CAPE TOWN (Reuters) - South Africa reeled off their modest victory target of 41 runs early on the fourth day of the second test against Pakistan to clinch the series with a comprehensive nine-wicket triumph at Newlands on Sunday.
Opener Dean Elgar scored an unbeaten 24 as the home side added to their victory in Pretoria last month and will be looking to sweep the series in the third match at the Wanderers in Johannesburg, starting on Friday.
The Proteas will have concerns over their top-order batting, however, with opener Aiden Markram not taking to the crease in the second innings with a severely bruised right thigh and Hashim Amla retiring hurt after he was struck on the bicep.
Added to that, middle-order batsman Theunis de Bruyn, deputising for Markram at the top of the order, continued his poor run when he was the only wicket to fall, caught by wicketkeeper Sarfraz Ahmed off seamer Mohammed Abbas for four.
“We played very well,” South Africa captain Faf du Plessis, who was also named man of the match for a first-innings century, said at the post-match presentation.
“There is always something in the wicket here at Newlands and you need to be on form with the bat. We know if we get runs on the board, our bowlers will do the rest.”
Du Plessis felt the key to victory was restricting Pakistan to 177 in their first innings in what was the most difficult time to bat in the test on day one.
“I think day one was moving day in terms of the pitch, but it got easier to bat on and yesterday Pakistan were in a good position to bat on and get a 150 lead and then who knows what happens.
“I still feel there was enough in it for batters and bowlers. At times it was difficult but that’s test cricket.”
Pakistan will take positives from a test in which they avoided an innings defeat with a stout batting performance on Saturday to force the contest into a fourth day.
Shan Masood, Asad Shafiq and Babar Azam all scored half-centuries as Pakistan produced their best day of batting on tour and scored more than 200 runs in an innings for the first time in the series.
They were eventually dismissed for 294, setting their hosts a modest target, which South Africa had hoped to knock off on Saturday but ran out of time and were forced to come back on Sunday.
Pakistan scored 177 in their first innings and were critical of the uneven bounce and cracks on the wicket at the iconic Cape Town venue but South Africa, with Du Plessis scoring 103, replied with 431.
Touring captain Sarfraz admitted a bad start, in which they lost five wickets in the first session, proved their undoing.
“It’s hard to recover if you’re losing five wickets in the first session, but the way our batsmen are batting, that’s how you learn in test cricket,” he said, adding the team would have benefited from more warm-up matches ahead of the first test.
“For me, playing two or three practice matches (is best) but we only played one match here. Our batsmen showed their courage, hopefully we’ll have confidence (into the third test).”
Reporting By Nick Said; Editing by John O'Brien