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  1. 258

Allrounder Harris gives SA the edge

Pakistan 140 for 4 (Akmal 52, Butt 40, Harris 2-33) trail South Africa 357 by 217 runs

South Africa wrested control of the first and last session of the day and, despite a fightback by the Pakistan bowlers and openers in between, ended the second day with the upper hand in the match. First their tailenders, shepherded by Mark Boucher, frustrated Pakistan's bowlers and, after an aggressive 90-run opening partnership between Salman Butt and Kamran Akmal wrested back some of the momentum, South Africa's bowlers picked up three wickets for nine runs to restrict the hosts to 140 for 4, needing another 18 to avoid the follow-on.

Pakistan's innings began in whirlwind fashion as Butt and Akmal, their 11th opening combination in the last 17 Tests, provided just the start they were looking after a frustrating time in the field. Though shaky at times, they feasted each time the opening bowlers dropped the ball short of a length. Dale Steyn came in for some stick, conceding 19 in an over and the rest erred in length even after Steyn found pace and swing while pitching it full.

Akmal, dropped on 21 by Prince, latched on to anything wide as he drove and pulled with ease, taking 12 off a Makhaya Ntini over as he raced to his half-century off 56 deliveries and the pair compiled Pakistan's highest opening partnership in the last 26 innings. The re-introduction of Paul Harris, however, paid dividends as Butt, after playing some impressive strokes square of the wicket, top-edged a sweep to Graeme Smith.

Younis Khan was toppled by Andre Nel - bowled for the third consecutive time in the series - and Akmal caught smartly by Smith when driving uppishly to a flighted Harris delivery. Pakistan were faced with a familiar top-order collapse. However, the mainstays of Pakistan's batting, Inzamam-ul-Haq - who was given a guard of honour by South Africa as he approached the pitch - and Mohammad Yousuf battled briefly for another seven overs before Yousuf was unlucky to be given out leg-before, trapped high on the pads while attempting a pull off Steyn. That left the two ul-Haqs - Inzamam and Misbah - to first avoid the follow-on and then post a strong reply on the third morning.

They could do worse than emulate South Africa's performance earlier today. The tourists resumed at 259 for 6 and an early wicket - Andre Nel caught at short leg off Umar Gul - put Pakistan in the driving seat straight away. Hoping to dismiss the tail in quick time and avoid chasing another huge first-innings total, the Pakistan seamers were content to pitch it short even when the results seemed to their detriment.

Harris, whose previous Test highest was an unbeaten 11, ducked with ease while mixing defence with some decent strokeplay. He frustrated Pakistan for 132 deliveries and played some cheeky sweeps off legspinner Danish Kaneria and an elegant straight drive off Mohammad Asif. While he was there to provide support to Boucher, the bowler overtook the wicketkeeper as Gul and Asif failed to bowl a single yorker to him. After a few edges that failed to carry and a chance put down by Younis Khan at second slip, Harris eventually fell to a fullish delivery, driving Gul uppishly to cover.

Boucher too was content with taking his time out in the middle and hit only four fours, which included some elegant leaning drives off the fast bowlers and a sweep off Kaneria, and reached his fifty with a pulled six over fine leg. He fell trying to clear long-on, and was the last man out, but by then South Africa managed a score well in excess of Pakistan's liking.

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