REUTERS - South Africa's pursuit of a series-levelling victory against Pakistan was marred on the third day of the second test in Dubai when they were penalised five runs for ball tampering on Friday.
While Pakistan launched a belated fightback to save the match, South Africa tried to shake off accusations of ball tampering after umpires Ian Gould and Rod Tucker concluded that the ball's condition had been changed contrary to the rules of the game.
South African captain Graeme Smith was notified of the decision during a terse exchange with the on-field officials in the 31st over of Pakistan's second innings and the ball was replaced from a box carried on to the pitch by fourth umpire Shozab Raza.
Gould also signalled a five run-penalty, effectively accusing the top-ranked test side of seeking to unnaturally alter the state of the ball.
Although Smith's team need six wickets to complete victory after Pakistan ended the day on 132-4 -- still trailing by 286 runs - the incident two overs after tea is likely to leave a lasting impression.
Television footage showed fielder Faf du Plessis allegedly rubbing the ball on the zipper of his trouser pocket, while a second clip showed another player appearing to pick at the side of the ball with his finger.
A five run penalty and a change of the ball is implemented when the umpires feel the ball has been tampered with.
Pakistan captain Misbah-ul-Haq (42 not out) and Asad Shafiq (28 not out) will resume their unbeaten 62-run partnership on day four.
Misbah's men are now staring at defeat after South Africa piled up a mammoth 517 in reply to Pakistan's paltry first innings total of 99.
The tampering controversy followed an earlier incident when Pakistan bowler Mohammad Irfan was removed from the Pakistan attack after a third warning in the innings for stepping into the line of the stumps on his follow through.
It effectively meant he scuffed up the pitch to the benefit of the bowlers, who had a much better day on Friday after just a single wicket fell on Thursday when South Africa gorged on a run feast to put themselves in line to square the two-match series.
South Africa added 57 runs to their overnight total of 460 for four with captain Graeme Smith (234) and AB de Villiers (164) falling to Saeed Ajmal and Irfan respectively. Ajmal ran through the tail for figures of six wickets for 151.
Pakistan won the first test in Abu Dhabi last week by seven wickets. (Reporting by Mark Gleeson; Editing by Pritha Sarkar)