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Ken Borland

Amla lays down the law, bowlers back him up

Posted on July 24, 2012 by Ken

Hashim Amla laid down the law and the bowlers then made his effort with the bat count as they reduced England to 102 for four at stumps on the fourth day of the first Test at the Oval in London on Sunday.

It has been many a year since South Africa had such a memorable day on the cricket field, with Amla scoring their first Test triple century and ending on a magnificent 311 not out and Jacques Kallis making 182 not out, to add to skipper Graeme Smith’s hundred in his 100th test.

South Africa’s bowlers then backed up the extraordinary efforts of their top-order as each of them claimed a wicket to leave the visitors in sight of their first victory at the Oval in 105 years of trying.

England’s bowlers, meanwhile, will perhaps be phoning up the same Olympic lawyers who have somehow managed to trademark words like “gold”, “silver” and “London”, to lay a charge of fraud against the Oval pitch. The same 22 yards that had brought them to their knees as they conceded a mammoth total of 637 for just two wickets in 189 overs, had life and vicious turn and bounce for spinner Imran Tahir straight after South Africa’s declaration at tea.

England, needing to erase a deficit of 252 just to make South Africa bat again, were almost immediately on the back foot as Vernon Philander struck with his second ball.

Alastair Cook was drawn on to the front foot to defend a perfect-length delivery that then nipped away beautifully, and wicketkeeper AB de Villiers was on his toes enough to snatch a sharp catch. Cook, who England were relying on for a long innings, was gone for a duck after his first-innings century.

Dale Steyn again did not open the bowling but was brought on in the fifth over and the wicket of Jonathan Trott (10) followed soon afterwards.

Trott pushed away from his body as Steyn swung a fine delivery from close to the stumps away from the right-hander, De Villiers again claiming the edge for his seventh catch of the test.


It has been said that Kevin Pietersen is only concerned with his own interests rather than those of the England team (in the light of his recent withdrawal from limited-overs cricket), and he did little to disprove the notion as he played a short, shot-filled cameo of 16 off 17 balls but was then comprehensively cleaned up by Morne Morkel.

Pietersen had an aggressive response to the short-pitched barrage he received from Morkel, hooking three fours, although one of them was edged over the wicketkeeper. But as soon as the bouncer was outside off stump, he was in two minds and ended up playing an insipid waft at the ball. The edge went into both Kallis’s hands as he dived away at second slip, but unfortunately the ball didn’t stay in.

Never mind. In Morkel’s next over he sent the ball crashing into middle stump as he bowled full and straight and Pietersen, stuck in the crease, played all around the delivery.

Tahir looked extremely dangerous when he pitched the ball in the rough and he pulled off a tremendous coup for South Africa when he dismissed the dogged England captain, Andrew Strauss.

Tahir had really worked Strauss over with some wonderful bowling in the 27th over – exploding the ball out of the rough, turning it both ways – and eventually the left-hander cracked, trying to sweep and only succeeding in top-edging a dolly to backward square-leg. Strauss scored a gutsy 27 off 80 balls.

South Africa were now rampant, but Ian Bell (14* off 70 balls) and Ravi Bopara (15*) showed good character to survive and are at the crease overnight.


Amla’s historic triple century was already in the bag as South Africa declared their first innings on 637 for two at tea.

Amla was on 311 not out, having notched South Africa’s first test 300 five overs earlier, and was instrumental in bringing the world’s number one ranked team to their knees.

The lead was 252 and Kallis was on 182 not out, going about his elegant business almost un-noticed in the glare of Amla’s brilliance. But it was another masterful display by South Africa’s leading run-scorer.

England’s bowlers were powerless to disturb the concentration of South Africa’s two most focused batsmen as Amla and Kallis took their unbeaten stand to 377, the highest third wicket partnership by any country against England.

Amla had been at the crease for over 13 hours and had faced 529 balls, stroking 35 fours, when the declaration came. It had been an innings of immense concentration, just about every ball he faced being played right under his eyes, and he offered just two half-chances, on 40 and on 305, both off Bopara’s medium-pace.

Amla and Kallis had milked runs with impunity as South Africa powered to 514 for two at lunch and it was batting of the highest class throughout, rich skill and elegance being in abundant display.

There were obviously statistical highlights aplenty, the fact that England conceded successive double-century partnerships for the first time in their history of 924 tests counting as the most startling of them all. Kallis and Amla had built on the 259-run second-wicket stand between Smith (131) and Amla.

England’s bowlers were as effective as a one-legged man with gout and that’s not to detract from the brilliance of South Africa’s trio of centurions.

Resuming on 403 for two, Amla and Kallis were watchful at the start, ensuring that they did not waste the superb work of the third day and laying a platform for chasing quick runs as England lost hope.

Amla went to his second test double century in the 10th over of the day when he drove Stuart Broad through the covers for three runs.

There was much unhappiness amongst England fans over when Graeme Swann was finally introduced – 18 overs into the day – but the spinner who has had so much faith invested in him by the home side was once again flat.

Once Kallis had reached his 43rd test century – only Sachin Tendulkar has more – but his first in England for 14 years, the batsmen were eager to crack on the pace and put South Africa in a commanding position.

Amla had been at the crease for over 13 hours and had faced 529 balls, stroking 35 fours, when the declaration came. It had been an innings of immense concentration, just about every ball he faced being played right under his eyes, and he offered just two half-chances, on 40 and on 305, both off Bopara’s medium-pace.

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