South African Hashim Amla acknowledges the crowd after reaching his century during the second Test against England in Cape Town.
Cape Town: South Africa showed some fight in the second Test on Monday with Hashim Amla’s 157 not out helping cut England’s lead to 276 as the home team reached 353 for three at stumps on the third day. (Cape Town Test: Hashim Amla, AB de Villiers Join Elite List)
Amla, the South Africa captain, eased the pressure on himself and his top-ranked team with his 24th Test century, and first since December 2014. (Hashim Amla Under Pressure in Second Test vs England)
He shared partnerships of 183 with AB de Villiers (88) and an unbroken 85 with Faf du Plessis. South Africa lost just one wicket for 212 runs on the day.
England, after a huge first-innings total of 629 for six declared, were finding it tough to take wickets on a placid batting pitch at Newlands, with 982 runs scored over three days. (Stokes Breaks Sehwag’s Record)
England already lead the four-match series 1-0, leaving South Africa effectively batting to stay alive in the contest. (South African Batsmen Lost Confidence on Tough Indian Pitches: Mickey Arthur)
Amla, De Villiers, Du Plessis all rose to the challenge.
To help them, the Newlands pitch was proving a very good strip to bat on – just what South Africa needed to regain their lost form.
Just how good was clear with the fact that only four wickets had fallen in the last six sessions and two days of the match, two of them to run outs.
England’s lone breakthrough on day 3 came just before tea when De Villiers, looking to push on, mistimed a pull shot off Steven Finn. The ball flew to James Anderson, who knocked it up in the air at mid-wicket and completed the catch.
Frustratingly for England, both Amla and De Villiers should have been out much earlier but for two dropped catches.
Joe Root put De Villiers down at slip off the bowling of James Anderson late on the second day and very early in De Villiers’ knock. In a twist of irony, Anderson dropped Amla off Root’s bowling when the South African skipper was on 76.
Both batsmen cashed in on those second chances.
De Villiers hit 12 fours and a six, while Amla returned to form with a big century, hitting 21 fours.
With South Africa in a slump through the last 12 months, Amla’s lack of form and captaincy had come under scrutiny. When he passed 50, it was for the first time since the New Year Test in Cape Town a year ago, ending a drought of 11 innings without a meaningful score.
Du Plessis, another player under pressure in South Africa’s struggling batting lineup, also played himself back into some kind of form to go to 51 not out by stumps as the home team got the deficit to below 300.
But overall, England still had control of the Test and the series, and South Africa face an uphill task.
England’s huge first-innings score was marked by 258 by Ben Stokes and his record partnership of 399 with Jonny Bairstow, who made 150 not out. With that innings total, and following England’s big win in the first Test in Durban, the tourists had the Proteas under grinding pressure.
For England’s bowlers, Finn had 1-82 and Stokes 1-67 after removing Dean Elgar late on Sunday. England ran out South Africa’s other opener, Stiaan van Zyl, for four.
Having missed the first Test with a right calf injury, Anderson, England’s leading wicket-taker, had 0-53 off 24 overs on his return to the team.