Mark Nicholas
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Former Hampshire batsman; host of Channel Nine's cricket coverage

England v South Africa, 1st Investec Test, The Oval, 4th day

The joy of Test-match batting

Hashim Amla and Jacques Kallis gave a lesson in Test match batting during their record stand, showcasing skills that can only be found in the game's original format

Mark Nicholas

July 22, 2012

Comments: 62 | Text size: A | A

Hashim Amla sweeps during his record-breaking innings, England v South Africa, 1st Investec Test, The Oval, 4th day, July, 22, 2012
Hashim Amla spent more than 13 hours at the crease and was content to give periods to the bowlers © Getty Images
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For the first hour of both the third and fourth morning at The Oval, the cricket belonged exclusively to the purist. If a visitor who knew only Twenty20 had walked in and paid attention, he would have marvelled at the inertia and the interest given to it by a full house. Probably, he would have decided that it was not for him.

This is Test match cricket's great dichotomy. A brilliantly conceived game for another, more patient, age. Leonard Hutton batted 13 hours and 17 minutes when he broke Don Bradman's world record score here at The Oval in 1938. Hutton was on the front page, back page and newsreel of every medium in the land. There is something quite sadistic about such play, something cold that tells one about the mind of the practioner.

Hashim Amla was at the wicket for 13 hours and 10 minutes while making 311. He showed not a hint of emotion during this time, batting without any evident joy or display of flourish. And yet his innings will long be remembered as an epic, one to cherish for its excellence and effect of course, but also for the pleasure brought by wristy brush strokes that add variety and style to the white and green canvas of a cricket field. For Amla, there will be reflected glory.

In the first hour today Jacques Kallis made just 12 runs; Amla 24; South Africa only 36. England's bowling was straight and mainly full, as it had to be. The ball would not deviate a millimetre for the much celebrated home seam attack. When it did spin for Graeme Swann the batsmen reacted with a technical mastery rarely seen in the age of crash, bang, wallop. On a pitch so true as this, 36 in the first 15 minutes of a T20 game would be the starting point for a violent assault. There are some miles in this pair and, sensing England's last hurrah, they stayed on the ropes, sucked up the punches and waited their moment. In the next hour, they scored 75. Enough said.

 
 
Unlike one-day cricket, where the limitation of overs dictates to players, Test cricket allows choices. There is Virender Sehwag's way and Rahul Dravid's way; Alastair Cook's and Kevin Pietersen's. The team needs both
 

Unlike one-day cricket, where the limitation of overs dictates to players, Test cricket allows choices. There is Virender Sehwag's way and Rahul Dravid's way; Alastair Cook's and Kevin Pietersen's. The team needs both, much as it needs steady Vernon Philander and magic Morne Morkel. Amla, like Kallis as it happens - this may not be a coincidence - prefers to stay within himself. This is smart for it gives the bowlers no expression of character with which to work. Think Bjorn Borg against John McEnroe. Some players you can tease or taunt. Others you can seduce. But not this pair.

God knows England tried everything. New ball, old ball, orthodox swing and reverse. Over the wicket and around, close to the wicket and wide. Slips and gullies. No slips or gully. Doubtless they said some stuff, little jibes to disturb concentration but the scoreboard rendered the side-of-the-mouth stuff useless. Off-side biased fields, leg-side fields (though not enough of those). Some cutters here and there, the odd bouncer (wasted). Lots of off-spin but no doosra - and thereby hangs a tale about a changed game in the modern era.

On slow pitches the doosra is the trump card simply because the batsmen cannot play back so safely. The doosra is the unknown: it is the fear of the unknown. With Swann covered, the threat of England's attack halved. Memo to the world - get Swann, diminish England.

Watching the South Africans warm up before play, one sensed seniority and authority. These were men with pedigree, men sure of themselves and comfortable with their game. It was not a surprise that Amla and Kallis played their first hour every bit as intelligently as Amla had played the first hour on Saturday with Graeme Smith. For once, England could not bully and it showed.

Some of us could not get enough of it, slaves to our fascination with the game that strips a man to the bone. It is not called Test cricket for nothing; 36 in the first hour on Sunday; for the record a mere 40 in the first hour on Saturday - 11 of which came in the last over of that hour. So two hours cricket, 76 runs, no wickets, barely an appeal. Loved it. We would take that, us fanatics, every day of the week. See, you just can't explain the thrill in the sheer tension of a Test match. If you transcend it when a player, as Amla and Kallis did, you often go on to win. Those of us who are watching think we have always won.

Mark Nicholas, the former Hampshire captain, presents the cricket on Channel 9 in Australia and Channel 5 in the UK

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Posted by   on (July 23, 2012, 16:10 GMT)

S.A will become No.1 and HASHIM AMLA can rule all formats of world cricket.

Posted by cricjaffa on (July 23, 2012, 16:02 GMT)

First of all i am glad to see England walloped in their own backyard. I read the post match comments of Andrew Strauss boasting of an outstanding England pace attack which can take 20 wickets on any surface. Well, first of all England does not have an outstanding attack barring James Anderson. Maybe they should have picked Steve Finn to add more teeth to their attack. Secondly, it was great watching Amla, Kallis & Smith bat. It was a special treat to us cricket fans to watch a languid player like Amla score a triple hundred. Amla showed his class and showed once again that test match cricket is the real deal. Finally, hats off to Kallis. Players like Kallis & Dravid are always a treat to watch. Dale steyn once again showed why he is world's no 1 bowler by picking 5 wickets on a "Sub-continental" wicket with no swing !!.

Posted by roarster on (July 23, 2012, 12:18 GMT)

I was at Saturday's days play and despite the lure of gratis hospitality behind me in the Ashes Suite I could not be dragged away from a thoroughly engaging display of old school test match batting. Sods law of course dictated that I was taking a comfort break when Bresnan, albeit briefy, broke the tempo of the day with the rather fortunate scalp of Smith. Often after the demise of these big partnerships you're optimisitic that "One gets you two", but when big Jaques comes sauntering down the steps you pretty much know that it's more likely to be a case of "As you were chaps!"

Posted by cric_fan_ on (July 23, 2012, 12:14 GMT)

well played cook, smith, amla and kallis but if it were a sub continent pitch, heads would have started rolling with comments criticizing the pitch. A result is still possible with England loosing but it would be because of England's own failings and some superb bowling from SA rather than the pitch being result oriented.

Posted by Charith99 on (July 23, 2012, 11:47 GMT)

when batsmen score over 600 for just 2 wickets in england its great batting but when they score 450 all out in SL its a batting paradise therefore a poor pitch.Double standards any one

Posted by jathoma on (July 23, 2012, 11:18 GMT)

My personal opinion is that test cricket has had its day.The so called battle between bat and ball and the elements is interesting only for those 22 players and to no one else.It is high time the ICC abolished this format or maybe try limited overs for each innings say 120 overs/innings to make it interesting for even a die hard fan like me!To watch cricket in England is expensive with ticket prices around £60.For a family of four with travel that would come to nearly £500/day and that too to see a player scratch around all day!!

Posted by Harmony111 on (July 23, 2012, 10:19 GMT)

@sandy_bangalore: You make a great Troll dude. And you ignore the fact that Kallis was in fact batting only for his double else he would have accelerated after his 150 but for your mal-programmed thinking process, it is only "OUR" batsmen who continue to seek records with little regard for the match and team needs. Btw, which batsmen do you point at specifically? Sachin? For his 100th 100? His SR in that match was 77 and Kohli's SR was 80. If you blame Sachin for batting slowly then what about Kohli? Or may be it is possible that the pitch was indeed a bit slow and stroke making was difficult - why do you preclude this possibility? In any case, what is your opinion about Sangakkara's super slow 100 in the 1st ODI - Was KS selfless in his innings huh?

Posted by popcorn on (July 23, 2012, 9:17 GMT)

It was beautiful to watch Hashim Amla elegantly grind the English bowling to the dust. Only a fool who wants Crickentainment like Slogging T20 will say no to Test Cricket.

Posted by Noman_Yousuf_Dandore on (July 23, 2012, 9:02 GMT)

As usual, brilliantly articulated Mark. Though more often than not, I would like to see the wicket offering some assistance to the bowlers for warriors like S. Waugh and super heroes like BC Lara to shine through!

Posted by   on (July 23, 2012, 8:05 GMT)

Pretty good article Mark. Am currently in Peru and therefore haven't been able to follow the action live (on either TV or at the ground) but your article helped me visualise, at least first hour of Saturday & Sunday's play, the artistry displayed by Amla-Smith & Amla- Kallis respectively. Test is the ultimate form of Cricket, long may it live :-))

Posted by   on (July 23, 2012, 7:38 GMT)

Yes it is a real test match. I enjoyed watching Kallis and Amla. I love Kallis much after Rahul Dravid the real test cricketers of this era.

Posted by Wefinishthis on (July 23, 2012, 7:33 GMT)

This series is shaping up to be a cracker as I have been waiting for this one for years. England are overrated and South Africa underrated. The difference is how they performed against the Australian team when we had McGrath, Warne, Gilchrist, Hayden etc. Steyn and Kallis had brilliant success us and since then Amla has been solid and they've found the outstanding Philander in that time as well. In contrast, Anderson, Bell, Strauss, Cook etc were bunnies against our great players and it's only because so many teams like Australia, Pakistan, Sri Lanka, India and NZ have had so many of their greats retire so quickly and have suffered poor selection problems (along with the emergence of T20) that England and the already-established SA sides have prospered and well done to them for doing so. Unfortunately the scheduling hadn't allowed England to play SA sooner than the past few years so we've seen England's team get talked up as if they're as great as the Australian/WI teams of the past.

Posted by   on (July 23, 2012, 6:57 GMT)

What was that noice, it is the sound of Silence. Where are these English pundits that with such haste wrote off South Africa.

Posted by   on (July 23, 2012, 6:53 GMT)

Interesting... the quality of the batting was high but 2 declared for 637 is not particularly good for the future of test cricket. The oval is best saved for the last test like it is in the ashes when the players are tired.

Posted by Marcio on (July 23, 2012, 6:29 GMT)

No, @bobagorof, we already had our turn at being embarrassed. Now it's your turn. After all, we did beat SA four times in seven games on the last tour there a few months ago.

Posted by kh1902 on (July 23, 2012, 5:51 GMT)

I think a disproportionate amount of credit is going to the South African batsmen. Their bowlers can take most of the credit for being in the situation that they're in. An inspired burst by Steyn in the first innings laid the foundation for their comeback. Even when he's not taking wickets, he can apply pressure for lesser bowlers to take wickets at the other end. That is real greatness, not accumulating runs on a batting wicket when there is no pressure and your bowlers have done the hard work.

Alot of people are using these forums to comment on the Indian team and make unfair comparisons. Ultimately India has never had a truly match winning bowler of the calibre of Steyn and that is what is needed to win test matches. To belittle India's batsmen just because they've never had half-decent bowlers shows a complete lack of respect for the game. Some of these batsmen have proven their abilities all over the world against far greater bowlers than the English. How quickly people forget.

Posted by   on (July 23, 2012, 5:21 GMT)

It just goes on to show that Eng will never be the true rank 1 , like India needed its own pitches so also Eng...Now the big qn is for how long SA can hold on to it or will another great Aussies line-up rise????

Posted by koelme on (July 23, 2012, 4:37 GMT)

Wonderful exhibition of Test cricket batting techniques by Kallis and Amla.How mant test centuries by Kallis?His ratings should now at least indicate his true abilities. Reminded me of the GOL Boycs in the artistry displayed by the stioc Amla. Inept bowling -cannot blame the pitch.

Posted by venkatesh018 on (July 23, 2012, 4:05 GMT)

You summed it up fabolously, Mark. The thrill of a real contest between and ball and the passages of play where one team tries to outsmart the other and the other steadfastly stands its ground can be relished only in Test matches.

Posted by landl47 on (July 23, 2012, 3:54 GMT)

Smith, Amla and Kallis are batsmen of the highest class- their records prove it. It's hardly surprising that sometimes, on a pitch offering not a great deal of help to the bowlers, they should get established and, once they were, make a ton of runs. It's exactly what England did to Australia in 2010/11; 1-513, 5-620, 517 (after bowling Aus out for 98), 644. England have had a bad game, not because they've played particularly poorly, but because SA's batsmen have taken the game away from them. It's hardly surprising, going in after tea on day 4 with no chance of winning and more than two full days of chasing leather behind them, that the batsmen didn't put up much of a show. I hope that tomorrow they'll keep fighting and at least make SA work for their victory. However, this is one game and England's path to the top took 3 years. If England loses, it doesn't mean they are a bad side, just that SA are a very good one. Let's see what happens in the next test.

Posted by satish619chandar on (July 23, 2012, 3:41 GMT)

Simply best batting effort these days.. The cover drives and cuts were treat to watch.. The best thing is, the bowling was not poor at all.. But the scorecard would tell a different story.. That says the quality of batting the SAfricans displayed.. Wish they continue whole series.. I would have loved to see ABD bat under these situations.. Certainly could ve hurt England like anything..

Posted by jezzastyles on (July 23, 2012, 3:24 GMT)

Yeah, a very good article. All this talk about the demise of Test cricket - utter garbage. If Tests die a natural death as so many have suggested, then cricket will go down the same path - pajama cricket doesn't cut it for the cricket purists - and the fickle T20/One-Day mob will soon turn to another distraction, having grown bored with consistent displays of bat dominating the ball. I know a lot of the posts are describing this as a boring batting display by SA - you don't often see a treble scored, it should be savoured, and Amla deserves all of the plaudits he receives. You can't blame Amla for cashing in, after all, I don't think anyone's ever scored a test triple hundred on a "bowler's paradise". PS - how many times have India, with their great batting lineup, cashed in at the expense of drawing the match rather than having a realistic chance of winning the match with an early declaration??

Posted by 9ST9 on (July 23, 2012, 3:21 GMT)

LOL Nicholas has forgotten to write more about the "confident, cocky, charismatic England". I hope SA will be able to put England in their place on day 5.

Posted by   on (July 23, 2012, 3:04 GMT)

Great Article,Test Cricket is about playing yourself in and then scoring when the opportunity presents itself.Overall South Africa did score at a healthy rate,around 3.4 rpo,given the ideal scoring rate for a test match is 3.5 rpo and the maximum is 4 rpo. @EverybodyLovesSachin My fellow Indian,This is a flat,wearing pitch agreed.But the SA batters played really sensibly and run this attack ragged,in particular Swann from whom this track is best suited.England 1st innings they wasted a good platform and fell for 385 which they reached only thanks to Prior's 58.Seeing this English attack now I wonder how India failed so badly last year.

Posted by bobagorof on (July 23, 2012, 2:53 GMT)

I've long thought Stuart Broad to be over-rated, but the failure of the rest of England's attack to make a dent in South Africa's batting surprises me a little. Perhaps they were lulled into a false sense of superiority with their demolition of an inept Australian side in the one-day series. Australia should feel doubly humiliated now, but also buoyed by seeing England so outplayed by a team that does the basics right. As for South Africa, they've perennially been the bridesmades - a strong, well rounded side who always competed strongly but just got pipped for top billing - but it looks from this match that they're about to take the No. 1 place. Well deserved if they do. Interesting, too, that the No. 1 will have changed several times in the last couple of years. It's good that the competition is high, with no-one dominating. Every series matters. Great to watch!

Posted by rahulcricket007 on (July 23, 2012, 2:24 GMT)

ENGLISH BOWLERS WERE COMPLAINING ABOUT PITCH .OK , I AGREE WITH YOU THIS WAS JUST A ONE OFF FLAT PITCH IN ENG . WE DID N'T SEE THIS TYPE OF PITCHES IN ENGLAND BUT YOUR BOWLERS SHOULD KNOW THE ABILITY TO TAKE WKTS ON FLAT TRACKS ALSO . OTHERWISE LATER AGAINST INDIA ALL FOUR VENUES CONSISTS OF FLAT TRACKS . WHAT WILL YOU DO THEN ?

Posted by EverybodylovesSachin on (July 23, 2012, 0:27 GMT)

The joy of boring batting on FLAT tracks story of Test cricket..Test cricekt will go down big time in another 4 to 5 years..

Posted by Meety on (July 23, 2012, 0:22 GMT)

"Memo to the world - get Swann, diminish England" - Swann has done bugger all against Oz but the teams he played in have a 5-2 win/loss v Oz. So I don't think the Swann factor is as relevant. The fact is most spinners in the history of cricket need pressure applied at the other hand - & it certainly helps when it is wicket taking pressure.

Posted by gullycover on (July 23, 2012, 0:22 GMT)

Mark, such a joy to read your take on Cricket. For the purist, indeed Test Cricket is where you can establish your name as a serious Cricketer. BCCI has got it horribly wrong IMO by tilted heavily towards pajama cricket aka T20 cricket, and their short term goals will seriously sabotage Indian Cricket in the long run.

Posted by Alexk400 on (July 22, 2012, 23:44 GMT)

I feel like India's poor bowling made England number 1 team without any merit. Because pakistan had better bowling attack and able to beat england 3-0. England press over hyped england bowling. That said england still good but to beat SA they really need to find a way to get rid of amla and kallis. I think if you do not have express pace or great spinner it is impossible. Swann is ok spinner and india made him great spinner. Aussies probably feeling happy if england lose first test.

Posted by   on (July 22, 2012, 23:41 GMT)

Amla, Smith and Kallis showed what batting in a test is all about. I hope aspiring test players are watching. England bowling was good at the start of SA innings, the kind of seam movement and swing the young Indian and Australians could not negotiate. It was the SA determination and patience which may win them the test.

Posted by Alexk400 on (July 22, 2012, 23:36 GMT)

I remember india did get chances to close out engalnd in first two test but did n't have bowlers to close out england under 350. SA did. SA did n't face 500+ odd runs mountain to climb. England is ok team , india made them greater than they are. Pakistan showed england team their place. England still can fight but only if england draw this game. If they do , it will be greatest escape in history of this game because SA has bowlers to dislodge England Ian bell and Bopara. England need super human effort from Bopara and Ian bell and they both play like amla and keep defending and attacking Tahir. I feel bad for tahir because he resembles better version of amit mishra because i find ball do not have enough revolution to have strong spin , i guess both have small fingers... Wrist spinners should have bigger palm and long fingers to generate enough spin. if engalnd draw that should be end of imran tahir experimentation.

Posted by RodStark on (July 22, 2012, 23:33 GMT)

This is indeed the beauty of test cricket. But those who criticize it on the basis that few people can watch it for five days miss the mark. The point is that enormous numbers of people check in and follow the tests--at home, at work, in the car, etc. Admittedly, it is hard to see how this can support the game financially, but I do belive the interest is till there. Well, for me at least!

Posted by Paulk on (July 22, 2012, 23:27 GMT)

Great article. Test Match cricket allows so many more layers and dimension to the game. I enjoy the 50 over game too and while I do not dislike 20 over games I find it superficial. But Test Cricket is really where its at. Perhaps night cricket will make Test Matches commercially viable, I sure hope so.

Posted by lebigfella on (July 22, 2012, 23:11 GMT)

Mark Nicholas!? Wow!! Beautiful read... sums up what test match cricket is all about AND what a wonderful show of cricketing purity seen today by Amla & Kallis... England were shown how to weather the storm & reap the rewards... Kallis is a God and Amla will soon be of a similar standing. I too could watch this for hours & hours... shame it's not a five match series... we have a true fight on out hands

Posted by Puffin on (July 22, 2012, 22:03 GMT)

There were some of hoping that this series would not be as one-sided as last year's series vs India. The irony being who isn't on top this time.

Then again, this is only the beginning.

Posted by Ridaa on (July 22, 2012, 22:03 GMT)

Excellent article Mark. Test cricket at its best. As a South African supporter, as much as it pains me to say, I did have to stand up and admire Cook's innings and Prior's rearguard action in the 1st innings. Obviously the next few days have been nothing short of magical for us. There are few better things in the world then watching the New Years Test at Newlands with the sun and the mountain as the backdrop. There are equally few better things than sitting and watching any Test match at Lord's. If you look at the crowd's we get in SA for the Boxing Day and New Year's Test (even more so in Aus) and the crowds England get, its clear that Test cricket is alive and thriving in these countries. Its sad to see that Test cricket is so poorly supported in the sub continent. The fact that Pak don't have a home doesn't help either. But Test cricket is FAR from dead. It will always be the measure of greatness.

Posted by sirvivfan on (July 22, 2012, 21:53 GMT)

England is all about hype! Best attack, just look at the bowling career averages, high twenties into Thirties....does not equate to best bowling. Go and have a look ate some serious now bowlers, Waqar, akram, Donald, Garner, Marshall, Roberts, Imran ,Lillee , etc etc! No doubt England are a good side but perhaps not as good as they think. Look what happened in the winter 3-0 to Pakistan, a team that has weak batting!

Posted by Syed_imran_abbas on (July 22, 2012, 21:50 GMT)

awesome cricket by Hashim amla and kallis.. imran tahir looked impresive in this innings. bell is the main wicket for SA tomorow to win.

Posted by NaniIndCri on (July 22, 2012, 21:45 GMT)

Once again an article thumping the same old thing. Beauty of test cricket was never in question by the majority. The issue is that it does not fit the economics of the game (remember why shorter formats were introduced?). Not even one article on Cricinfo addresses that issue. No one has the time to watch it for 5 whole days. Which means less revenue for all the parties involved and hence will have less encouragement for it. Instead of searching solutions for this problem people are criticizing shorter formats(even though every one knows they are here to stay) which are the reason for keeping the game alive and recently spreading. There are some ideas to make test cricket more watchable like day-night tests, or having tri-series or encouraging teams to play abroad more, or making it a compulsion for boards to use some money from shorter formats to organize/encourage longer formats. If this useless thumping goes on without practical solutions that will definitely end the Test format.

Posted by Highflyer_GP on (July 22, 2012, 21:09 GMT)

I wonder what the excuses will be now that the flat pitch and favorable conditions have been up to rest

Posted by the_blue_android on (July 22, 2012, 20:52 GMT)

Plenty of shackles for new England.

Posted by mahjut on (July 22, 2012, 20:51 GMT)

@RajJha ... the RR was hardly that bad over the innings 3.37 (better than both England's efforts so far)...and the self-denial was done only in the ealry stages of each day. Yes, it may be slightly more exciting to go at a SR of 80 (as opposed to Amla's 60) but Shewag was recently here in the UK fighting for the number 1 spot in Test cricket and did not give us the chance to watch him even strike a ton (that i remember) at that rate - i think value here lies with Amla. this is a fascinating test and Smith has kept the interest by leaving a sliver of a chance for all four results.

Posted by screamingeagle on (July 22, 2012, 20:30 GMT)

@sameer111111, comments like yours make one smile despite the bore of high scores....

Posted by Harry_Kool on (July 22, 2012, 20:19 GMT)

red and white army, where are you? So much for the greatest bowling attack England have ever produced. England, You have been weighed, You have been measured & you have absolutely, undeniably been found wanting.....

Posted by zaman2012 on (July 22, 2012, 20:14 GMT)

@RajJha, Sehwag is, no doubt, breathtaking to watch when he gets going. But he is way too inconsistent in hard batting conditions. And I'll watch the innings Amla played today anyday of my life. Sheer masterpiece.

Posted by maddy20 on (July 22, 2012, 19:59 GMT)

Kallis and Amla lasted for about one and half days. Nearly half the English side is back in the hut in half a day. If England manage to save it, it will be miracle. 2 more wickets and they will be into the tail. Worrying prospect for the "World's No.1 test team"! These are the same kind of wickets England are gonna find in India except that they have more turn. God help ya Poms!

Posted by PACERONE on (July 22, 2012, 19:49 GMT)

Watching games like this one is why I travel only to see test matches.I will watch other formats of the game,but test matches are number one for me.I had mentioned when SA was playing Kent that if Morkel bowled accurately England would have problems making runs.I was not worried about SA batting and mentioned Amla as the batsman to watch.Dravid and Amla do not get worried about not scoring.They think the longer they stay at the cease the runs will come.They also have all the strokes.It was good to see SA batsmen not playing rash strokes,like trying to sweet Swann and getting out LBW or cutting balls to close to the stumps.I noticed that the full face of the bat was shown playing balls in the mid on area.No trying to turn balls on the wicket to square leg.FULL face of the bat.Wonderful batting.Too bad some of the young players especially WI players were not watching and learning.So much for the best bunch of fast bowlers.

Posted by aaamsaasza on (July 22, 2012, 19:41 GMT)

Beauty of test cricket....No wicket for 102 overs and then 4 wickets in the next 38. No one could believe a test match which produced a triple century, (almost) a double century, and two centuries also had/has 4 ducks written to the names of well reputed batsmen.

Posted by shovwar on (July 22, 2012, 19:37 GMT)

I knew SA would come on top but didn expect this much. England bowlers where ineffective. Tahir was more effective than Swann and i have a feeling Tahir would remind England of UAE in day 5.

Posted by   on (July 22, 2012, 19:03 GMT)

Superb piece.England lacked pace amongst the seamers and were defensive too early and too quickly.A new ball with one slip and sometimes none is just playing into Kallis's and Amla's strengths.One of the English trio should have been asked to ramp up the pace and bowl with hostility,possibly Broad with his height.S.A used Morkel (hostility),Steyn (shape) and Philander (nibble) to exert pressure whilst Tahir is unpredictable.A captain and his attack have to try and make things happen instead of only playing the waiting game.Sure agAINT THE Windies and others,England can do the boring route but not against great test palyers.

Posted by Pratchett on (July 22, 2012, 18:56 GMT)

Brilliant piece Mark Nicholas! Well befitting of the greatest innings I have ever seen! Test cricket is unique and utterly captivating

Posted by InnocentGuy on (July 22, 2012, 18:55 GMT)

Oh yeah! That's what I'm talking about baby! What a match! Woke up today, and turned on my laptop before even getting out of bed, logged on the ESPNcricinfo and read the first headline "SA rip into England after Amla triple ton". It's gonna be a great day today, and even better day tomorrow, my birthday! Watched Amla's innings, that guy is like a Zen god!

Posted by RajJha on (July 22, 2012, 18:52 GMT)

All that self-denial and slow scoring rate would be fine if SA were to go on to win - or England scores 250 for 6 in 3 hours tomorrow and bowls SA out for 85 in the last over of the match! If it peters out to a draw, it will be just another high scoring, monotonous match of the 70's vintage. Yes, technically accomplished in some respects, even absorbing in some patches. But, long periods of bowlers bowling well outside off and batsmen shouldering arms lead to a big yawn from the spectators and ultimately drives them away. I would take Sehwag scoring a triple at a strike rate of over 80 on any day over Amla at a strike rate of 50 even though he may be technically superior.

Posted by sameer111111 on (July 22, 2012, 18:52 GMT)

Lara - the best batsman to watch. Kallis - best batsman in last 20 years. Sachin - made a lot of records

Posted by Nadeem1976 on (July 22, 2012, 18:52 GMT)

This is fantastic display of test cricket by SA. Awesome batting and great bowling in the end. I hope SA wins this match.

First triple hundred by SA player that is historic and great achievement.

Posted by SurlyCynic on (July 22, 2012, 18:50 GMT)

Not bad considering they were batting in 'Fortress England'.

Posted by 5wombats on (July 22, 2012, 18:49 GMT)

Fantastic Innings Amla - no taking away from it, easy pitch or not it is still very special to score a Test match Triple. We applaud you.

Posted by Cpt.Meanster on (July 22, 2012, 18:40 GMT)

A good day for SA's batting and well played Hashim Amla !!! Now England are well and truly looking down the barrel. They can't win it but there is a possibility for them to save the match. But SA's bowlers are NOT like England's. Steyn and co. are of totally different class and quality. England's bowling looks weak and average in flat conditions. SA managed to get England down by 4 wickets in their second innings which goes to show England have an attack that is completely dependant on heavy swing and seam conditions. Once that element is off, they are poor. I hope SA win the match but that's a wishful thinking from my part. I need a truly genuine world no.1 and England are looking anything but that in this game.

Posted by SpartaArmy on (July 22, 2012, 18:34 GMT)

Some one wrote an article yesterday blaming the pitch ( refusing to admit the truth). Well we are in to the fifth day of the match and sa need 6 more to wrap up this over hyped team

Posted by Harmony111 on (July 22, 2012, 18:31 GMT)

This indeed was a fab performance by SA. Amla in particular was infallible for 2 days. Kallis could and should have quickened after his 100 but he didn't (or couldn't). All in all, even with a somewhat slow scoring rate, SA are now in driver's seat and should finish this match in the first 2 sessions of 5th day. I don't expect Eng to save this Test unless it rains for much of tomorrow. If it rains but SA get 40-45 overs even then SA would bowl Eng out. I guess if SA win this Test then they would become #1 right? Needless to say that Amla would be the MoM. I really think Amla has become a top notch batsman in tests (as well as in ODIs). He is very graceful, scores freely more often than not, is ice-cool and is a nice bloke too. He gets all the ticks of being called a great batsman - he already is. Kallis and Smith on the other hand fall just short of that tag in my books. Smith is a solid batsman but bats like a running Turkey and Kallis just can't push the gas pedal. Still, SA 1-0.

Posted by sandy_bangalore on (July 22, 2012, 18:30 GMT)

Declaring when on 182 when Kallis could have had a 200. And Amla had he batted some more could have had a crack at the biggest record in cricket-the highest individual score in cricket! A lesson to some of our record minded batsmen, who continue to seek them, with scant regard for the state of the amtch and the needs of the team.

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Mark NicholasClose
Mark Nicholas A prolific and stylish middle-order batsman for Hampshire, Mark Nicholas was unlucky never to have played for England, but after captaining his county to four major trophies he made his reputation as a presenter, commentator and columnist. Named the UK Sports Presenter of the Year in 2001 and 2005 by the Royal Television Society, he has commentated all over the world, from the World Cup in the West Indies to the Indian Premier League. He now hosts the cricket coverage for Channel Nine in Australia and Channel 5 in England.

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