SO FAR and no further was the message Younis Khan and Asad Shafiq sent South Africa at Newlands on Thursday, Pakistan’s best day of the series so far.
At stumps on the first day of the second Test, Shafiq was undefeated on 111. Younis was dismissed for the same score just two overs before the close. Their partnership had everything to do with the visitors being able to resume on 253/5 on Friday morning.
And that after Pakistan had been put in to bat to face the game’s finest attack, and after they had crashed to 33/4 inside an hour-and-a-half of the start of the match.
It was also after their stand might have been snuffed out for 52, when Dean Elgar at short leg dropped a chance offered by Shafiq, then on 24, off Robin Peterson.
Any which way their performance is measured, Younis and Shafiq have rehabilitated the image of a Pakistan team who have not hitherto performed anything like the fourth-best team in Test cricket.
Nasir Jamshed, Mohammad Hafeez, Azhar Ali and Misbah ul-Haq were the men mowed down by Dale Steyn, Vernon Philander and Morne Morkel as a Valentine’s Day massacre loomed to rival South Africa’s demolition of Pakistan for 49 in the first Test at the Wanderers.
Three of them went in the familiar fashion of edges to the arc behind the wicket. All of them played with a crippling tentativeness that Graeme Smith would have hoped for when he won the toss and chose to field on a pitch that did not seem to harbour demons.
The dismissed Pakistanis’ footwork — or lack thereof — was the key to their downfall.
Misbah’s dismissal to a looping catch at short leg off Morkel for a duck suggested that even Pakistan’s more experienced batsmen had not learnt the lessons of the first Test.
But Younis, with his 81 caps, and Shafiq Ali, who is playing his 18th Test, muddled that theory and a few others along with it. They played with discipline, focus and patience.
Younis, of course, has seen it all before. And it showed as his experience took charge of proceedings. Shafiq was content to be guided by the most inspirational current Pakistan player.
The second new ball, taken when it was due, was keenly awaited — and it was just four deliveries old when umpire Steve Davis decided Steyn had trapped Younis lbw. But Hot Spot said Younis had hit the ball, and not long afterwards the umpires went upstairs again after Philander had an appeal turned down.
This time, the faintly bright spot on the edge of Younis’s bat meant he had been caught behind.
With that, 429 balls and almost six hours of defiance and doggedness was ended.
Even a crowd that would rather have seen the other team do well knew that they had seen something special.