Amla confident of SA playing out final day
South Africa have good memories of a Jacques batting throughout the final day of a Test to salvage a draw against Australia. In Perth three years ago it was Jacques Rudolph who scored an obdurate century which forced the draw that interrupted what otherwise would have been a world-record 21 consecutive victories for Australia.
At Kingsmead, it is Jacques Kallis who looms as the main character in South Africa's dreams of an even more difficult rescue attempt. Kallis closed the fourth day on 81, an innings that had taken him 224 minutes. He is the kind of batsman who sometimes looks like he could knock deliveries back to the bowler for weeks on end.
As it happens, if Kallis was to survive through the entire final day and salvage a draw he would need to bat for longer than he ever has in a Test innings. Hashim Amla, who made 43 as the stand-in opener in the absence of the injured Graeme Smith, said South Africa's remaining specialist batsmen felt they had the talent to bat through the day.
"All the batters in our team have the confidence that each one of them can bat six hours," Amla said. "Look at the remaining batters I think everyone has done it over the last two years maybe. Jacques has done it over the last 12. Everybody has the belief that it is possible."
South Africa were set 546 to win and they closed the fourth day having whittled the target down to a more palatable 302 with eight wickets in hand. But with two wickets down - effectively three, unless Smith can make a Sydney-like heroic comeback - on a fifth-day pitch with a few cracks emerging, a draw is the most realistic aim for South Africa.
"Some are going up, some are keeping a bit low," Amla said of the pitch. "But by and large it hasn't reacted too unfavourably. Maybe a little bit more difficult tomorrow, depending if the cracks open up, but if it doesn't then hopefully we can get in again and bat the whole day."
The key period could be the opening hour as a rejuvenated Australian attack take the second new ball, which is due immediately. Peter Siddle, who picked up Australia's only two wickets on the fourth day, said the side had taken heart from the similar position they were in last week in Johannesburg, when they wrapped up the game shortly after tea.
"It's the exact same situation, they were two down needing 300 last time and it's the same situation here," Siddle said. "It's going to be a good day's play. We've got the new ball to come straight away if we take it. That's a big positive for us. It's going to push into the final session for sure either way, runs or wickets."
Brydon Coverdale is a staff writer at Cricinfo