In a scenario that is becoming rather familiar, Akhtar walked off the field with a strained hamstring to take no further part in the game.
Mohammad Yousuf ended 2007 on a high. How high is high? Well, a 99 Test average ought to do it. That is exactly what Yousufs personal career graph showed even as the man claimed modesty in comparison with his contemporaries. Well, the man in question made it back to the team after the birth of his child which saw him miss the first Test.
But as awe-inspiring as his figures are, there still remained the rather small matter of the second Test that Pakistan had to win in order to prevent South Africa from running away to an unassailable two nil lead. It was only a matter of time before Pakistan unleashed both big guns and forced South Africa into the firing line.
Shoaib Akhtar was perhaps deliberately held back from the first Test to ease the public first by exposing Mohammad Asif. But with a series in serious danger of being one sided, Pakistan had to bring Akhtar into the picture. And it paid off handsomely. While not all wickets could be contributed to incisive bowling or even to an abnormal pitch, many of the South African dismissals were as self-destructive as was Pakistans effective bowling. Little wonder then that Akhtar picked up four wickets in the shamble that was South Africas first innings.
Pakistan could have their bowling arsenal but their batting cannot be discredited. There is always a lurking sense of danger about Pakistan that makes it a hard side to predict. Their erratic ways and uncanny performances are a real nightmare for even the most calculative of sides. While it shows a vulnerable aspect to their game, it also makes them perhaps the most dangerous of dark horses, irrespective of the tournament.
Pakistan did not fare much better in their own first innings. In fact, all seemed even with Pakistan six down and a sizable lead looking set on the backburner. But Inzamam-ul Haqs time out through injury in the duration of the South African innings appeared like a double edged sword. He saved Pakistan from the downward spiral by being forced to come down the order.
Apart from the ninety-one that Inzy made, the thing that South Africa will look back on will be the fact that the last wicket partnership accounted for seventy-one runs, a telling factor in the 141 run deficit that South Africa nearly perished overcoming but for the efforts from Kallis, Gibbs and company lower down the order.
It is not very often that a team comes back to win a game after being bowled out for a measly 124 in the first innings. If anything, the match is more often than not lost in those sessions where the match is already effectively lost for all purposes. Yet there was sufficient amount of nerve racking tension and suspense going into what was effectively the final day of the match, albeit being the fourth day in technical terms of a Test.
Pakistans main intention in bringing Shoaib Akhtar was redeemed. The match was laid conducive to Pakistans interests. But yet again in a scenario that is becoming rather familiar, Akhtar walked off the field with a strained hamstring to take no further part in the second innings. Pakistan did not suffer in the interim what with the likes of Mohammad Asif and Danesh Kaneria rising to the challenge. Throw Mohammad Sami in and the concoction would have been heady enough for more teams.
Pakistan perhaps also succeeded in bringing in both their tainted bowlers and easing them back into the international circuit in the most harmless of ways. With talks of the appeal by the World Anti Doping Agency (WADA) being potentially dismissed with technicalities of an internal affair, there seems more than one strategy at play. But that is best left aside for the moment.
South Africa, to the teams credit, put up a braver performance in the second half, although much still depended on the effervescent Jacques Kallis and the street fighting duo of Mark Boucher and Shaun Pollock. Perhaps a special mention must be made for Andre Nel who went past his best score of twenty-three. The result was not sufficient for South Africas hopes by any stretch of the imagination. But it was still a nagging little target that Pakistan would have to work treacherously around.
South Africa would have envisioned their once famous victory in Pakistan shooting down the hosts for a measly score of ninety-two. Their hopes must have appeared near reality when three quick wickets fell for Pakistan. But it took the other Y to come to the party again in successive innings and a ninety-nine run partnership for the sixth wicket with Kamran Akmal sealed the deal for Pakistan for a famous series leveling one all.
To finish the topic where we first started - Critics will well debate that late Sir Don Bradman finished off his cricket career on a high on a consistent basis. That is unquestionable as is the greatness of the man. But fewer great men have come and will come to ever turning the record books on their head. He may have had little say in the innings in this Test, but even that little vital partnership with Younis Khan was just as important in the context of the match. Mohammad Yousuf is the ultimate dream run machine and certainly the man to bank on!