South Africa reinforced their status as the world’s No. 1 Test team when they beat Pakistan by four wickets on the fourth day of the second Test at Newlands in Cape Town on Sunday.
The victory, with a day to spare, gave South Africa a winning 2-0 lead in the three-match series and came after a dramatic Pakistan collapse in their second innings.
It was South Africa’s fifth successive Test win, their sixth successive series victory and it extended their unbeaten run in Tests to 14 matches, going back more than a year.
“It was one of the more rewarding wins we have had,” South Africa captain Graeme Smith said. “We were under pressure [at the start of] day three and we needed two days of big performances. To get those performances was incredible.”
The tourists were bowled out for 169 after starting the day on a relatively comfortable 100-3.
They lost their last six wickets for 22 runs either side of lunch. At one stage four wickets fell in 13 balls, including three off successive deliveries.
The collapse was engineered by man of the match, left-arm spinner Robin Peterson, and opening bowler Vernon Philander, who took three wickets each before Dale Steyn finished off the innings.
Peterson finished with three for 73 and Philander followed up his first-innings five for 59 by taking four for 40.
The result was a disappointment for Pakistan, who were on top after two days, before a strong fightback by South Africa’s lower order batsmen on Saturday.
Pakistan captain Misbah-ul-Haq said Peterson’s innings of 84 on Saturday was “the game changer — a lead of 70 or 80 runs on the first innings would have been very important.”
Smith said: “Robbie was inspirational. To get as close as possible to their [first-innings] total was going to be the key.”
Pakistan off-spinner Saeed Ajmal took four for 51 in South Africa’s run chase to finish with match figures of 10 for 147.
“He is a world-class bowler,” said Misbah, who felt that Ajmal’s performance showed that Pakistan might have had a chance of winning if the target had been 70 or 80 runs more. “The pressure is different when you are chasing 250.”
Smith said of Ajmal: “He’s the No. 1 spinner in the world.”
“It’s not often in South Africa that a spinner plays such a dominating role,” he said. “From a conditions point of view, it was not ideal. It was not what we were expecting in South Africa, but we’ve got to play on what we are given. To come through in these conditions is big for us.”
Set 182 to win, South Africa lost Alviro Petersen 10 runs into their chase when he was leg before wicket to Umar Gul for 1.
Smith and Hashim Amla put on 53 for the second wicket, before Smith was leg before to Ajmal for 29 shortly before tea.
Ajmal gained a second leg before decision when he dismissed Jacques Kallis for 21.
Amla (58) and A.B. de Villiers (36) shared a rapid 62-run partnership for the fourth wicket, before both batsmen perished playing attacking shots.
Faf du Plessis became Ajmal’s 10th victim of the match, before Dean Elgar hit the winning run.
Misbah said that although Pakistan had played better than in the first Test in Johannesburg, where they lost by 211 runs, they had made costly mistakes.
“We blame ourselves. We made mistakes. You can’t do that against the top side in the world,” he said.