Quinton de Kock made a free-flowing century at No. 7 and equaled his career-best score as South Africa turned the screw on Pakistan on Sunday by setting the tourists 381 to win the final test and avoid a series whitewash.
The scale of the challenge for Pakistan is significant. It now needs to make the second-highest fourth-innings score ever at the Wanderers in Johannesburg to avoid losing the series 3-0.
Pakistan was 34-0 in its chase at tea on the third day and with more than two days of the fast-moving test still to play, surviving for a draw is an unlikely proposition.
De Kock hit 129 from just 138 balls with 18 fours and a six, arriving with South Africa on 93-5 and in a precarious position in its second innings and departing at 302-8 and in complete control.
South Africa was eventually all out for 303.
De Kock looked assured throughout his innings, save for a few nervous moments when he was on 99 and couldn’t find the single he needed for his fourth test century and first in two years. After a couple of aborted runs with batting partner Kagiso Rabada, he got one through and was celebrating as he ran down the pitch, down on one knee and punching the air.
De Kock’s partnership earlier with Hashim Amla, who made 71, put South Africa back on track after losing five wickets for less than 100 runs.
They stood firm to put on 102 for the sixth wicket and dig the Proteas out of trouble.
De Kock put on another 79 with tailender Rabada before falling to a pull shot in the deep off legspinner Shadab Khan.
Pakistan’s bowlers had a tough day, with Shadab and Faheem Ashraf eventually taking three wickets each.
Pakistan’s opening batsmen were positive in the seven overs they faced before tea, though, giving it a glimmer of hope.
Imam-ul-Haq was 18 not out off 21 with three fours and Shan Masood 16 not out with two fours.
There have only been three fourth-innings totals of 300 or more in more than 60 years of test cricket at the Wanderers Stadium. South Africa holds the record with its 450-7 against India five years ago.
Pakistan would be the next best should it chase successfully in this test.