This is the kind of pitch Hashim Amla must have been dreaming of while facing Ravi Ashwin on the turning wickets of India.
The South African Test captain, under immense pressure as leader and batsman going into this game, gave a timely reminder of his qualities with his fourth double-hundred to lead his team’s fightback against England.
South Africa are 428-3 at lunch (353-3 overnight) on day four, still 201 behind England’s 629 but a fourth straight defeat has surely now been averted with only five sessions left in the game and both teams still needing to bat for a second time.
Amla (200 not out) continued where he left off yesterday, using his considerable powers of concentration and patience to lead the fightback from the front and in the process squash any talk of him giving up the Test captaincy to focus on his batting.
In his shadow Faf du Plessis, who admitted he needed to kick on for a big score today, is well on his way with an unbeaten 81. While the match situation hasn’t allowed South Africa to bat as aggressively as England did on day two, they still managed to punish the bad balls.
Their partnership is worth 160, the second consecutive 100-plus partnership the Proteas have scored in this match after failing to do it even once in 2015.
Steven Finn was again the most threatening England bowler, but on a surface which offers nothing to the seamers he too came up empty-handed.
The only real chance of the morning was an edge through slips. Du Plessis drove hard at a Moeen Ali delivery which rocketed past James Anderson at first slip who didn’t even manage to get a hand on it.
Amla almost got caught on 197 just before the interval when he skied one, but in the end Joe Root couldn’t get there in time at the long-on boundary.
For ball-by-ball commentary click below: