CAPE TOWN, South Africa - Saeed Ajmal's 10-wicket match haul proved in vain as South Africa beat Pakistan by four wickets inside four days on Sunday to take an unassailable 2-0 lead in the three-match series.
After their bowlers took Pakistan's last six wickets for just 22 runs in the first two sessions of the day, the Proteas barely looked troubled in chasing 182 to win the second test at Newlands, despite Ajmal's best efforts.
South Africa has now won its last six series, and is unbeaten in 12. It has not lost a five-day match since December 2011 - 14 games ago - and has won its last six on the trot to underline its position as the world's top test team.
For its part, Pakistan was left to regret an opportunity missed after it had reduced South Africa to 109-5 in the first innings after scoring 338.
"It was one of the more rewarding victories we've had," South Africa captain Graeme Smith said. "It was a really good test win because we were under a bit of pressure come day three and we needed two days of really big performances, and to get those performances was incredible."
The tourists gained only a 12-run lead on first innings, and began day four on 100-3 but soon lost Misbah-ul-Haq when a rush of blood to the head saw his attempt to sweep out of the rough give Robin Peterson one of his five wickets in the match.
"That was the turning point today," Misbah said later. "After that the collapse started."
The Pakistan collapse came after the ball was changed by the umpires during the morning tea break, allowing South Africa's seamers to find lateral movement as the hosts claimed three wickets in three balls to leave Pakistan regretting its inability to post a more challenging target.
"Whenever you are chasing 250 in the last innings and Saeed Ajmal is on, it's very difficult," Misbah said. "If we had another 60 runs, the pressure could have been different."
Although South Africa lost wickets at fairly regular intervals, it never looked under genuine pressure in chasing a moderate target, thanks largely to a 53-run stand between Graeme Smith and Hashim Amla, and a 62-run partnership between Amla and AB de Villiers, who made 36.
Ajmal was able to slowly chip away at the Proteas, trapping Smith, Jacques Kallis and Faf du Plessis lbw and bowling Amla, who made 58, with a wonderfully flighted delivery.
But even when Du Plessis became Ajmal's 10th victim of the match with two runs still needed, there were no real nerves as Dean Elgar and Peterson saw South Africa home.
South Africa deserved credit for its bold brand of cricket on days three and four. It began Saturday with its back to the wall because of Ajmal's five wickets the previous day, but was rewarded for a calculated counter-attack that ensured its final five wickets were worth 217.
"I think you need to recognize those moments and understand how to play in those moments," Smith said. "We needed to transfer pressure back onto Pakistan and hopefully create a bit of a momentum shift.
"We also felt that Ajmal was really effective in the evenings as the wicket got drier, but the morning was maybe the opportunity where we could put him under a bit of pressure."
Peterson's career-best 84 was at the heart of that first-innings revival, and he was named man of the match for both that innings and his five wickets in the match.
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