Mohammad Amir said the Pakistan bowlers' plan to control the run rate by maintaining tight lines in the final session worked wonders as South Africa collapsed from a position of strength to fold for 262.
Amir explained after the day's play on Friday, 11 January, that it was a combined effort. "You have to bowl as a combination. It's a bowling unit so we have to back each other up.
"(Mohammad) Abbas and I were doing that because that was the plan to control the run rate. That's why we were successful," he said.
Although a spirited performance from Pakistan's bowlers in the evening session limited the hosts to 262, South Africa's hopes of a series whitewash remain alive after Vernon Philander's two wickets late on day one. #SAvPAK REPORT 👇 https://t.co/4DNLlmDZ64 pic.twitter.com/tmzkfsCMGW— ICC (@ICC) January 11, 2019
South Africa went to tea on the first day of the third Test in Johannesburg comfortably placed at 226/3 with Theunis de Bruyn (48) and Zubayr Hamza (38) well set, and it looked like the Pakistani bowlers were in for another long day in the field.
Aiden Markram (90) and Hashim Amla (41) had batted the hosts to a position of strength, but the third session saw them lose their last seven wickets for just 36 runs as the Pakistani fast bowlers, helped by the pitch livening up towards the end of the day, brought their team back in the contest.
The pitches in this Test series have been difficult to bat on, as evident from only one score more than 300 so far. This wicket, however, is better for batsmen than the previous two in the series, Amir said.
What a day of Test cricket!— ICC (@ICC) January 11, 2019
After an evening session that featured nine wickets, Pakistan are 17/2, trailing South Africa's first-innings total by 245 runs.
Which side will be the most pleased with their day's efforts?#SAvPAK SCORECARD 👇 https://t.co/jCOIZUOF6T pic.twitter.com/2SWKGpUnJG
"Once the batsman gets set, it becomes very difficult to control the run rate, but if you stick to the plans and are bowling wicket to wicket, I think you can get rewards," he added.
But the comeback in the final session was dampened to an extent when Pakistan lost two wickets inside the first seven overs to go to stumps at 17/2. The wickets included Shan Masood, Pakistan's highest scorer in the series.
Amir stressed on the importance of getting momentum on their side. "We are a bowling unit and we have to back one another. Sometimes I don't bowl well. You struggle with the bat, you struggle with the ball... it's all about momentum.
"We you get the momentum – if you look at Shan [Masood], he was getting the momentum but he was unlucky today. If we don't lose wickets in the first session, I think we have a good chance to get runs."
Markram, the top scorer of the day, also credited the Pakistani bowlers, especially Amir. "They bowled really well. Mohammad Amir got something to happen, angling away from the right-handers," he said.
There were a couple of us who had a chance but didn't make it count, which is disappointing – Markram
"They had their tails up and just from watching on the TV and watching replays [it was clear] there was something in the wicket. It's good signs for us going into tomorrow.
"I thought it was quite tricky up front for the first five, six, seven overs. Their seamers made it hard for us and the ball was going around quite a bit. But it was nice to get a partnership with Hash (Amla). It was important to get through that first hour and allow us to set up a chance to go big."
Markam and Amla added 126 runs for the second wicket after South Africa lost captain Dean Elgar on six and Markram batted aggressively, taking just 124 balls and hitting 16 fours. He owed this approach to "intensity" as well as "natural instinct", he said. While he was disappointed at missing out on a hundred, he added that it was something he needed to "take on the chin and move on".
The 24-year-old admitted that despite his efforts, the 262 that South Africa got was "under par". "It's a score we will take but we probably wanted a bit more than that. There were a couple of us who had a chance but didn't make it count which is a disappointing side of it, but it's something we can work towards and try and rectify next innings."