• SA vs Eng: Talking points (Day 3)

    TOM SIZELAND reflects on the players and moments that shaped day three of the second Test at Newlands.

    The old saying ‘form is temporary, class is permanent’, couldn’t have rung truer today, as Hashim Amla batted like the Amla Proteas’ fans have come to know and love. When he reached a half-century on Sunday, it was the first time he had done that in 11 innings, but it was clear that this was just the strain of confidence needed to push on and bring up his 24th Test century. His 157* also entered into the top-10 knocks by a South African at Newlands.

    It would be harsh to say that the England bowlers bowled badly, as they were mostly disciplined throughout on a track that offered very little, and if some of the catches had stuck, the match situation might have been very different. Steven Finn was the best, though, as AB de Villiers looked uncomfortable against the extra bounce that Finn offered. Eventually it led to the only wicket of the day, but a much-deserved one.

    Take your pick. Amla struck 11 boundaries on day three. The one he might remember the most though, was a classic, trademark cover drive to the ropes to bring up 7 000 runs.

    Joe Root almost became the unlikely partnership-breaker with his very first ball of the day. The part-time off-spinner tossed one up to invite the drive, only for Amla to get a thick edge to first slip, which was dropped by James Anderson. Revenge for Root’s drop off Anderson the previous day? It was costly, as Amla was on 76 at the time.

    It’s amazing what one good innings can do to you. As Amla piled on the runs, an air of confidence grew in his batting. If he felt any pressure as he walked out to bat yesterday, that has been all but lifted, and for all of the issues surrounding his form and his captaincy, one gets the feeling that when runs are scored, the rest sorts itself out. His knock would have radiated around the Proteas dressing room, evident from the 50 that the out-of-sorts Faf du Plessis would go on to make.

    There were a couple of key drops on Sunday, and that continued on day three, as Amla was put down by Anderson on 76, and by Nick Compton at backward point when he was on 120. This is a team sport after all, and if others around you aren’t taking catches, it affects the whole unit. Anderson eventually clung on to one, but it certainly wasn’t a convincing take. Things could be very different for England right now.

    It was a day of milestones for South Africa’s most cherished batting pair. When De Villiers smashed Moeen Ali down the ground for four, he not only brought up a fifty, but he became the third Protea to reach 8 000 Test runs. Only Jacques Kallis did it quicker for SA, and he became the joint-15th quickest of all time with Michael Clarke. It didn’t take too much longer for Amla to bring up 7 000 Test runs himself, just one innings short of the amount of time De Villiers, Kallis and Alastair Cook took to do it.

    Post by

    Tom Sizeland