Composed Amla ton puts South Africa in command

CENTURION, South Africa, (Reuters) – A fine century  by Hashim Amla put South Africa in control of the first test  against England at the close on the fourth day yesterday.

Amla made exactly 100 as South Africa declared their second  innings closed on 301 for seven, leaving England a target of 364  for victory and 96 overs to survive for a draw.

England were 11 for one after six overs at the close after  Morne Morkel had captain Andrew Strauss caught behind for a  single to complete a day of dominance for the South Africans.

“We’ve got a really good total on the board and are  confident of going 1-0 up and putting the opposition on the back  foot,” Amla told reporters. “But we are taking nothing for  granted and we hope the pitch will deteriorate.

“It was a lot more difficult early on and we lost a few  early wickets but fortunately myself and AB de Villiers were  able to get a partnership going. Once the ball got old, there  was not so much variable bounce.”

Mark Boucher scored 63 not out and Morkel lashed four  boundaries in his unbeaten 22 not out off 13 deliveries, the  flurry of runs enabling South Africa to declare 37 minutes  before stumps.

James Anderson was the best of the England bowlers, taking  four for 73 in 20.5 overs.

South Africa, leading by 62 runs on first innings, were in  early trouble on 46 for four before Amla and De Villiers put on  119 for the fifth wicket.

De Villiers played daring strokes in his 64 which came off  101 balls and included six fours and a six when he skipped down  the pitch to off-spinner Graeme Swann and drove him over  long-on.

Amla was less flamboyant but remained impressively  unflappable as he compiled his seventh test century before  Anderson snatched his wicket with a delivery that shot along the  ground into the stumps.

Inconsistent bounce

It was a top-class innings by Amla on a pitch with  disconcertingly inconsistent bounce, frustrating an England  charge in which they claimed three wickets in the morning  session.

De Villiers’ fluent innings ended 18 minutes before the tea  break when Ian Bell reacted quickly at short cover to catch a  lofted drive off Stuart Broad.

But Amla, displaying a solid technique and plenty of  patience, celebrated his century after 311 minutes and 210 balls  at the crease.

South Africa had resumed on another hot day on nine for one  and Anderson removed obdurate nightwatchman Paul Harris for 11  in the third over.

Skipper Graeme Smith scored 12 before he left a gap between  his bat and pad in playing forward to Graham Onions, who zipped  the ball back into the left-hander and bowled him.

That left South Africa struggling on 34 for three and  first-innings centurion Jacques Kallis also struggled in the  testing conditions before hooking Broad to Alastair Cook at deep  square-leg.

“We’ve been in these situations before so we know exactly  what to do,” said Anderson. “We’ve got to put the pitch out of  our minds and not think too much about what it might do.

“The first hour will be crucial, if we can get through that  the ball will be softer. Batting the whole day will be our focus  and if we have wickets in hand at lunch and at tea, we can  reassess then.”

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