Amla leaves England with uphill struggle

South Africa build a big lead then remove captain Strauss to leave the tourists in need of last-day heroics

Familiarity may help to breed contentment today as England bat for their lives in the First Test. To avoid going behind in the series against South Africa, they must display resolve, tenacity and purpose, all three in abundance with aggression into the bargain if they are to entertain slender hopes of winning.

But to intimate victory is to enter the realms of the fanciful. It is survival that will matter, escaping from Centurion with a draw and hoping to regroup in Durban next week for something more profitable.

That was on their minds on Wednesday morning when they picked a team of six batsmen and four bowlers, hardly a combination intended to boldly go where no man had gone before. But the prospects of achieving even that receded starkly in the evening of the fourth day as England, left six overs to bat after South Africa declared at 301 for 7, lost their captain, Andrew Strauss, to the eighth ball of the innings.

The equation now is this. The tourists have nine wickets in hand, they are 352 runs behind, they have 90 overs to negotiate. It will be no easy task on a fifth day pitch certain to have worn and on which the occasional ball has shot through low for most of the match.

But it was still in surprisingly good order last night considering the lush, if pockmarked lawn that it resembled the day before the match began. Here was a place where all those elusive green shoots of recovery for seam bowlers appeared to have been transplanted at once yet it was spinners who prospered.

England should be encouraged by recent precedent. Against Australia in Cardiff last July, they appeared certain to lose throughout the final day as wickets went down like daffodils in the wind. Somehow, they earned a draw with one wicket intact and went on to win a famous series victory. The tourists will have no desire to leave it as close today (though they would settle for it if necessary) but will be well aware that their objective is attainable.

All the evidence suggests that as in the Ashes last summer there is a fag paper between these sides. Whoever blinks first at crucial moments will have their fingers burned, so to speak.

After a sparkling early morning yesterday when they must briefly have dreamed the happiest of dreams, England, again showing themselves to be hopeless at implementing the new umpiring review system, were powerless to prevent South Africa forging an imposing lead. It was built with solidity by Hashim Amla who completed his seventh Test hundred towards the end of the day with his 10th four. The manner of his dismissal, bowled by a grubber from Jimmy Anderson, will have sent shivers down English spines.

Amla shared two key partnerships. The first for the fifth wicket of 119 with AB de Villiers ensured that South Africa did not cede any more valuable ground to their opponents. Both men were given reprieves after England asked for rejected lbw verdicts against them to be re-examined. Replays showed that although both balls seemed to be hitting they were also outside the so-called zone of certainty. But had the umpires originally accepted the appeals would have been upheld on appeal.

The second partnership of 75 for the seventh wicket with Mark Boucher extended the lead close to where South Africa could feel safe if not quite over the hills and far away.

In the second session they added 102 runs in 29 overs, positively rampant after the funereal pace at which both sides had scored for several stages of the match.

In the third they upped the ante and when Morne Morkel plundered 18 off a Stuart Broad over late in the day, England were looking desperate. They needed the sanctuary of the dressing room to try to regroup. But the last thing they wanted was to bat last night.

Until Amla was surprised by the 213th ball he faced the pitch grew flatter as the day went on and England's weary bowling matched it. Little that has happened in this match has been a convincing advertisement for the notion that four bowlers might be enough to take of the home side's wickets. Then again, South Africa opted for a similar combination, presumably with the same outcome, a draw, at the forefront of their minds. By the time the Second Test starts in Kingsmead on Boxing Day, it is South Africa's fervent hope that Jacques Kallis will be fit to bowl. That could extend the difference to two fag papers.

Kallis the batsman was one of the two invaluable wickets that England would have craved early yesterday. The other was that of South Africa captain, Graeme Smith. Both duly arrived and if England had been asking for a pot of tea and sandwiches they could not have come more precisely to order. Smith was undone by a ball from Graham Onions that nipped back and was bowled off a faint inside edge. Kallis, after an unsettled stay of 45 minutes, mis-pulled a short ball from Broad and was pouched at deep mid-wicket. Since the nightwatchman, Paul Harris, had gone earlier in the piece South Africa were in deep trouble at 48 for 4, only 110 ahead.

England's late order heroics of the previous day, it seemed, had given them a crucial edge. But the ball got old, South Africa retrenched. Only eight wickets fell in the day. If only wickets fall tomorrow, England will not have lost.

Scoreboard

First Test, day four of five (SuperSport Park, Centurion)

England won toss

South Africa – First Innings 418 (J H Kallis 120, J P Duminy 56; G P Swann 5-110).

England – First Innings 356 (G P Swann 85, P D Collingwood 50; P L Harris 5-123).

South Africa – Second Innings

A G Prince b Anderson (3 balls, 4 min) 0

*G C Smith b Onions (36 balls, 53 min, 1 four) 12

P L Harris b Anderson (17 balls, 26 min, 2 fours) 11

H M Amla b Anderson (213 balls, 315 min, 10 fours) 100

J H Kallis c Cook b Broad (32 balls, 45 min) 4

A B de Villiers c Bell b Broad (101 balls, 136 min, 6 fours, 1 six) 64

J P Duminy lbw b Anderson (27 balls, 33 min, 2 fours) 11

†M V Boucher not out (73 balls, 96 min, 9 fours, 1 six) 63

M Morkel not out (13 balls, 21 min, 4 fours) 22

Extras (lb10, w4) 14

Total (For 7 wickets dec, 85.5 overs) 301

Fall: 1-2 2-20 3-34 4-46 5-165 6-191 7-266

Did not bat: M Ntini, F de Wet.

Bowling: Anderson 20.5-1-73-4; Onions 16-3-50-1; Broad 16-5-58-2; Swann 27-3-91-0; Collingwood 6-1-19-0.

England – Second Innings

*A J Strauss c Boucher b M Morkel (3 balls, 5 min) 1

A N Cook not out (17 balls) 4

J M Anderson not out (16 balls, 1 four) 6

Extras0

Total (6 overs) 11

Fall: 1-5.

To bat: I J L Trott, K P Pietersen, P D Collingwood, I R Bell, †M J Prior, S C J Broad, G P Swann, G Onions.

Bowling: Ntini 2-1-5-0; M Morkel 3-1-6-1; Harris 1-1-0-0.

Umpires: Aleem Dar (Pak) and S J Davies (Aus).

Suggested Topics
News
i100 In this video, the late actor Leonard Nimoy explains how he decided to use the gesture for his character
News
Robert De Niro has walked off the set of Edge of Darkness
news The Godfather Part II actor has an estimated wealth of over $200m
Arts and Entertainment
Fearne Cotton is leaving Radio 1 after a decade
radio The popular DJ is leaving for 'family and new adventures'
Sport
Robbie Savage will not face a driving ban
football'Mr Marmite' faced the possibility of a 28-day ban
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Voices
voices
Life and Style
Nearly half of all young people in middle and high income countries were putting themselves at risk of tinnitus and, in extreme cases, irreversible hearing loss
health Nearly half of all young people in middle and high income countries are at risk of tinnitus
News
It was only when he left his post Tony Blair's director of communications that Alastair Campbell has published books
people The most notorious spin doctor in UK politics has reinvented himself
Arts and Entertainment
arts + ents
Life and Style
fashion
Arts and Entertainment
James Franco and Zachary Quinto in ‘I Am Michael’
filmJustin Kelly's latest film tells the story of a man who 'healed' his homosexuality and turned to God
News
i100
Arts and Entertainment
Public Service Broadcasting are going it alone
music
Caption competition
Caption competition
Latest stories from i100
Daily Quiz
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

Career Services

Day In a Page

HIV pill: Scientists hail discovery of 'game-changer' that cuts the risk of infection among gay men by 86%

Scientists hail daily pill that protects against HIV infection

Breakthrough in battle against global scourge – but will the NHS pay for it?
How we must adjust our lifestyles to nature: Welcome to the 'Anthropocene', the human epoch

Time to play God

Welcome to the 'Anthropocene', the human epoch where we may need to redefine nature itself
MacGyver returns, but with a difference: Handyman hero of classic 1980s TV series to be recast as a woman

MacGyver returns, but with a difference

Handyman hero of classic 1980s TV series to be recast as a woman
Tunnel renaissance: Why cities are hiding roads down in the ground

Tunnel renaissance

Why cities are hiding roads underground
'Backstreet Boys - Show 'Em What You're Made Of': An affectionate look at five middle-aged men

Boys to men

The Backstreet Boys might be middle-aged, married and have dodgy knees, but a heartfelt documentary reveals they’re not going gently into pop’s good night
Crufts 2015: Should foreign dogs be allowed to compete?

Crufts 2015

Should foreign dogs be allowed to compete?
10 best projectors

How to make your home cinema more cinematic: 10 best projectors

Want to recreate the big-screen experience in your sitting room? IndyBest sizes up gadgets to form your film-watching
Manchester City 1 Barcelona 2 player ratings: Luis Suarez? Lionel Messi? Joe Hart? Who was the star man?

Manchester City vs Barcelona player ratings

Luis Suarez? Lionel Messi? Joe Hart? Who was the star man at the Etihad?
Arsenal vs Monaco: Monaco - the making of Gunners' manager Arsene Wenger

Monaco: the making of Wenger

Jack Pitt-Brooke speaks to former players and learns the Frenchman’s man-management has always been one of his best skills
Cricket World Cup 2015: Chris Gayle - the West Indies' enigma lives up to his reputation

Chris Gayle: The West Indies' enigma

Some said the game's eternal rebel was washed up. As ever, he proved he writes the scripts by producing a blistering World Cup innings
In Ukraine a dark world of hybrid warfare and murky loyalties prevails

In Ukraine a dark world of hybrid warfare

This war in the shadows has been going on since the fall of Mr Yanukovych
'Birdman' and 'Bullets Over Broadway': Homage or plagiarism?

Homage or plagiarism?

'Birdman' shares much DNA with Woody Allen's 'Bullets Over Broadway'
Broadchurch ends as damp squib not even David Tennant can revive

A damp squib not even David Tennant can revive

Broadchurch, Series 2 finale, review
A Koi carp breeding pond, wall-mounted iPads and a bathroom with a 'wellness' shower: inside the mansion of Germany's 'Bishop of Bling'

Inside the mansion of Germany's 'Bishop of Bling'

A Koi carp breeding pond, wall-mounted iPads and a bathroom with a 'wellness' shower