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Pakistan chase 191 after Asif haul
Pakistan 265 and 8 for 0 (Hafeez 8*, Farhat 0*) need 183 more runs to beat South Africa 124 and 331 (Kallis 91, Boucher 46)

Pakistan need 183 more to level the series after another absorbing day at Port Elizabeth which encapsulated the wonders of Test cricket. Mohammad Asif produced a Herculean spell in the continued absence of Shoaib Akhtar, but South Africa refused to cave in. Jacques Kallis's 91 was followed by useful lower-order contributions ending with a final-wicket flourish of 41.

Mohammad Hafeez and Imran Farhat managed to survive a fiery six-over burst and that short period will have acted as a huge confidence boost for the remainder of the chase. The batsmen have progressively come more and more into this match, but no one in the South African side could convert their hard work into the large hundred that would have given them more to play with.

That is largely down to the unstinting efforts of Pakistan's three fit frontline bowlers, who coped manfully with the extra burden on their shoulders. Between them they sent down 118.2 of the 133.2 overs it took to remove the home side a second time. While Mohammad Sami and, especially, Danish Kaneria deserve enormous credit the real hero for Pakistan was Asif.

When he started his 35th over it was the most he'd bowled in a Test innings and whenever Inzamam threw him the ball he had it on string, pitching it with unerring accuracy and working over the batsmen with various styles of swing. If Pakistan complete the job on the final day they will look back on Asif's post-lunch burst as the deciding moment.

Despite an early wicket for Kaneria, when he trapped Ashwell Prince on the backfoot, Pakistan hadn't been able to force any further breakthroughs in the morning session. Kallis and Herschelle Gibbs began to tuck in as lunch approached when the ball grew older and the part-time spinners raced through a few overs.

However, armed with the second new ball Asif caused no end of problems for South Africa's star batsmen and was eventually rewarded as Gibbs flashed hard and the edge flew to Younis Khan at second slip. It ended a pivotal stand of 78 for the fifth wicket and by now Asif was making the ball do exactly what he wanted. He came perilously close to trapping Mark Boucher in front, but Peter Parker gave the benefit of some very slight doubt.

A feisty contest developed between Asif and Kallis as the bowler handed out plenty of advice but the batsman stayed cocooned in his own world. The constant questions asked of Kallis were fascinating to behold and Asif grabbed the prized scalp when he nipped one back into the pads, which was heading for the top of off stump, nine short of Kallis's first ton on his ground.

With one allrounder back in the shed, it was down to two others - Boucher and Shaun Pollock - to try to steer their side into calmer waters. They built a vital partnership with naturally aggressive styles, never afraid to put bat to ball once they'd weathered the Asif storm. But Pakistan were again let down by Kamran Akmal, whose horror match with gloves showed no sign of improving.

He flapped about during the morning session, with some suggestion that he'd grassed Kallis on 63 (although replays were inconclusive), but there was no doubt about the edges he shelled off Boucher on 27 and 44. The first came from a thick inside edge against Hafeez as Akmal's gloves clanged like cymbals and the ball went to ground, then he followed that with an equally shoddy effort from an under-edge against Kaneria - who did well not to blow a fuse.

The seventh-wicket stand went from a frustration to a concern with the zip of second new ball dissipating. However, a change of ends after tea brought the breakthrough as Kaneria held a low return catch off Pollock. With the bowlers exposed Inzamam went straight back to the tireless Asif who continued to give his all. The most deserving of five-wicket hauls, his fourth in eight matches, arrived when Boucher flashed and was pouched, at the second attempt, by Younis at slip.

But just as the momentum was back with Pakistan a tail-end partnership reared its head. Yesterday it was Inzamam and Asif, today it was a true bowlers' effort with Makhaya Ntini and Andre Nel adding a vibrant 41. Those late runs could yet be vital because given the nature of this match it would dangerous to presume the fourth day will take an expected course.



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