Amla and Prince punish Middlesex
South Africans 339 for 4 (Amla 161, Prince 104*) v Middlesex
At Taunton earlier this week Hashim Amla and Jacques Kallis punished Somerset with first-day hundreds; today it was Amla and Ashwell Prince who hurt Middlesex at Uxbridge. Amla's English summer continued, and his 190-run fourth-wicket association with Prince formed the crux of another dominant South African innings on another flat track against another depleted county attack. Having scratched around for the first 30 minutes Amla continued his ominous form to hit 161 out of a total of 339 for 4 by stumps on the opening day. Prince, having warmed up in Taunton, made sure to carry on to an unbeaten 104 of tip-toed efficiency.
This was not Middlesex's best side - Dirk Nannes and Murali Kartik were injured and Tim Murtagh and Shaun Udal rested - and apart from Alan Richardson the attack was rather threadbare. There was a 25-minute window in the morning where the pitch held something in it for the bowlers, and a well-directed bouncer from David Burton caught Neil McKenzie top-edging to fine leg. But it was all hard luck and work for Middlesex for the rest of the day.
Amla began in fidgety style, edging consecutive deliveries for four through the slips and past the wicketkeeper, but snapped a nervous patch with a sweetly-timed straight four. With the early assistance quickly diminishing Middlesex's bowlers found themselves caught between bowling too full and too short. Burton, who has been through seven counties trying to find a home, started to slack and that's just what Amla needed. After scratching his way to 20, he never looked back. Three consecutive fours off Danny Evans eased him past fifty off 67 balls shortly before lunch.
Two wickets in two overs from Richardson - in his first appearance of the season after a long injury lay-off - allowed Middlesex some breathing room after the interval. Graeme Smith had been shaping to cut anything even fractionally wide for most of his 77-ball 35 but, just on the resumption, chased Richardson's first delivery and was smartly snapped up behind the stumps. Kallis nicked one on 2 as the South Africans slipped to 142 for 3.
Richardson needed the first session to settle in and he was far better after lunch, hitting an upright seam and forcing Amla to play. There was clearly a spring in his step after dismissing two South African big-guns but the back-up was never as threatening.
Sixes proved easy to come by for Amla on this small ground, and he merrily pulled Mark Lawson over the short boundary. His hundred came up in a flurry of boundaries and consumed 119 balls. Granted the quality of opposition in the South Africans' two tour matches hasn't been top-notch, but another warm-up hundred has put him in prime touch for the high-profile Test series that starts next Thursday. He slowed down after reaching three figures - his 150 came up off 240 balls - but it mattered not a jot to his team's cause, because Prince stepped up.
He didn't face much of Richardson and so whittled his way along against the legspin of Lawson, on loan from Yorkshire this season, and Dawid Malan's similar wares. The repeated full stuff was confidently flicked away and the short balls duly dispatched for four. There was even time for a reverse-swept four to move into the forties. His fifty came up on the final delivery of the second session.
Prince continued to tap the ball into the spaces all afternoon. He was aided by an edge between the wicketkeeper and slip during the seventies and a missed stumping down the legside just after crossing 90. He pottered along to his hundred from 167 deliveries.
Amla's elegant drives made way for soft-handed nudges and tucks for the latter half of the day and his only loose shot resulted in an edge 15 minutes before stumps. His preparations for the Test series probably couldn't get any easier, and Amla may turn out to be a pain in England's neck this summer.
Jamie Alter is a staff writer at Cricinfo