Mon | Sep 25, 2017

Under-pressure Amla leads South Africa fightback against England

Published:Tuesday | January 5, 2016 | 1:00 AM

CAPE TOWN, South Africa (AP):

South Africa showed some fight in the second Test yesterday, with Hashim Amla's 157 not out helping cut England's lead to 276 as the home team reached 353-3 at stumps on the third day.

Amla, the South Africa captain, eased the pressure on himself and his top-ranked team with his 24th Test century and first since December 2014.

He shared partnerships of 183 with A.B. de Villiers (88) and an unbroken 85 with Faf du Plessis. South Africa lost just one wicket for 212 runs on the day.

England, after a huge first-innings total of 629-6 declared, were finding it tough to take wickets on a serene batting pitch at Newlands, which has been so good for the batsmen that 982 runs were scored over three days.

"Tricky day for us," England fast bowler Steven Finn said. "One wicket in a day is obviously not ideal for what we wanted from this day ... but we're still a long way ahead in the game."

England also already lead the four-match series 1-0, leaving South Africa effectively batting to stay alive in the contest.

"We were behind the eight ball on day one," Du Plessis said. "England played really well and we needed a really resilient performance to get back in the Test match and that's what we did."

England's lone breakthrough came just before tea when De Villiers, looking to push on, mistimed a pull shot off Finn. The ball flew to James Anderson, who knocked it up in the air at midwicket and completed the catch.

Frustratingly for England, both Amla and De Villiers should have been out much earlier but for dropped catches. Joe Root put De Villiers down at slip off the bowling of Anderson late on the second day and very early in De Villiers' knock. In a twist of irony, Anderson dropped Amla off Root's bowling when the South African skipper was on 76. Amla was dropped again on 120 by Nick Compton.

"Obviously we're disappointed to not take them but no one means to drop catches," Finn said.

De Villiers hit 12 fours and a six, while Amla returned to form with a big century, hitting 21 fours.

With South Africa in a slump, Amla's lack of form and captaincy had come under scrutiny. When he passed 50, it was for the first time since the New Year test in Cape Town a year ago, ending a drought of 11 innings without a meaningful score.