Hashim Amla played an uncharacteristically grinding innings to help South Africa to a narrow 20-run lead over Australia on day two of the second test at St George’s Park, but praised the work of AB de Villiers in the face of excellent reverse-swing bowling from the tourists.
Amla scored 56 from 148 balls in a third-wicket partnership of 88 with Dean Elgar (57 from 197 balls) as South Africa reached 263 for seven at the close, a first innings lead of 20.
Crucially they still have AB de Villiers (74 not out from 81 balls) at the wicket, the only player in the match who has made batting look comfortable on a slow pitch on which both sides have been able to produce prodigious reverse-swing.
“He is so pleasing to watch, after Dean and I grounded it out, AB comes in and makes it look very easy,” Amla told SuperSport after the days’ play.
“Ideally we would obviously like a sizeable lead, the ball is tailing in and we have to bat last in the second innings.
"They (Australian bowlers) got good shape in the air, their reverse swing can be in or out, they have bowlers who are skilled enough to do both.
"It will be a very important morning and fortunately our bowlers have had a day to rest.”
Amla and Elgar added just 43 runs in 26 overs in the middle session of the day, but he maintains it was more important at that stage to preserve their wickets.
“Australia bowled pretty well the whole session, we were trying to be as positive as possible, but there were not a lot of loose balls on offer.
"Not losing wickets in the session was important as the ball was reversing quite a bit at that stage.”
Australia seamer Pat Cummins (2-55 in 20 overs) believes it was a good day for his side, despite giving up a first innings lead.
“We knew we would probably spend the day in the dirt, but they only have a small lead and are seven down, so it was a pretty good day,” he said.
“The wicket felt like it had a little bit in it all day and they batted especially well in the second session. We felt close to wickets but they stuck in there.
"The ball was quite hard and swinging in, it felt like we were in the game for a nick the whole day.”