England v South Africa: Hashim Amla sets up tourists' victory push

By Marc HigginsonBBC Sport at The Oval
Hashim Amla
Hashim Amla
First Test, day four, The Oval
England 385 & 102-4 v South Africa 637-2 dec

Hashim Amla became the first South African to score a triple century, leaving England facing an uphill task to save the first Test at The Kia Oval.

The 29-year-old as he and Jacques Kallis, with 182 not out, helped the tourists pile up 637-2 declared - a lead of 252.

England lost their top four cheaply in reaching the 102-4 by the close, needing a further 150 to avoid an innings defeat.

Ian Bell and Ravi Bopara remain at the crease, knowing they need to bat deep into the final day if England are to have any hope of avoiding falling 1-0 down in a three-Test series which will determine the best team in the world.

It was a chastening day for England, whose number one ranking appears under serious threat from a superb South Africa side.

After watching Amla and Kallis remorselessly pile on the runs, South Africa captain Graeme Smith declared at tea before his bowling attack brought a seemingly docile pitch to life.

Vernon Philander, Dale Steyn, Morne Morkel and Imran Tahir hunted as a pack - all were rewarded with a wicket before the close - but England's batsmen contributed to their own downfall.

Alastair Cook's dismissal started the rot as he followed a first-innings century by edging Philander behind for a six-ball duck.

When Steyn drew Jonathan Trott into playing at one that left him, the hosts were without their two most resistant batsmen for a rescue mission that was already demanding enough.

Kevin Pietersen, playing in his usual frenetic manner, survived when he steered a Morkel bouncer to a diving Kallis at second slip, but he had his middle stump uprooted moments later as he played down the wrong line.

Andrew Strauss too will be angry with his dismissal, the captain top-edging a sweep at Tahir to Philander at square-leg.

England's struggles contrasted sharply with two sessions of complete South Africa dominance.

It was another batting masterclass from Amla and Kallis, who dominated a weary England attack.

They were watchful for the first hour of the penultimate day, their resistance breaking any initial England spirit before they scored with apparent ease.

Amla, who began the day on 183, brought up the second double century of his career with a trademark shot through the covers, before ticking off the landmarks.

He passed 250, went beyond his previous Test best of 253, and registered the highest score by a South African in Test cricket when he advanced to 281 not out with a boundary off Tim Bresnan.

Kallis - 82 not out overnight - was similarly obstructive. He brought up his 43rd Test century from 227 balls, significantly boosting his average of 29 in England.

He timed the ball superbly and went through the gears later in his innings to help build South Africa's substantial lead.

He and Amla shared their third 300-plus stand in Tests, with AB de Villiers, Jacques Rudolph and JP Duminy taking it in turns to pad up, to avoid spending so long waiting to bat.

Amla - perhaps nervous, more likely weary - drove narrowly over Bell at extra cover to bring up his 300, and offered Bopara a one-handed caught-and-bowled chance shortly before the declaration.

By the time Smith did call them in, the third-wicket partnership was worth 377 and spanned 102 overs.

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