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Shoaib stars as SA crash for 124

Tea Pakistan 17 for 2 (Younis 4*) trail South Africa 124 (Shoaib 4-36, Kaneria 3-36) by 107 runs

Inspired by a fiery return from Shoaib Akhtar, Pakistan demolished South Africa for 124 inside two sessions on the opening day at Port Elizabeth. After his late call-up Shoaib shocked the top order and was well supported by his fellow bowlers. But the crash of wickets continued as the home side hit back with two strikes before the tea break as the contest rattled along.

The outstanding work of Pakistan's bowlers was threatening to unravel as Makhaya Ntini and Andre Nel struck during the short session prior to the break. Imran Farhat fenced to slip and Mohammad Hafeez played a limp pull into the hands of short leg off the last ball of the session. Both wickets were further examples of batsmen not showing the required application on a surface offering the pace bowlers encouragement.

Pakistan were bolstered before the start by the returns of Shoaib and Mohammad Yousuf while Mohammad Sami was preferred to Umar Gul. However, it was the presence of Shoaib that spurred Pakistan into life and gave the team an added dimension. Whatever is said about Shoaib, and the circus that surrounds his career, he is an irresistible cricketer to watch.

After a couple of steady overs he opened his wicket tally courtesy of an awful pull from the horribly out of sorts AB de Villiers and soon added Hashim Amla via a glove down the leg side. Showing impressive fitness, a slimline Shoaib worked through the gears and nudged the high 140kph-mark as he found his Test-match legs.

When he returned for a second spell after lunch he inflicted further damage, both on South Africa's score and the batsmen. Jacques Kallis was squared up by a beautiful, full pitched, outswinger and Kamran Akmal, who endured a poor innings with two dropped catches, finally managed to get his mitts around a chance.

Shaun Pollock was given a torrid working over as Shoaib cranked up the pace and zoned in on the left foot with an exocet yorker which pinned him a painful blow. Several minutes of treatment were required, and though Pollock resumed he was almost batting on one leg. It didn't take long for Shoaib to exploit the discomfort as Pollock flicked a catch to square-leg and hobbled off for some ice.

Shoaib's main support came from Danish Kaneria, who'd been introduced into the attack for the 13th over as Inzamam-ul-Haq tried to work out his best combinations. The move paid off as Graeme Smith, who'd opted to take first use of a well-grassed surface, edged to slip. Pakistan thought he'd struck again when Ashwell Prince, on 1, defended a ball into his boot to silly point. The TV umpire - who has been busy throughout the series - was called in, but replays showed that the catch hadn't been completed cleanly.

However Prince didn't last much longer - although Akmal spilled an edge off Mohammad Sami on 2 - flashing a cut shot high to Imran Farhat at first slip. Prince's usually solid technique had betrayed him and South Africa faced a serious hole at 49 for 4.

The damage didn't stop there with an under-pressure Herschelle Gibbs trying to switch his focus back to cricket after the controversies of the past week. He never appeared settled at the crease and fell to a wild sweep the ball after Akmal had spilled his second chance of the morning.

Mark Boucher counter-attacked bravely in the afternoon, but the best stand of the innings was just the 31 he added for the eighth wicket with Andre Nel. Kaneria bagged his third as Boucher swung widely and edged to slip before the legspinner showed unknown athleticism at long leg to cling onto Nel's hook shot.

It was South Africa's most dismal batting effort since their 83 all out against India at Johannesburg at the start of the season. However, at least on that occasion the ball swung and seamed for the Indians; for all the excellence of Shoaib and company today there was distinct lack of application from the home side.



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