South Africa's Hashim Amla. Picture: REUTERS/JAMES OATWAY
South Africa's Hashim Amla. Picture: REUTERS/JAMES OATWAY

It was a day in which mini milestones drifted tantalisingly close‚ only to avoid capture.

Not that Quinton de Kock or Hashim Amla would necessarily have been aware of what was palpably within reach.

As a dashing bottom middle order batsman it is often said of De Kock he has been bestowed powers to take matches away from the opposition.

If that makes him sound like a one-man International Cricket Council Future Tours Programme committee‚ you would be relieved to hear he is a fastidious "one game at a time" kind of fella. Almost to a fault.

On Sunday morning when De Kock resumed his innings‚ Pakistan were already in danger of being removed from the contest‚ but at least they had hope.

For the next three hours and 10 minutes De Kock did not so much take the match away from Pakistan‚ as take it to a distant‚ far away land‚ a place not even their president could help them locate‚ let alone reach.

De Kock compiled 129 and helped set the visitors a daunting victory target of 381. Islamabad seems nearer.

The century proved a personal triumph for De Kock who got edgy‚ almost irascible as he approached the milestone.

He had gone 37 Test innings without scoring a ton and he was understandably keen to impress at a ground where his previous high was a modest 34. When he reached 98 he punched the ball to the right of mid wicket in the hope of completing two. However‚ two fielders descended on the ball like a gull on a chip.

De Kock was also denied in the first five balls of the next over but he punched the last past the bowler for four before jumping into the air followed by what looked to be a fist pump more in relief than joy. He looked set for a big ton and the only concern was whether he would run out of partners, but Kagiso Rabada initially played with commendable restraint at the other end.

De Kock hit a six onto the grass embankment to equal his joint highest score in Test cricket and perhaps unaware of the looming milestone he tried to clear the fence again but he held out to deep backward square leg off Shadab Khan.

Earlier De Kock reached his 15th Test 50 off just 49 balls in the company of Hashim Amla who was showing some vintage touches of his own. Amla struck 14 fours in his 71 and he would have been gutted at not going further. He would have been especially disappointed to learn that he came within four runs of becoming the most prolific batsmen in Tests at this ground.

He fell just short of Jacques Kallis’s 1,148 and who knows if he will get another opportunity to set a new mark.

If the South Africans did not take the opportunity to establish new milestones‚ Pakistan captain Sarfraz Ahmed grabbed his with both hands. When he caught Duanne Olivier to bring the SA innings to a close his 10 dismissals in the match became his country’s new landmark.