|Ground:||Kennington Oval, Kennington|
|Scorecard:||England v South Africa|
|Event:||South Africa in England 2012|
DateLine: 23rd July 2012
England v South Africa, 1st Test, 4th day
In association with Investec.
An extraordinary day which saw total supremacy of willow over leather took South Africa to a colossal total of 637 for two declared in the first Test against England and put them emphatically in a winning position on the only ground in this country where they have not won a Test in the past. Hashim Amla was the main architect of the great innings and once again he was in sublime form, as on the previous day, to become the highest Test scorer and the only triple centurion for South Africa. It was a display from him of the highest class in fine conditions, a perfect pitch for batting and with the sun out for the entire day to greet a full house.
With a first innings deficit of 252, England had a major task ahead to save the match for which they would have to bat for four sessions. As the final session of the day unfolded, there seemed little chance of them being able to do that. They lost the first four wickets for 67 with the four bowlers used taking a wicket each. By stumps, they were 102 for four needing a further 151 to make the opposition bat again.
An hour after lunch, Amla's wristy drive to wide mid-wicket for his 33rd boundary took him to 281 passing the previous highest in Tests by AB de Villiers against Pakistan in Abu Dhabi in 2010. There was no stopping of Amla, the first South African of Indian descent to play Tests for the country as he piled on the runs with stylish strokes played with perfect timing. In a monumental unbeaten innings of 311 spanning a little over thirteen hours he dominated the play as he had done on the third day along with his captain Graeme Smith and this time with Jacques Kallis who also remained unbeaten with a marvellous 182 from 326 balls faced over seven and a quarter hours.
Their massive unbroken stand of 377 was a record for the third wicket in England beating the previous highest of 370 between Dennis Compton and Bill Edrich against South Africa in 1947. They resumed their third wicket stand on the fourth morning on a commanding 403 for two with Amla on 183 and Kallis on 82 and until the declaration came at tea, England were completely outplayed with both batsmen making the bowling look so innocuous.
England used seven bowlers during the innings but they lacked penetration as both batsmen were solid in defence and free in their strokeplay. When Amla drove Stuart Broad for 3 to cover, he reached 201 becoming only the second South African to score two Test double centuries, Graeme Smith being the other who had hit two against England on his first tour of the country in 2003. They were back-to-back at Edgbaston and Lordís with 277 and 259 respectively.
Kallis progressed to 94 with his first four of the day and followed that with another, off Tim Bresnan to third man to get to 98. Prior to his two boundaries he had been defensive and faced 54 balls without a boundary. On 99 he drove Graeme Swann to mid-wicket for his 43rd Test century which leaves him twelve behind Indiaís masterful Sachin Tendulkar. Trailing them is Australian Ricky Ponting on 41. Kallis then struck two consecutive fours off Bresnan to bring up the two hundred of the stand.
Amla's two boundaries in the penultimate over of the morning took him to 250 and the 250 of the stand came with him driving Swann to the extra cover boundary. This was the first time that England had conceded two partnerships of 250 in the same Test. The third new ball was taken straight after lunch but it made no impression on either batsman. Kallis struck three boundaries off Broad in the second over, all to the cover area and in the next over Amla took a boundary off Anderson to reach 255, passing his previous Test highest of 253 not out against India in Nagpur in 2010.
While Kallis brought up the three hundred of the stand with a boundary off Swann and taking his score to 147, Amla, who had been dropped at slip of Bresnan on 40, far back on the second day, continued to give an exhibition of fluent strokes. He played with ease and the strokes came more from timing than force.
On reaching 150 off 299 balls, Kallis lifted Swann over mid-wicket for the only six of the innings and Amla progressed to 299 having scored with singles after 285 taking the total to 600 for two. Twenty minutes before tea, his lofted drive off Bresnan went to the extra cover boundary and that was his triple century from 515 balls with 35 fours. It was the first individual score of three hundred in England since Graham Gooch played that superb innings against India at Lord's in 1990.
(Article: The opinions expressed in this article are those of the author only.
Copyright © 2012 Andy Jalil)