Dubai:Misbah-ul-Haq played a captain's knock for the second successive game to help Pakistan draw the second Test and the two-match series against South Africa. His second half-century of the match, and third of the series, frustrated South Africa after a mini-collapse in the post-lunch session had given them a hint of a win.
Misbah was aided by Azhar Ali, and together they spent more than three gritty hours at the crease putting on 87 for the fourth wicket to take the sting out of the South African attack. The match was called off shortly after entering the final hour of play.
South Africa will be concerned about their inability to take 20 wickets in each of the two Tests, although they were playing in unfamiliar conditions. The Dubai and Abu Dhabi pitches were hosting Tests for the first time and five days of cricket was untested territory for both surfaces.
At the Sheikh Zayed Stadium in Abu Dhabi, the pitch was placid and batsman-friendly but showed signs of assisting the spinners. Although Paul Harris and Johan Botha plucked three wickets in a two-over burst after lunch, they lacked penetration and South Africa may have to cast their net for an attacking spinner wider after this series.
Pakistan were in a comfortable position at 127 for 3 at the start of the final session and it would have required a supreme effort from South Africa to take seven wickets. Harris and Botha bowled in tandem for seven overs before part-time offspinner Alviro Petersen was thrown the ball. He was used for the two specialist spinners to change ends, but the signs were already there that South Africa thought time was running out.
As the desperation grew, and Misbah and Azhar looked well settled at the crease, Steyn was tossed the ball to induce a final hurrah. Steyn certainly looked as though he was returning to his best and bent his back trying to produce some reverse swing. But he couldn't expose what Mark Boucher called the "underbelly" of the Pakistan line-up, effectively an inexperienced, middle order that would have allowed South Africa to go for the kill.
Misbah and Azhar didn't play a shot in anger, dealing with Steyn's aggression and Botha and Harris in similar fashions. They showed rare patience and did not give way to the recklessness that has gone hand in hand with Pakistan recently. Azhar, in particular, showed maturity and temperament beyond his years. The wobbles in the Pakistan line-up, who teetered on the brink of a collapse after lunch, seemed a distant memory with the captain and his aide at the crease.
Pakistan wobbled in the second session when Botha got the breakthrough in his second over of the day. He trapped Taufeeq Umar in front with a straighter one and broke a steady first-wicket stand of 66 with Mohammad Hafeez, who only lasted four balls after that. He, too, was deceived by a straighter ball, this time from Harris. Younis Khan was the next to go, two balls later, to a delivery that kept straight and low. Harris had given South Africa a tiny window of opportunity, but Misbah slammed that shut.
He absorbed the pressure like a sponge, played the ball away from his body, especially against Harris and then broke the shackles with a crisp backfoot drive off Botha. That shot seemed to allow Pakistan to settle slightly and may have prompted the move to bring Steyn back. Misbah's mind was made up and he was not threatened. Twice, he played the ball to the third man boundary for four. Then he laid into Harris, with back to back boundaries, a drive down the ground followed by a sweep.
When he tried the pull, in Harris' next over, Misbah inflicted damage of a different sort. Hashim Amla, who was fielding at forward short leg, was hit on the left wrist as he tried to take evasive action and had to leave the field. South Africa are already without captain Graeme Smith, who fractured his hand, and losing Amla as well will be a major blow for them before the home series against India.
South Africa may come under criticism for giving themselves too few overs to bowl Pakistan out, after they opted to bat for just under half an hour this morning. They had a lead of 323 overnight but were not content with their advantage. The batsman spent six more overs at the crease on the fifth and added 30 runs. That left them with just 82 overs to take 10 wickets, which, for Pakistan, signalled the start of Survivor Abu Dhabi.