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Pakistan fight keeps Test alive

Pakistan 313 and 103 for 2 (Farhat 41*, Younis 32*) trail South Africa 417 (Prince 138, Gibbs 94, Asif 5-89) lead by one run

South Africa kept their noses in front on the third day at Centurion Park but Pakistan showed true fighting spirit to ensure the match remains a real contest. After a fifth-wicket stand of 213 between Ashwell Prince and Herschelle Gibbs, the home side lost six for 61. Pakistan managed to reduce the lead to just one by the close, although Jacques Kallis's two wickets meant South Africa never relinquished control.

The resilience of the visitors, vital for this match and the series, was typified by the way they battled through the final session despite the surrounding thunderstorms and light drizzle. There were signs, especially in the latter part of Danish Kaneria's 41 overs, that the surface is starting to offer plenty of the spinners and if Pakistan can set a target of over 200 it could become a tight race to finish line.

South Africa's attack maintained their disciplines impressively and it was Kallis who gained the rewards for a powerful six-over spell. Mohammad Hafeez couldn't resist the booming outswingers and Graeme Smith was waiting at first slip for edge, then a similar delivery brought a thinner nick from Yasir Hameed. However, Farhat remained - albeit with the benefit of some flashy drives - and Younis Khan showed his class while escaping a close lbw shout against Paul Harris, on 16, adding to a day where the umpires didn't shine.

Pakistan's hope of staying in the contest initially rested on their bowlers as South Africa resumed on 254 for 4. Prince and Gibbs batted out almost the entire first session, setting a new record for a South African fifth-wicket stand on home soil. Prince registered his sixth Test century and the second of a productive season to follow his equally vital 121 against India at Durban. However, he advanced down the pitch to Kaneria and was stumped off the last delivery before lunch.

Soon after the break Kaneria added Mark Boucher, who couldn't mark his 100th Test with a runs contribution as he sent a leading edge back to the bowler, and the afternoon gained a sub-continental feel as leg-spin and reverse swing kept Pakistan alive. Gibbs, so fluent before lunch, had slowed up as he tried to work through the 90s. Without a Test century since January 2005, he was eking the remaining runs rather than searching for boundaries. After 205 deliveries he was undone by Naved-ul-Hasan who, after a poor three-over spell earlier which leaked 24 runs, found some late movement.

Pollock swung merrily to add valuable boundaries but the Pakistanis can rightfully feel they continued to get the rough end of the umpiring decisions. Ntini was given not out to a bat-pad appeal, then survived a plumb lbw shout to Naved-ul-Hasan's yorker. Mohammad Asif eventually broke a frustrating final-wicket stand of 26 to complete a notable five-wicket haul and the lead was 104.

A much larger difference was looming as Prince and Gibbs made comfortable progress during the morning session. Prince, who began the day on 77, was quickly into his stride and the moment he reached three figures was typical of the man, a nudge behind square leg and a scampered two runs off his 178th delivery. When the fifth-wicket partnership reached 193 it went past the 192-run effort by Gary Kirsten and Mark Boucher against England, at Durban, in 1999-2000.

Gibbs was equally important to the stand's productivity. He is finding a comfortable home in the middle order, following his pair against India at Johannesburg as opener, and after his struggles earlier in the season was starting to look more like his old self.

The Pakistanis believed they had broken through with Prince on 126 when Shahid Nazir clung onto a low caught-and-bowled chance. However, the TV umpire offered the benefit of the doubt to the disbelief of Inzamam-ul-Haq. That wasn't the end of Pakistan's frustrations but it is to their credit that they maintained their composure as is the way they refused to give up on this Test.



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