Pakistan handed South Africa their first Test defeat in almost two years and ended their 15-Test unbeaten run after romping to a seven-wicket victory with more than a day to spare in Abu Dhabi yesterday.
Pakistan, who have a penchant for dramatic collapses, suffered a few jitters as they lost their opening three wickets for a paltry seven runs before overhauling a modest second innings target of 40 to triumph in the first Test at the Sheikh Zayed Stadium.
Captain Misbah-ul-Haq hit a six to bring up the winning runs near the end of the fourth day.
Misbah (28 not out) and fellow veteran Younis Khan (9 not out) steadied the run chase after the first three batsmen were caught behind off the South African fast bowling pair Vernon Philander and Dale Steyn.
“It [the victory] was much needed for us,” Misbah said. “A win is always important for a team to boost its confidence and especially against the No. 1 team, it’s something special.”
“Extremely disappointed,” South African captain Graeme Smith said. “We have set really high standards for ourselves ... but right from session one, they have been ahead in the game and played better cricket.”
Victory was as much as Pakistan deserved after establishing a substantive first innings lead to set the platform for their success.
South Africa won the toss and opted to bat first on what was expected to be a flat track, but showed rustiness after a 10-month hiatus from the Test arena, only scoring 249 in their first innings. Hashim Amla’s 118 contributed almost half their runs.
Pakistan replied with a sizeable 442 as a rare 135-run opening partnership laid the foundation with a maiden Test ton for Khurram Manzoor (146) and later 100 for captain Misbah.
The hosts, forced to play at a neutral venue due to security concerns in Pakistan, then took four wickets before the close of the third day on Wednesday to leave South Africa teetering overnight and bowled them out for 232 in their second innings yesterday, where only a defiant 90 from A.B. de Villiers and 47 from Robin Peterson delayed the inevitable.
Wily off-spinner Saeed Ajmal took four wickets and was superbly supported by left-arm paceman Junaid Khan (3-57) and fellow spin bowler Zulfiqar Babar (2-51).
South Africa, who went top of the Test rankings last year after a series win in England, last lost to Sri Lanka in Durban in December 2011.
For Pakistan, yesterday’s win continued their run of upsets of more fancied opposition at their temporary home in the United Arab Emirates. In their last home series they toppled then top-ranked team England last year.
The second Test in the two-match series starts in Dubai on Wednesday.
“We have to look at our ability to bounce back and have to improve on a few things and see how we can be more effective,” Smith said.