Pakistan required 40 runs for its win over the Proteas in six years but Vernon Philander and Dale Steyn reduced them to 7-3 before captain Misbah-ul-Haq (28 not out) secured the victory with a straight six off Robin Peterson and guided the team to 45-3.
South Africa, which conceded a huge 193-run lead in the first innings, was earlier bowled out for 232 at the stroke of tea on the fourth day with A.B. de Villiers playing a fighting knock of 90 off 157 balls and Peterson unbeaten on 47.
Offspinner Saeed Ajmal took 4-74 while seamer Junaid Khan claimed 3-57 as South Africa batsmen struggled to adjust to the slow and spinning wicket of Sheikh Zayed Stadium.
Thursday’s win was Pakistan’s only fourth Test win in 22 Test matches against South Africa with the last one came at Port Elizabeth in 2007.
Only in February the Proteas had whitewashed Misbah’s team 3-0 at home, but in subcontinent-like hot and humid conditions of United Arab Emirates, Pakistan proved that at No. 6 conditions suited them more than their No.1 ranked rivals.
Earlier, A.B. de Villiers made a gritty 90 off 157 balls with seven fours and a six but gave a tame catch in the covers while Peterson missed his half century and ran out of partners in South Africa’s otherwise disappointing batting.
Resuming at the overnight 72-4, nightwatchman Dale Steyn (7) resisted for 44 more deliveries and took the team’s total to 104 before he finally ran out of patience and was clean bowled by left-arm spinner Zulfiqar Babar (2-51) off his third delivery of the day.
J.P. Duminy looked shaky in his brief stay as seamer Khan had him trapped leg before wicket for zero.
Babar should have had the wicket of Faf du Plessis on 6 before lunch but wicketkeeper Adnan Akmal, who featured in three of the four dismissals on Tuesday afternoon, couldn’t hold on to a thick edge.
De Villiers was the only South African batsman to read the spinners well as he raised his half century with a straight six over Babar’s head besides hitting four boundaries in his half century.
De Villiers was familiar with the pitch at the Sheikh Zayed Stadium as he made his career best unbeaten 278 against Pakistan in the drawn Test in 2010.
But Pakistan struck immediately through Ajmal after lunch when he made a good reflex one-handed low catch off his own bowling before de Villiers departed after putting up an innings-best partnership of 57 with Peterson. South Africa still trailed by 3 runs when de Villiers was dismissed but Peterson and Philander stretched the lead to 39 by adding 42 for the ninth wicket.
Ajmal got rid of the last two wickets in three balls when he had Philander caught behind and No. 11 Morne Morkel gave the offspinner a simple return catch at the stroke of tea interval.
The second Test starts at Dubai next Wednesday and Pakistan will be looking to threaten South Africa’s record of not losing an away Test series since 2006.