Amla and Smith torment England
Hashim Amla and Graeme Smith shared a record partnership of 259 as South Africa assumed total control in the first Investec Test at the Kia Oval.
Amla, who survived a tricky one-handed chance to Andrew Strauss on 40 yesterday evening, batted throughout day three to reach 183 not out and his skipper added 131 – making him only the seventh man to record a century in his 100th Test appearance.
Their mammoth alliance, which surpassed South Africa’s previous highest for the second wicket against England – a stand of 257 between Smith and current coach Gary Kirsten at Lord’s in 2003, underpinned a day of dominance by the Proteas.
Jacques Kallis added to the hosts’ frustration by adding an unbeaten 82 as the tourists closed on 403 for two, leading by 18, having added 317 for the loss of only one batsman today.
On a docile track, South Africa’s initial progress was slow this morning, mainly due to Graeme Swann exploiting some turn from the Vauxhall End in a probing opening spell.
However, the previously becalmed Smith then burst into life, racing from 51 to 103 in just 41 deliveries, having taken 160 balls to compile a half-century.
The skipper’s 25th Test hundred, seventh against England and fifth on these shores arrived in the final over before lunch.
Amla, whose own studious innings featured sporadic flashes of brilliance and a host of eye-catching cover drives, followed suit during the afternoon session and continued to accumulate with the minimum of fuss after Smith had played on to Tim Bresnan shortly before tea.
Any hope England had of capitalising on Smith’s dismissal was soon snuffed out as Kallis joined forces with Amla in another three-figure partnership.
Neither man was troubled during an elongated evening session of 43 overs that appeared to take its toll on the fielding side.
By stumps, Amla had moved effortlessly to within sight of a double hundred, while Kallis, who somehow made batting look even easier than his partner with a series of authoritative strokes, was on course to register his 43rd Test ton.
6:54pm – STUMPS; SA 403/2; Amla 183, Kallis 82 - A painful day in the extreme for England, who trail by 18 and can expect plenty more hard work in the field tomorrow. Bresnan’s dismissal of Smith was the only breakthrough on a day dominated by the bat, with Amla the star performer. South Africa now have complete control and will be aiming to accelerate tomorrow morning.
6:47pm - Four more to Kallis, who tucks in to a loopy half-volley from Broad with a thumping cover-drive that takes South Africa to 400.
6:41pm - Jonathan Trott becomes the seventh bowler utilised by England, who will just want this day to end now. Four more overs to come.
6:30pm - Pietersen is back on from the Vauxahll End and serves up a rancid long hop to Kallis, which gets the treatment it deserves. Amla then pushes Bresnan through the covers for his 22nd four and the tourists are ahead, with eight wickets in hand.
6:21pm - Bresnan sees an lbw shout against Kallis turned down, with the ball having struck the batsman outside the line. The Proteas’ number four then opens the face on two occasions against Anderson to collect four and then two. He’s on 65, while Amla is 175 not out.
6:15pm - I don’t want to sound too downbeat, but I’m struggling to remember the last time England’s attack was made to suffer like this on home soil. Perhaps the drawn Cardiff Test in the 2009 Ashes? All credit to South Africa. Graeme Smith, Amla and Kallis have all batted superbly today and the latter two remain comfortable as the close approaches.
5:57pm – CENTURY PARTNERSHIP - A moment of light relief for England as Strauss, fielding at short midwicket, throws the ball straight into his sunglasses, which were falling from his sunhat. Soon after, Kallis claims a single off Anderson to herald the hundred stand.
5:47pm - There are 16 overs left in the day and South Africa now trail by just 30. Anderson is back for another burst from the Pavilion End.
5:38pm – FIFTY! Kallis (94b 7x4 0x6) - The latest in a long line of batting landmarks sees Kallis move to 50 with a single to long-on off Swann. He will be determined to follow Smith and Amla to three figures and is an incredibly difficult man to dislodge once he is set.
5:32pm - It has been a long old day for Swann and there are signs of fatigue as he serves up a juicy full toss. Amla makes no mistake in registering his umpteenth boundary through the covers.
5:22pm - A doozy of a cover drive off Bopara takes Amla to 160 and he looks as though he could bat with a toothpick at the moment. As I type that, he misses with a rather loose dab outside off stump. Prior thought there was an edge, but it appears the wicketkeeper was mistaken.
5:16pm - Ravi Bopara is back into the attack. It was he who had Amla dropped on 40 last night, although it was a really tough chance to Andrew Strauss. You wonder when the next opportunity will arrive...
4:59pm - You cannot afford to be short on this pitch, as Kallis demonstrates by pulling Bresnan for four. The Yorkshireman then sends down a half-volley and is driven through the covers. England will not be ahead for much longer.
4:50pm – 150! Amla (294b 19x4 0x6) - Amla caresses Swann through the covers to reach 150. This has been a special innings.
4:48pm - Kallis and Amla take their third-wicket partnership past 50 and this is all too easy for the Proteas. They are on course for a huge lead.
4:36pm - Amla is beaten outside off stump by Broad, but there is little else to encourage the hosts. The crowd are doing their best to remain in good spirits and a rather messy Mexican Wave is in progress, with various items being thrown in the air.
4:28pm - Swann errs in length and is slog-swept for four by Kallis in dismissive fashion. England’s off-spinner has sent down 31 overs without a wicket now. Broad appears keen to test out the middle of the pitch, but I am not sure that will cause too many problems on such an easy-paced track.
4:20pm - Matt Prior concedes his first bye of the innings as a delivery from Graeme Swann to Kallis rolls along the ground before ricocheting off the wicketkeeper and into the leg side. There has been plenty of uneven bounce evident this week and I imagine batting will become increasingly difficult on days four and five. South Africa will want as many as possible in their first dig.
4:14pm - James Anderson is one of the more agile fielders around, but that was not his best work. He is unable to get his hands to the ball as he dives to his right at mid-on and Jacques Kallis is therefore able to pick up his third four.
4:05pm - Still 43 overs to be bowled this evening, so South Africa can expect to be ahead if they do not suffer a dramatic collapse. Hashim Amla edges Stuart Broad wide of first slip for the first boundary of the evening session.
3:40pm -TEA - SA 277/2; Amla 131, Kallis 10 - Another session goes South Africa's way, although England can at least take some consolation from having finally removed Smith. The hosts' lead is down to 108 and they will need to strike quickly after tea.
3:27pm - Kallis gets off the mark by flicking a wayward delivery down to fine-leg for four. The vastly experienced all-rounder is then fortunate to see a thick outside edge off Anderson narrowly evade second slip.
3:19pm - WICKET! Smith b Bresnan 131; SA 260/2 - It will not be a third session without a wicket! Bresnan finally makes the breakthrough and it is Smith who departs, bowled via an inside-edge. That was a superb innings from the touring captain, who put on 259 with Amla - a record for South Africa's second wicket against England. Jacques Kallis is the new batsman.
3:18pm - Not long until tea now and it looks like being a third consecutive session without a wicket for England.
3:08pm - Anderson sticks out his right hand in an attempt to pouch an aerial straight-drive from Amla, but cannot quite react in time. The new ball has proven expensive and things are looking increasingly ominous for the hosts.
3:03pm - Amla drives Anderson confidently through cover to overake his partner, but Smith is soon back ahead. The left-hander claims three successive fours off Broad, two down to third man – the first via a thick outside edge - and one through fine-leg.
2:53pm - Stuart Broad strays down the leg side and is punished by Amla. The next ball is much better and beats the batsman’s defensive prod, prompting cries of encouragement from the fielders.
2:48pm - England take the fresh cherry at the earliest opportunity and Anderson is urged on by a sell-out crowd as he pounds in from the Vauxhall End.
2:40pm - Time for some part-time off-spin from Kevin Pietersen, which is usually a sign that things are not going to plan for England in the field. Drinks are then taken with South Africa 162 behind on 223 for one, but the new ball is now available.
2:30pm - South Africa’s skipper survives another leg before appeal, this time from Swann. The impact with the pad was outside the line, which saved the batsman. Bresnan is looking to make the batsman play with every ball, but Smith and Amla have been up to the task so far.
2:25pm - Despite that close lbw shout a couple of overs ago, it is difficult to see where a breakthrough is coming from just now. Smith and Amla certainly do not look in the mood to give their wickets away.
2:16pm – REVIEW – Tim Bresnan thinks he has Smith lbw, but umpire Asad Rauf is unmoved. England call for a review, which shows there was the thinnest of inside edges. The wait for a wicket goes on.
2:06pm – CENTURY! Amla (199b 13x4 0x6) - A rare false stroke from Amla, but his outside edge off Anderson flies wide of second slip and runs away for another four. The number three then plays a more convincing shot down to third man and the resulting single takes him to 100.
1:57pm – 200 PARTNERSHIP - Big turn outside Graeme Smith’s off stump for Graeme Swann, who is back on from the Vauxhall End. Amla is having fewer problems agains the spinner and fours through midwicket and fine-leg take him into the nineties. A Smith single off Anderson then brings up the 200 stand from exactly 400 deliveries.
1:46pm - We are back under way at the Kia Oval. Hashim Amla faces five dot balls from James Anderson before flicking one behind square-leg for four; that takes him to 84.
1:02pm – LUNCH – SA 187/1; Smith 103, Amla 80 - Very much South Africa’s morning and they are now well placed to carve out a significant first-innings lead. England need to find a spark from somewhere. Although Swann gained a reasonable amount of turn, his threat seemed to diminish as the session wore on. Amla will hope to follow his captain to three figures this afternoon.
1pm – CENTURY! Smith (201b 16x4 0x6) - What a way to mark your 100th Test appearance! Smith dabs Bresnan down to third man to move to 99, before cutting the next ball behind point for his 16th four. A marvellous innings from the Proteas captain, whose second fifty came from just 41 deliveries. He will be delighted to have brought up the landmark just before lunch.
12:49pm - Amla almost plays on to Bresnan’s first ball, but a thick inside edge narrowly misses the stumps. Swann then gets one to rip past the outside edge of Smith, who has moved on to 89.
12:40pm - A change of ends for Swann, but still no breakthrough. South Africa’s position grows ever stronger as Tim Bresnan enters the attack from the Vauxhall End.
12:30pm - Time for England to shake things up a little. Ravi Bopara replaces Swann, before Broad comes round the wicket to Smith. With two men behind square on the leg side it looks as though the opener can expect some short stuff. England need to try something to disrupt his rhythm.
12:21pm - A clip through square-leg off Broad makes it five fours in 12 deliveries for Smith. Make that six in 14; there’s another leg-side boundary for South Africa’s captain! After taking 160 deliveries to get to 51, he has added 28 at two-a-ball!
12:15pm - Smith is looking good now. He helps himself to two more fours, through mid-on and fine-leg, as a second successive Swann over is taken for double figures. England could do with a wicket, and soon...
12:10pm - Broad is driven past mid-off by Smith, who has scored more runs in the last 10 minutes than he managed in the previous 60. There really does not appear to be much in this pitch for the seamers right now.
12:01pm – FIFTY! Smith (160b 6x4 0x6) - Smith finally brings up his half-century, from 160 balls, by nudging Swann into the leg side for three. A well-struck sweep then brings him four more in an over yielding 11. That will be drinks and South Africa are 126 for one.
11:57am - Swann continues to look the most likely source of a breakthrough; Smith just cannot get him away at the moment. Amla’s progress has been somewhat more serene and he drives Broad past cover for his eighth four.
11:46am - Smith has been stuck on 48 for quite some time now, but I’m not sure he will mind. The important thing for South Africa is to keep wickets in hand and they have not faced too many problems as yet this morning. Maybe Stuart Broad, who is on for Anderson at the Pavilion End, can change that.
11:37am - A big lbw appeal from Swann against Smith, but that needed to turn more from round the wicket to have any chance.
11:26am – CENTURY PARTNERSHIP - You have to admire Smith. His technique is enough to make many wince, but he isn’t half effective. A late cut off Anderson takes him to 46 and South Africa to three figures. It also marks the hundred partnership; just like England, the Proteas have recovered superbly from the early loss of an opening batsman.
11:23am - Amla picks up the first boundary of the day with a sweetly-timed back-foot punch between cover and mid-off. It was not a bad ball from Anderson, just a classy stroke by a player in fine form. Good probing stuff from England’s spearhead for the remainder of the over, before Smith clips Swann through midwicket for four.
11:15am – FIFTY! Amla (110b 6x4 0x6) - Smith is beaten all ends up as Anderson finds a bit of extra lift. The next ball does not carry through to Prior, providing further evidence of the variable bounce offered by this surface. Amla progresses to 50 with a single to mid-on off Swann. Just three runs have been taken from the first four overs this morning.
11:08am - Graeme Swann opens the bowling with Anderson and there is immediate evidence of turn from the Vauxhall End. That will encourage the spinner, who concedes the first run of the morning when Amla plays gently into the off side.
11:05am - James Anderson delivered a few words in the England huddle and he gets us up and running from the Pavilion End. Six balls are angled across Graeme Smith from over the wicket and the left-hander connects with one, plays and misses at another and leaves the other four.
10:58am - Almost ready for the off then; here come England, followed by Smith and Amla.
10:50am - There are 98 overs to be bowled in the day after yesterday’s rain. We may well have one or two more showers in the afternoon, but the forecast is generally encouraging and the sun is shining through at present.
10:40am - As I am sure you are aware by now, Smith is playing in his 100th Test. How he would love to mark the occasion with a century. On a pitch that has proven unusually docile, the main bowling threat may well come from Graeme Swann, who got a couple of deliveries to turn sharply last night and is famed for his prowess against left-handers. South Africa have Jacques Rudolph and JP Duminy to come, but England need to focus on getting rid of Smith first.
10:35am - Graeme Smith and Hashim Amla are the men England will be hoping to remove as quickly as possible. South Africa’s skipper has 37 to his name, while his partner is unbeaten on 47. Both men were forced to battle hard when they arrived at the crease, but found life easier following a lengthy rain delay after tea on day two.
10:30am - Hello again from the Kia Oval, where the first Investec Test between England and South Africa is intriguingly poised. Andrew Strauss’ men were very much on top on day one, but the Proteas bounced back superbly yesterday and will resume on 86 for one in reply to 385 all out. This promises to be a gripping morning session.