Test win in a row were it not for a costly no-ball and a dropped catch in consecutive overs.
Shafiq was caught by Graeme Smith at slip on 40 off the bowling of Vernon Philander, only for the umpires to check upstairs where a replay confirmed that the bowler had overstepped.
In the next over, Misbah slashed a Jacques Kallis delivery straight to backward point, but was put down by Robin Peterson.
A wicket for each of South Africa's four seamers had seen the home side edge towards victory after declaring their second innings on 275-3 to set Pakistan 480 to win.
Dale Steyn, Morne Morkel, Philander and Kallis all claimed a scalp apiece as the Proteas chipped away at Pakistan's batting lineup.
Philander had set the ball rolling before lunch when he had Mohammad Hafeez caught down the leg side by De Villiers, and a sustained assault by all four pacemen after the break ensured a triple breakthrough in the second session.
Pakistan opener Nasir Jamshed had scored a brisk 39 in the first session, but added just six runs after lunch before he flicked a Steyn delivery to Peterson at short mid-on.
Azhar Ali was the next batsman to go, trapped lbw by Kallis, and Younis Khan followed when he edged a Morkel delivery through to De Villiers.
That left the tourists on 80-4, but Misbah and Shafiq dug in to keep Pakistan's hopes alive, as slim as their chances may be.
Pakistan coach Dav Whatmore expects that the unbeaten 101-run partnership will have given heart to the other players, which was greatly needed after his side was bowled out for 49 in the first innings.
"What's important is that it gives a few of the other players' confidence for the next couple of days," he said. "We have nine out of 11 playing here for the first time, so it was a learning curve right from the beginning."
In the morning, South Africa had resumed on their overnight total of 207-3, and De Villiers and Hashim Amla scored at will as they added 68 runs in just 45 minutes.
De Villiers went to his 15th Test hundred, leaving him 103 not out when skipper Smith declared immediately. Amla, unbeaten on 74, was denied the opportunity of a 20th Test hundred as the Proteas looked to bring the Test to a swift conclusion.
Misbah and Shafiq ensured that a rout similar to the first innings was avoided, but will face fresh challenges, and a new ball, on Monday morning.