Cape Town: The genius of Saeed Ajmal came to the fore for the first time in the series, as the Pakistan spinner single-handedly put South Africa on the back foot on day two of the second test at Newlands on Friday.
South Africa went to stumps on 139-5 in response to Pakistan's 338 all out, with Ajmal profiting from a Decision Review System controversy in the process of claiming all five Proteas wickets.
Ajmal's threat was nullified by a seam-friendly pitch in the first test at the Wanderers, but a healthy breeze and a dry surface at Newlands assisted both drift and turn as he recorded figures of 5-41 from 25 bewitching overs.
From the moment that Ajmal was introduced in just the 12th over of the innings, South Africa's batsmen never looked comfortable against the offspinner as they struggled to pick him.
"We know he's a quality bowler, and obviously the wicket has assisted him because there's been a bit of purchase and it's a little bit drier than we thought it would be," South Africa's assistant coach Russell Domingo said.
"Maybe we've been a bit tentative against him. He hasn't given us many scoring opportunities so maybe we need to look at playing a little bit more positively against him."
Ajmal dismissed openers Graeme Smith and Alviro Petersen in the second session, before inducing a collapse midway through the third that claimed Hashim Amla, Jacques Kallis and Faf du Plessis.
Smith, Amla and Kallis were all trapped lbw, while Petersen and du Plessis were caught at short leg and slip respectively.
"The home team in the first test were not under much pressure at all," Pakistan coach Dav Whatmore said. "Here they're confronted with a total of 300-plus on the board on a wicket that's totally different to the one in the first test and it's become harder."
Ajmal's haul was not without debate, however, with umpire Steve Davis at the center of a contentious decision to give Kallis out.
Davis, who had already had two other calls overturned by the DRS, appeared to give Kallis out caught before the batsman referred the decision upstairs.
HotSpot failed to find an edge, but ball-tracking technology suggested the ball would have struck the outside of leg stump.
Kallis was therefore given out lbw on 'umpire's call,' despite the ICC's DRS rules stating that decisions over a different mode of dismissal should be "conducted as if the batsman has been given not out."
Kallis sought clarity from Davis before he was eventually forced to leave the field, but while the incident left a sour taste in South African mouths, it took little away from Ajmal's superb effort, which saw him bowl all his overs unchanged.
It more than matched that of Vernon Philander, who had claimed the ninth five-wicket haul of his 15-test career in the morning session as the Proteas clinched the five wickets required to close out the Pakistan innings before lunch.
Philander took three wickets in three overs at the start of the day, including centurion Asad Shafiq for his overnight score of 111, and finished with figures of 5-59.
Left-arm spinner Robin Peterson claimed the final two wickets to wrap up the innings, but not before Tanvir Ahmed and Ajmal had put on 64 runs for the ninth wicket.
"Certainly it was very important that we got as many runs as possible in the first innings, because we feel that the wicket might be a bit harder to bat on as the days go," Whatmore said.
First Published On : Feb 16, 2013 12:50 IST