Captain Hashim Amla batted resolutely throughout day three to frustrate England’s hopes of victory in the second Test, in Cape Town today.
Amla (157 not out off 371 balls) made the most of two missed catches to post his seventh Test score of over 150 and guide South Africa to 353 for 3 at stumps –– just 77 runs away from avoiding the follow-on –– in reply to England’s mammoth 629 for 6 declared.
Together with AB de Villiers (88), Amla –– who began the day on 64 –– added 183 for the third wicket as England’s bowlers toiled but went wicket-less in the morning and evening sessions, picking up just one scalp in the entire day.
After averaging just 15 in his previous ten Test innings and 22 across the duration of 2015, Amla’s innings was a master-class in patience and character up there with his unbeaten 311 against England at the Oval in 2012.
For their part the tourists, 1-0 up in the four-Test series, were left to rue a couple of dropped chances
De Villiers, put down on five by Joe Root on day two, became the third South African to score 8,000 career Test runs after Jacques Kallis (13,206) and Graeme Smith (9,253) when he completed his 39th Test fifty off 116 balls.
Meanwhile Amla –– dropped at slip by James Anderson on 76 off Joe Root’s bowling and then put down at backward point by Nick Compton off Steven Finn –– passed 7,000 runs en route to his 24th Test hundred, his first ton since December 2014 arriving off 214 deliveries.
After an explosive day’s cricket on day two, South Africa added just 20 runs to their overnight total of 141 for 2 in 13 overs –– eight of which came in the first over of Finn as De Villiers followed an edge for four with a sublime on-drive to the mid-on rope.
But De Villiers and Amla in particular looked increasingly settled and brought up their 100-run stand off 247 balls –– a partnership landmark South Africa didn’t achieve once in the entirety of 2015
With the new ball imminent, De Villiers pulled Moeen Ali for six before successfully reviewing an lbw decision awarded to Stokes against him –– replays confirming he did get an inside edge.
After 68.4 overs England did finally manage a breakthrough when De Villiers mistimed a pull off Finn –– Anderson taking the catch but not without a juggle.
Faf du Plessis (51 not out) walked to the wicket having scored just 71 runs in his previous nine innings but stood firm, proving an admirable foil for Amla, who reached his 150 off 310 balls with 21 fours.
Alastair Cook rotated his bowlers in search of further wickets to no avail –– even throwing the ball to debutant Alex Hales, whose little known spin credentials amount to just three first-class wickets.
Du Plessis pulled Stokes powerfully for four to bring up South Africa’s 350, reaching his eighth half-century off 104 balls –– almost one year after he made his last fifty, against West Indies at Cape Town.
By the close he had put on an unbroken partnership of 85 for the fourth wicket with his dogged captain, a mainstay on the pitch for all but a 2.3 over spell at the start of his side’s innings.