Hashim Amla’s unbeaten century led a wonderful team batting effort as the Castle Lager Proteas cruised to 325 for four at the close of play on the first day of the second test against New Zealand at Axxess St. George’s in Port Elizabeth on Friday.
Amla ended the day unbeaten on 106 off 211 balls with eight fours, having brought up his 19th test ton off 187 deliveries.
The elegant Amla, who came to the crease after the early loss of Alviro Petersen (21), showed why he has become such a vital cog in the Proteas’ batting line-up as he shared in two half-century partnerships and an unbroken fifth-wicket stand of 102 off 28.5 overs with Faf du Plessis.
There was just one blemish during Amla’s innings when, with his score on 48, he was dropped in the gully by Kane Williamson off the bowling of left-arm seamer Trent Boult.
But Amla shrugged off the near miss to bring up his fifty, off 92 balls, soon afterwards.
Graeme Smith, AB de Villiers and Du Plessis all scored half-centuries after South Africa had won the toss and elected to bat.
Peterson had departed when he top-edged an attempted hook shot off the bowling of paceman Doug Bracewell and was caught by Jeetan Patel at fine leg.
But Smith, who weighed in with 54 off 88 balls with eight fours, and Amla steadied the innings with a second-wicket stand of 92 off 20.4 overs before Smith was caught down the legside by keeper BJ Watling off the bowling of left-arm seamer Neil Wagner to leave South Africa on 121 for two.
The hosts lost their third wicket just 16 runs later when Jacques Kallis (8) inside-edged a Bracewell delivery through to Watling.
But any hopes New Zealand might have harboured of making further quick inroads into a powerful Proteas batting line-up were dashed when De Villiers and Amla combined for an fourth-wicket partnership of 86. De Villiers reached the landmark of 6 000 Test runs during his innings and he was looking in ominous form as he brought up his 31st Test fifty but, with his score on 51, he slapped a delivery from off-spinner Patel straight to Williamson at midwicket.
Du Plessis looked comfortable from the moment he arrived at the crease and he raced to his third Test fifty, to go with one hundred, in just his third test off 94 balls. The aggressive Du Plessis ended the day unbeaten on 69 off 112 deliveries with his entertaining knock including eight fours and a six.
Bracewell was the stand-out performer with the ball for the tourists as he ended the day with two for 70.