Amla leads fight as New Zealand look skywards
Faced with a huge total - and a follow-on target of 394 - Graeme Smith and Boeta Dippenaar had made steady progress against the new ball after New Zealand extended their innings for 13 overs. Patel and Daniel Vettori were in action by the 13th over of South Africa's reply, and both found appreciable assistance, with Vettori ripping deliveries past the edges of all the right-handers.
Patel, though, was something of a surprise package. He has produced some promising performances in one-day internationals but a career average of over 41 in first-class cricket would not send shudders through a batting line-up. However, he made an immediate mark when Stephen Fleming threw him the ball flighting a full delivery to Smith, who tried to work it to the onside, but could only spoon it back to the bowler. Smith stood his ground, believing it to be a bump ball, but the TV evidence was clear and he was on his way.
Patel wasn't afraid to flight the ball and bowled an attacking line outside off stump, drifting the ball away from the bat. His second wicket, when Dippenaar dragged on an attempted cut, was reward for a impressive spell of patience and pressure building. This certainly isn't a surface where New Zealand are going to rush through the South African line-up and Fleming realised this. He wasn't afraid to rotate his attack and try some innovative field settings, such as removing the slips for Scott Styris and blocking up the run-scoring areas.
South Africa have long since conceded this Test is now purely an exercise in survival and Amla's stand with Jacques Kallis showed this. Both were happy to concentrate primarily on defence although Kallis did produce some uncharacteristic wafts against the spinners.
With the dodgy weather knocking around, Fleming may yet regret batting so long in the morning. Franklin struggled to pierce the field as he tried to tick off the seven more runs needed to reach three figures. However, he finally connected with a searing straight drive to bring up the milestone, the third of his first-class career.
Once the weight of the approaching hundred had been removed, Franklin opened his shoulders and launched a mini-blitz on the weary South African attack. He crunched a couple of scorching drives through the offside and then picked Makhaya Ntini up over midwicket for a handsome six.
Patel chipped in with some meaty thumps through the infield, but his main role was to perform with the ball. He did that with distinction and he is going to have plenty of work over the next two days - weather permitting. This match has turned into a race against time for New Zealand, while South Africa just need to bat. Amla has begun the process and Kallis, entrenched at the crease, is the perfect man to carry it forward.
Graeme Smith c and b Patel 25 (36 for 1)
Chipped back off toe of bat
Boeta Dippenaar b Patel 47 (108 for 2)
Bottom edge attempted cut
Andrew McGlashan is editorial assistant of Cricinfo