Hashim Amla and AB de Villiers scored brilliant centuries to lead South Africa to a formidable second innings total of 569 all out on the third day of the deciding Test match against Australia at the WACA ground on Sunday.
The enormous score left Australia with a fourth innings target of 632 in a minimum of 194 overs at an asking rate of 3.25 runs per over and they reached the close of play undamaged on 40-0 with openers Ed Cowan (9*) and David Warner (29*) set to resume on the fourth morning.
Jacques Kallis was the only wicket to fall in the morning session top edging a hook shot against Mitchell Starc for 37 but Amla collected the single he needed to reach his 18th Test century from the third ball of the day and marched on imperiously to within four runs of a second century.
It took a brilliant, reflex catch from Mitchell Johnson off his own bowling to remove Amla for 196 compiled off just 221 deliveries with 21 boundaries. Compared with the unrelenting savagery of his assault on the bowling in the final session on day two, Amla’s pace was more sedate but his back foot cover driving remained ruthless and he was typically punishing through the leg side.
Having carefully nursed himself to his first 50 in six Tests since assuming the wicket keeping duties, De Villiers required a mere 33 balls to move from 50 to his 14th Test century reaching the milestone from 131 deliveries with 15 fours and three sixes.
He raced through the 90s with three successive reverse-swept fours against off-spinner Nathan Lyon but that was just the beginning of the fun as he lashed another half dozen fours a two more sixes to reach 169 from just 184 balls before edging a drive against Mitchell Starc to ‘keeper Matt Wade.
Dean Elgar became the 28th players in the history of the game make his debut with a pair of noughts but the first South African since Allan Donald who ‘achieved’ the feat against the West Indies in Barbados in 1991. Two thunderous bouncers from Johnson struck the Knights left hander on the elbow and shoulder before the fourth ball trapped him lbw.
Faf du Plessis finally came down to earth with a score of 27 but his tally of Test runs now stands at 293 – at an average of 146.5.
Graeme Smith chose not to declare even when the target passed 600 choosing, instead, to bat for as long as possible and collect as many runs as possibly on a pitch still playing with unerring reliability.