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Younis and Akmal take Pakistan home

Pakistan 265 and 191 for 5 (Younis 67*, Akmal 57*) beat South Africa 124 and 331 (Kallis 91, Boucher 46) by five wickets

A fascinating cut and thrust Test was given a suitably thumping finale as a counter-attacking sixth-wicket stand of 99 between Younis Khan and Kamran Akmal guided Pakistan to a series-levelling victory at Port Elizabeth. They had been rattled by the combined efforts of Shaun Pollock and Makhaya Ntini, slipped to 92 for 5, before Younis and Akmal eased the tension and finished the match with a flurry of boundaries.

Their partnership was laced with copious amounts of luck, especially for Akmal who pierced the slip cordon with three boundaries before he'd reached 20. But it was a redeeming innings for the wicketkeeper, who endured a torrid match with the gloves and owed his side a contribution. The composure of Younis at the other end was a key factor, as he refused to be drawn into the antics of the South African bowlers. His vital half-century came off 106 balls and the stand moved along at more than four-an-over, after a morning run rate of under three.

But it was Akmal who was brave enough to change the course of the game. Having watched the top order roped in by supremely accurate bowling he decided to chance his arm, putting the pressure back on the bowlers. The South Africans became obsessed with trying to bounce him out, especially the under-par Andre Nel, and Akmal rode on his adrenalin rush. His fifth half-century came off just 61 balls and it was his rash of shots that carried Pakistan home.

South Africa had a chance to remove Younis when Pollock spilled a tough, low caught and bowled chance with him on 5 and he also flirted with danger through some hairy running. However, it would be harsh to blame the South African attack, who contributed handsomely to a fascinating conclusion to the match.

When Mohammad Yousuf and Inzamam-ul-Haq were disposed of during the first hour after lunch the odds favoured the home side. Unable to break free of the shackles imposed by Ntini and Pollock, Yousuf fenced at one outside off stump and was taken by Herschelle Gibbs at fourth slip. After Inzamam's heroics in the first innings South Africa were well aware of his ability to hold the chase together, so when he tried to whip across the line at Ntini the effect on both sides was dramatic.

The same pair of bowlers had been outstanding during the morning session, applying suffocating pressure to the top order. It was only a matter of time before one of Imran Farhat's flashes found the edge and Jacques Kallis duly hung on at second slip. The second breakthrough came from a poor piece of judgement when Yasir Hameed chanced a single to Nel at mid-off and was caught a foot short. Pakistan should have been making South Africa work for every wicket; this was a gifted bonus.

Hafeez produced a compact display but Pollock plugged away before slipping one past the bat although replays suggested the ball was drifting down leg. At first instance, however, it looked a plumb shout and it was again caused by a lack of footwork. Not for the first time the focus was all on the middle order and for a while it appeared it would prove a challenge too far. However, Younis never backs down and along with the chancy, but brave, Akmal carried Pakistan to a fully deserved overseas triumph, setting up a cracking final Test at Cape Town.

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