JP Duminy and Hashim Amla combined in a stand of 292 to put the Proteas well in command of the third Test against Sri Lanka at the Wanderers.
At the end of day one, the Proteas had 338-3 with Amla on 125; Duminy falling for 155 in the penultimate over of the day, edging Lahiru Kumara to second slip.
Duanne Olivier (0), earning his first Test cap, came in as nightwatchman and saw out the day.
It was a disappointing end for Duminy, after he joined Amla when the openers Stephen Cook and Dean Elgar departed within five balls with the score on 45.
For all the dominance and elegance of Duminy’s commanding innings, the spotlight fell on Amla for the notable achievement of scoring a hundred in his 100th Test; the eighth member of an exclusive club.
Yet when his innings began, few would have taken a bet on him reaching his 26th Test century, so uncomfortable and ungainly was he at the crease. He was dropped on five in the over before lunch, and chopped a ball past his stumps two balls later and he went into the break with six off 24 balls.
It could not have been far from his mind that he had not scored a fifty for the past 10 innings, but he took time in the lunch break to compose himself. On his return to the crease, he would not be rushed and worked at getting himself in. He faced 23 balls with just one scoring stroke, albeit a wonderfully driven four.
But then, just after getting juicy full toss which he put away for four, the shackles came off and the Amla of old burst forth. He added another 14 fours to his scorecard, dancing down the wicket to the left-arm spin of Rangana Herath and driving and flicking as sweetly as ever.
The support of Duminy cannot be understated, for he took control of the innings, which allowed Amla to settle. It was just his sixth hundred in 42 Tests, a number which belies the skill he showed on this first day.
Importantly, it was a disciplined innings. Duminy has been his own worst enemy, getting out to rash shots while in command, as he did in the first Test against Sri Lanka in Port Elizabeth, when after scoring 63, he went on the sweep to Herath and was dismissed.
There were no such stroke in this innings. He played straight and he played the field, picking up 19 fours in the 221 balls he faced.
That total look far away when the openers departed.
Cook, on 10 off 41 balls, was the first to go, lbw to Angelo Mathews, while Elgar (27 off 54) was taken at first slip after playing a bizarre half-shot, a cross between a cut and a back-foot drive, at a rising ball from Lahiru Kumara.
While those were disappointing scores, they had done their job in taking the shine off the ball, batting for more than an hour.
At that point, it would have been valid to question Faf du Plessis’s decision to bat first on a greenish wicket with a overcast sky. Especially since the Proteas had decided to go with a four-man pace attack and give Duanne Olivier his first Test cap.
Those doubts were well and truly buried after lunch on the first day.
Photo: Lee Warren/Gallo Images