London – Triple centurion Hashim Amla hit the highest Test score by a South African as he and Jacques Kallis took their side to a commanding 637/2 declared against England at tea on day four of the first Test at The Oval on Sunday.
England, who will begin their second innings after the break, trail by 252 runs after Amla hit an undefeated 311, surpassing the previous record of 278 by team mate AB de Villiers. He came to the crease on Friday at 3.07pm and was still there at 3.40pm two days later.
Kallis hit 182 not out for his 43rd Test hundred and the partnership of 377 with Amla was the highest for the third wicket by any team against England, beating the 363 that Mohammed Yousuf and Younus Khan set at Leeds in 2006.
South Africa are now well placed to push for a win as they chase victory in the three-match series that would see them leapfrog England at the top of the world rankings. Skipper Graeme Smith set the tone on Saturday with 131 in his 100th Test match.
England wilted in the bright sunshine as their bowlers toiled on a lifeless pitch that was still good to bat on and showed scant evidence of deterioration. They were unable to apply any pressure on the Proteas batsmen for the third day running, after their innings began on Friday afternoon.
Amla went past his previous career best of 253 against India, before lunch. The pace of his innings never changed as he continued to thwart England with a solid defence and attacking only when the ball merited an offensive stroke.
He became only the third overseas player to score a Test triple century in England after Australians Donald Bradman, who twice achieved the feat, and Bobby Simpson. He reached the 300 with a lofted cover drive for four (his 33rd) off Tim Bresnan to go to 303.
It was the first Test triple century in England for 22 years, since Graham Gooch hit 333 against India at Lord's in 1990.
Amla was embraced by Kallis and applauded warmly by the capacity crowd and his teammates on the players' balcony. Former England captain Michael Vaughan joked on Twitter that his signature beard had grown 1cm since he came into bat.
Kallis was equally untroubled throughout his innings and even he only sought to raise the tempo once he passed his 150, striking off spinner Graeme Swann over midwicket for the first six of the innings. South Africa may yet rue that lack of urgency if England manage to save the game.
Only India's Sachin Tendulkar has scored more Test centuries than Kallis, with 51.
Kallis celebrated his century before lunch by pointing to his eyes, a show of solidarity for wicketkeeper and best friend Mark Boucher, who was forced to retire from international cricket after suffering a serious eye injury before the series started. – Reuters