Amla, Kallis put Proteas firmly in the driving seat

It was the “Amla and Kallis show” on day four of the first Test at the Kia Oval in London earlier today, the two overnight batsmen taking the Proteas to a mammoth 637 for two declared in their first innings. England didn’t take a wicket in the day, Kallis progressing inexorably to his 43rd Test century and Amla becoming the first South African to score a Test triple hundred.

He finished the day on 311 not out, passing AB de Villiers’ 278 not out against Pakistan two years ago, the previous best by a South African, before becoming the first South African to score a triple Test hundred. He was at times utterly disdainful, shuffling around on his crease and whipping the England bowlers either through the off or leg-side, as mood and occasion dictated.

Kallis, who added exactly 100 runs to his overnight score, was his usual composed self, occasionally unfurling cover-drives of utter brutality. He was on 182 not out at the end, scoring exactly 100 runs in the day, the two combining in an unbroken third wicket partnership of 377.

Declaring at tea, the final session provided high drama. Vernon Philander, with a beautiful delivery, induced a nibble from first innings centurion, Alastair Cook (0) and, 30 runs later, Dale Steyn, bowling quickly, induced Jonathan Trott (10) to feather an outside edge to De Villiers behind the stumps.

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Andrew Strauss and Kevin Pietersen attempted to repair the early damage, Pietersen becoming embroiled in a thrilling passage of play with Morne Morkel. The lanky Protea fast-bowler bowled short and fast at Pietersen, the England batsman sometimes smiting him through square-leg, sometimes top edging him less convincingly over the ‘keeper’s head. Eventually, Morkel found a way through Pietersen’s defences, arrowing a ball past him to knock out his middle stump for 16, a superb demonstration of fast, aggressive bowling.

Imran Tahir chipped in with the wicket of Strauss (27) as the shadows lengthened (67 for four), but Ravi Bopara and Ian Bell were able to calm things down. England didn’t lose another wicket, Bopara finishing on 15 not out, Bell scoring one less. On 102 for four, England trail by 150 runs with six second innings standing. They have a mountain to climb today, particularly as the South African bowlers demonstrated in the final session that it isn’t impossible to take wickets on such a benign pitch.

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