• AB, Amla make Aussie century list

    As cricket.com.au counts down the 15 best Test centuries in Australia since 2000, we look at which South Africans make the list.

    The first entry of a South African is at number 12, where Hashim Amla’s 196 vs Australia at the WACA in December 2012 is picked.

    Bowling attack: Mitchell Starc, Shane Watson, Mitchell Johnson, John Hastings, Nathan Lyon
    Percentage of team score: 196 out of 569 (34 per cent)
    Next highest score: 169
    Match situation at start of innings: South Africa 28-1, leading by 90 runs
    Match situation when innings completed: South Africa 436-4, leading by 498 runs
    Result: South Africa won by 309 runs

    ‘They were almost going at a one-day pace there for a while,’ observed a slightly stunned Australian wicketkeeper Matthew Wade at the end of day two of the 2012 Perth Test.

    The ‘they’ he was referring to was South Africa’s Graeme Smith and Hashim Amla, who had just helped the Proteas plunder an incredible 206 runs in a single session on a wicket that had given up a little more than 400 in the previous five.

    The duo had powered their way to a stand of 178 in 25.3 overs – at almost seven runs an over – with 23 boundaries. It was the third fastest stand of 150 or more in Test history and the quickest not to include the names Adam Gilchrist or Shahid Afridi.

    The rate of scoring indicates it was less one-day mode and more a Twenty20 onslaught. But it wasn’t a slog-fest by any means. After all, that’s not Hashim Amla’s way. Rather, the gaps in the field were simply pierced with remarkable ease and precision. The WACA’s vast outfield has rarely felt bigger.

    Smith’s innings of 84 was superb, but Amla’s was – if only for the length of his stay at the crease – even better. The captain fell in the shadows of stumps on day two while Amla moved to within one run of a century at the close. He reached the milestone in the opening over the next day, from just the 87th ball he faced in the innings, before going on to fall just four runs short of a double-century.

    It was an extraordinary performance in a match that would ultimately determine the world’s No.1 Test team, a mantle the Proteas snatched away from the Australians with devastating speed on that second evening.

    Amla seemed to toy with Australia’s attack, as balls on the off-stump were either flicked rapidly to leg or driven crisply through the off.

    It has to be acknowledged that Australia’s undermanned bowling attack did themselves no favours, but Amla was good enough to feast on their generous offerings. Nineteen of his 21 boundaries came on the off-side, the exceptions being two pull shots that he hit well in front of square.

    Smith’s dismissal late on day two stemmed the flow but couldn’t completely halt the torrent of runs that streamed from the blades of the Proteas batsmen.

    Amla’s 81-run partnership with Jacques Kallis and his 149-run stand with AB de Villiers were both scored at better than four an over. By the time Amla departed for 196, South Africa’s lead had ballooned out from 86 to just a tick under 500.

    The match, the series, and the title of the world’s best was South Africa’s, and it was largely thanks to their bearded number three.

    The world’s No.1 ranked ODI batsman at the time, Amla said he felt comfortable in slipping seamlessly into one-day mode despite being in the heat of Test battle.

    ‘We managed to manipulate the field a little bit, wherever there are gaps to try and hit the ball, so that’s why there were a few one-day shots coming in,’ he said.

    ‘If the team is in a good position, it gives you the freedom to look for those shots because if you do make a mistake, it’s not a train smash.’

    The Proteas would go on to triumph by 309 runs, a margin of victory that took some gloss of Ricky Ponting’s farewell Test and also left no doubt as to the identity of world’s premier Test nation.

    And with his fourth Test century of the year, it was Amla who played a vital role in getting the Proteas to the top of the pile.

    Coming in at number 10, preceded by Kumar Sangakkara, is AB de Villiers’ knock of 106 not out vs Australia, also at the WACA in December 2008.

    Bowling attack: Brett Lee, Mitchell Johnson, Peter Siddle, Jason Krejza
    Percentage of team score: 106 out of 414 (26 per cent)
    Next highest score: 108
    Match situation at start of innings: South Africa 179-3, trailing by 234 runs
    Match situation when innings completed: South Africa 414-4, match completed
    Result: South Africa won by six wickets

    The AB de Villiers who steered South Africa to an historic victory in Perth seven years ago was just a shadow of the batsman who today is widely regarded as the best in the world.

    The enviable natural ability that he had been blessed with from birth had always been bubbling below the surface, but to this point had gone somewhat unfulfilled.

    But this match – and most of 2008 – would be his watershed.

    Proteas legend Jacques Kallis told cricket.com.au in March this year of a stern conversation captain Graeme Smith and coach Mickey Arthur had with the then 24-year-old De Villiers at Lord’s just five months before his match-winning performance at the WACA.

    The leadership duo told the young star in no uncertain terms that the time had come for him to turn his incredible talent into consistent results.

    He’s averaged more than 62 in Test cricket ever since.

    De Villiers’s final day century in a record-breaking run chase in Perth wasn’t the lone hand in a memorable victory. Smith had done what good captains do and led by example, blazing a rapid century late on day four to give the tourists a sniff of chasing down the daunting target of 414.

    But when De Villiers came to the crease with the shadows lengthening late in the day, the momentum that had swung like a pendulum throughout an extraordinary match was back with the hosts.

    South Africa had just lost Smith (for 108) and Hashim Amla (53) in the space of three overs to be 179-3, meaning De Villiers faced a hostile reception from the crowd and his opponents as he scratched out his guard.

    The first ball he faced was fairly hostile as well; a fast bouncer from Brett Lee that ballooned over Brad Haddin’s head and to the boundary for four byes.

    The Australians thought they had their man just three balls later when Lee, bowling over the 145km/h mark but still below his absolute best in what turned out to be his penultimate Test, flung one past the outside edge, the sound of bat on ground eliciting a vocal appeal from the home side.

    But not only did De Villiers survive the 10 overs to stumps, he gave a small preview of what was to come when he flicked the final ball of the day off his pads to the long-on boundary.

    And on day five, he revealed the full show. He and Kallis pushed the score along to 281-3 before the younger partner plundered two superb boundaries from Lee’s first over with the new ball; one slapped over the cordon and one crunched through cover.

    Another punishing cover drive brought up a half-century – his second of the match – before he cracked Mitchell Johnson behind point for another stunning boundary.

    Even more ominous for Australia was the surety with which De Villiers played in between the nine fours he hit during his innings. He left when he had to leave, defended when he had to defend and nudged and pushed his way to 38 singles, most of them square of the wicket.

    He did exactly what his captain, his coach and his country needed him to do.

    He brought up his seventh Test century – and South Africa’s 400 – with a confident pull off Johnson to the boundary at deep backward square, receiving a rapturous reception from his teammates in the stands, a warm hug from his batting partner JP Duminy and a congratulatory handshake from the vanquished Lee.

    He had his share of good fortune during the day; he edged Peter Siddle short of Haddin in the first session and he was lucky an aerial shot off rookie off-spinner Jason Krejza was hit with such force that it went through Lee’s hands at mid-on. There was a missed run out chance too, but it was South Africa’s day.

    It was difficult to isolate De Villiers for his role in the second-highest run chase in Test history given the strong contributions of his teammates.

    Smith’s century had set the tone, half-centuries from Amla and Kallis steadied the innings while debutant Duminy finished the match with a breezy fifty of his own.

    But solid almost throughout was De Villiers, who showed the application and patience that – when combined with his incredible talent – would propel him to incredible heights in years that followed. – cricket.com.au

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