South Africa in a 'good space' - Amla
The Newlands pitch is "more challenging for the batsmen than it is for the fielding team," Hashim Amla said at the end of the opening day of the deciding Cape Town Test. Amla was pleased that, despite the challenging conditions, South Africa finished at stumps "in a good space, considering we were put in to bat."
With moisture in the air and heavy cloud above, it was considered a good toss to lose, since there was uncertainty over whether the winning captain should exploit conditions by bowling or bat in the knowledge that the weather was expected to clear. "I may have bowled," Amla said. "The pitch has a lot in it for the bowlers. If you hit a decent length, it has a lot of swing and a lot of nip."
Amla felt the South African batsmen did a good job negotiating their way through the tricky conditions. "The day went quite well for us especially since the track has some juice in it and given the overhead conditions." Amla also praised the batsmen for not allowing the breaks in play to cause jitters in the line-up, as 112 minutes were lost to rain and bad light. "It is a mental shift to switch on and switch off. Fortunately, it went quite well for us after the break."
After just nine overs, the players marched off the field for light drizzle and bad light. An hour and 15 minutes of play was lost in that delay. At that stage, Amla had scored just one run off 10 balls and South Africa were in a tricky position at 23 for one. The early lunch break allowed for some reflection and in Amla's case provided an injection of intent for the session that followed. He came out and scored 58 off 70 balls in the post-lunch session, including nine fours and a six. "I had a couple of chocolates, I think it was a sugar rush," Amla joked.
Of course, for the measured man from Durban, it was nothing of the sort and although he had not planned it, he was able to take advantage of some of the bowling he was presented with. "I think I just had a lot of bad balls. There were a few full balls that I got to capitalise on and momentum just went with me for that bit." Three fours and the solitary six came off the bowling of Sreesanth, whom Amla eventually gave his wicket. While there was nothing of the fiery exchange witnessed between Sreesanth and Graeme Smith, some words in anger were muttered from the Indian bowler. Amla said that had nothing to do with his dismissal. "There weren't any words exchanged, I didn't say anything back. I tried to keep it down and I got a top edge."
Sunny skies saw South Africa to the close of play, them having lost just four wickets, and a bright forecast is predicted for tomorrow. Amla didn't think that would necessarily translate into better batting conditions. "I don't know if it will be very good for batting since there is a fair covering of grass on the pitch. The ball is 70 overs old and it's still nipping."
He did think a sustained presence of sunlight may "dry the wicket out" but predicted a "crucial first session" for the hosts. For that reason, Amla could not identify a total that South Africa would be comfortable posting. "Let's see what the conditions are like. If it's cloudy it will be a lot tougher, if it's a sunny day, maybe the wicket might flatten out."
Firdose Moonda is ESPNcricinfo's South Africa correspondent