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The tension in the South African dressing-room was palpable. Dale Steyn, Jacques Rudolph and Albie Morkel were seated in exactly the same chairs all morning. Like the rest of the players and management, they respectfully rose and cheered, when their teammate, Hashim Amla went past AB de Villiers’ national record of 278 with a typically elegant flick through mid-on.
They quickly resumed their seated positions. Amla’s 281, was already an epic performance, but the South African players wanted it to become one of even greater historic proportions. And so Amla batted on, into his 13th hour at the crease, tiredness taking over body and mind.
There were some “plays-and-misses” and a particularly heart-stopping moment when he drove Ravi Bopara over the covers just out of the reach of Kevin Pietersen.
Then followed a couple of singles to take him to 298, before he threw his bat into another lofted drive, this one thankfully further from the fielder and the ball flew to the cover boundary for four of the most historic runs in South African cricket. Now the applause from the dressing was more enthusiastic, there were smiles on all the faces.
The South African dressing room were joined by the entire crowd who were all on their feet acknowledging a truly monumental effort. No-one had scored 300 in England since Graeme Gooch did so against India at Lord’s 22 years ago.
Amla’s response was typically modest and his batting partner Jacques Kallis seemed more enthused about the landmark achievement, giving his mate an enormous hug and couple of high fives. The duo have, of course, been involved in some massive partnerships. Sunday was the third time they’d shared a stand of 300 or more and helped to further cement South Africa’s superiority in the first Test.
On Saturday night Graeme Smith – who has shared nine stands of 100 or more runs with Amla – had praised his composure and the incredible technique he’d showed on a pitch where the pace was slow which made shot-making difficult.
Amla still timed the ball beautifully however, and his driving through the cover region had a touch of artistry about it. There were plenty of deft flicks too – there always will be with Amla at the crease – while one punch drive off the back-foot through mid-on off Tim Bresnan will be long remembered if just for the audacity of the stroke.
Given the significance of what was taking place at the other end, Kallis’ 182 not out was somewhat forgotten. He won’t mind that, but its value should in no way be diminished. – The Star